beauty

"Big Gal Yoga" will change the way you think about a "fit" body.

Image via Instagram (@biggalyoga).

Flick through your Instagram feed and you’re guaranteed to come across at least one stereotypical ‘yogi’ photo usually featuring a slim woman in a complicated yoga pose in front of a beautiful landscape.

Big Gal Yoga is one account with a refreshing difference.

With over 60,000 followers, creator of the account Valerie is inspiring body confidence and changing the way we think about ‘yoga bodies’ one post at a time.

After first discovering yoga at university, Valerie started a Tumblr, sharing her “personal journey of a big woman’s yoga practice” and quickly became popular for her honest, open and accessible posts that catered to everyone of all levels and sizes. (Post continues after gallery.)

“When I slowly fell into a rut and didn’t know where I was going in my art, yoga picked me up. My practice has been the supporting hand on my shoulder when times get tough,” she recently wrote on her blog.

Valerie shares regular photos and videos of her yoga routine with step-by-step instructions, as well as monthly challenges such as the #SelfLovingYogis movement, designed to inspire self-love through yoga.

From mermaid leggings to colourful crop tops, she’s also passionate about feeling good while you work out and her website features a comprehensive list of fitness brands she loves that cater to larger sizes.

Valerie has a seriously enviable collection of leggings. Image via Instagram (@biggalyoga)

"The perfect body is your own beautiful body whether you are big or small. We all have different unique bodies, sometimes it's hard to love it, but we all should have a good relationship with it," she shared on one of her Instagram posts.

But while she's become a role model for body confidence, Valerie's also not afraid to share her own struggles with anxiety and body image - and how a positive attitude can beat them.

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"As many people can see, I am pretty confident in how I view my body. I don't let people critique my body and the way it looks because it's my body and my business. Using this confidence can tend to mask my internal insecurities where no one can notice them. My outside confidence is a gift that I have, and can help me get through to tough personal times," she wrote on Instagram.

While the feedback is usually overwhelmingly positive, Valerie admits that she does get some hateful comments but that "it comes with being big".

"I mostly just try to talk with them. I'm not trying to change their mind about body image, but I'm trying to [show them to] be accepting of all different bodies, no matter what...size they are, and not to pick on people," she told Refinery 29.

She also looks up to Jessamyn Stanley, a fellow yogi who strives to challenge stereotypical beauty standards. (Post continues after gallery.)

Four years later, not only has Valerie become an inspiration for those who felt they didn't "fit" the stereotypical mold of a yogi, but she's also gained confidence to pursue her own dream of training to become a yoga teacher.

"Yoga has been the physical and mental therapy for myself. Whenever I become a yoga teacher, I'll be happy to be connecting to new people," she wrote in a thank you blog post dedicated to her followers.

"I just hope to keep spreading self love through yoga. Loving ourselves is such a radical way of thinking. I know that we can’t always love ourselves all the time, but we should have a good understanding of ourselves physically and mentally. To try and not to tear ourselves down about such small things."

What do you dislike about the stereotype of yogis?

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