Shipra Goel was always commented about being fat. She was forced to go the gym and her health continued to deteriorate. She was diagnosed with PCOS and was asked by the doctor to lose weight. She started with 'yoga' as it was the easiest option and eventually took it up as her profession. Her decision of donating her hairs to a wig making NGO was not taken constructively by her parents. But, she still decided to go ahead with it.
"As a child, my 'perfect' elder sister would tease me, 'Tum bhais jaisi dikhti ho.' She was slim, fair, good at studies and I was the complete opposite. Mom never missed a chance to compare us. She'd say, 'All your siblings have taken after me, where did you come from?' I coped with her disapproval by getting angry– I'd break my sister's toys and cry when Mom beat me after.
When I turned 15, a relative commented, 'How fat you've become! You should eat less.' She then said, 'Never cut your long hair; it's the only good thing you have'; I hated the constant attention on my looks. Influenced by societal beauty standards, Mom forced me to go to the gym– I lost 12 kgs in 2 months but as soon I stopped, I put on double the weight. It didn't bother me until my health deteriorated.
After college, I started experiencing difficulty in breathing. I was fatigued and had irregular periods; I was diagnosed with PCOS. As a remedy, the doctor asked me to lose weight. I hated the gym; yoga seemed like the easiest option. I still remember my first class– after an hour session, I felt liberated; I'd never felt like that before. I knew that day that yoga was my calling.
I quit my 9-5 job and became a yoga teacher. I started spreading the word and posting on social media. One of my first classes was in an elite locality in Delhi. When I entered, there were 20 people waiting for their new teacher, but as soon as they saw me, 15 of them just walked out! I was humiliated, but I continued with the session.
After that, I hardly got 3-4 students. I was not the 'fit' yoga teacher that people expected. Many asked me, 'How can I expect to lose weight if you're so obese?' I'd try explaining body types but nobody listened. So I started reading more on body structure and weight– I made peace with the fact that I'd probably be overweight my entire life. This acceptance gave me confidence. Because I was active and happy, my health improved too.
From 5 to 10 to 25, the strength of my class also increased. My existing students told others that I was a good teacher; some even apologised for judging me too quick. The comments didn't stop entirely, but I learnt to take them in my stride.
Then, some days ago, my colleagues were donating their hair to cancer survivors. When I told my parents I was thinking of doing it too, they didn't believe I could. My long curly hair was the first thing people noticed about me– why would I give up the one thing that made me 'beautiful'?
So I made the decision to do exactly that– I shaved my hair and donated it to a wig-making NGO. I gave up my one true 'asset' and guess what? I felt free; almost like I was reborn. I can't help but think of how much we succumb to other people's perception of our own beauty– long hair, fair skin, curvy hips. Why can't beautiful just be… me?"
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