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Curvy Yogi Proves You Don’t Have to Lose Weight to Stay in Shape

Busting the myth of the perfect-bodied yoga poster girl is San Francisco plus-sized yogi Valerie Sagun. For the past three years, she has been photographed performing a range of complicated yoga poses, including headstands and handstands.

Valerie has a massive Instagram following of over 80,000 people, with whom she regularly shares videos of her yoga journey. “I just want to make sure that people don’t feel like they have to be scared or intimidated by learning yoga from someone who doesn’t look like them,” she wrote on her Tumblr page. “All of us have body issues whether you are big or small, but it’s good to just take the time to look at yourself and just love it as it is now.”

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Valerie’s own experience with yoga began four years ago, when she started taking Hatha Yoga classes twice a week at her university. “From the first class I could already tell that yoga was going to be difficult even though I really enjoyed it,” she wrote for Huffington Post. “I never was intimidated at the fact that I was learning yoga from a slim older white man. He was always encouraging even when I doubted myself that I ever could get into a difficult pose.”

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As she got better at yoga, Valerie noticed that her desire to lose weight gradually began to fade. “Starting yoga helped me get over the mental block that I put on myself,” she wrote. “The block where it has been ingrained into our minds that big people can’t do certain things now and that losing weight is the only way to achieve all these great things.”

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She revealed that before yoga, she had let plenty of good opportunities go by, just because she thought she was too big to do anything. When her friends were getting into rock climbing, she simply assumed she couldn’t do it. But after practicing yoga, she felt like she could do anything. “It helped give me that push to try the activities that I was always interested in but doubted myself, like skydiving and rock climbing.”

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About a year after she started practicing yoga in her backyard and at parks and studios, Valerie decided to take her journey online. She started with Tumblr and after gaining 10,000 followers, she decided to start an Instagram account called Big Gal Yoga. She’s always dressed in colorful, vibrant yoga gear, even though she says it’s hard for bigger women to find leggings. But the best thing about her pictures is her confidence. “I’ve never really been self-conscious about my body during yoga classes,” she told Buzzfeed. “For me, yoga is all about the mind and positive thinking.”

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Valerie is thrilled that her online presence has inspired thousands to try yoga themselves. “I feel I am able to connect and reach out to people and change their perspectives about bigger bodied people practicing yoga,” she wrote. “I’m honoured to be an ambassador of spreading body positivity and self love through yoga out to the world. I look at my big chubby body and am happy and content with it.”

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Valerie loves trying out new things with yoga, like using a yoga wheel and acro yoga. And she now wants to train to become a yoga teacher in Sedona, Arizona. “My practice is my own but I want to be able to help and inspire others as a teacher,” she said. “My GoFundMe is trying to help raise money for my tuition to study  there, as well as housing. Any little bit will help me out, so I can bring yoga to you!”

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Photos: Valerie Sagun/Instagram

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