As a teenager, Kristina Cavit hated exercise and battled with her body image, but now she's embracing both in a bold new concept called Fat Yoga.
The 30-year-old Aucklander says, "When I was younger, I probably would've been terrified of the word 'fat'. It's cool now to be able to reclaim that. It doesn't need to have so much power."
The popular new fitness arrived in New Zealand six months ago, when fashion designer Sarah Jane Duff, 34, read about Fat Yoga classes overseas. Inspired, she contacted Kristina, who teaches yoga and mindfulness to at-risk youth through her charity The Kindness Institute.
Though strangers, the two hit it off and, six weeks later, held their first Fat Yoga class, which aims to encourage Kiwi women to give the gentle workout a try in a non-judgmental environment.
Kristina says, "Fat Yoga has been popular because you don't need to be athletic or to even touch your toes. You just need to be willing to give it a go."
The pair admit their use of the word "fat" is regularly questioned. Sarah Jane explains, "It's definitely bold – the word slaps you in the face. But I am fat. It doesn't mean I'm worthless, lazy or all those other connotations that come with it."
Starting the classes has been therapeutic for Sarah Jane, who has dedicated her life to fostering women's body confidence with her fashion brand Lost and Led Astray.
She recalls, "I cried after that first class. It was beautiful. I hugged everyone and felt so happy to have found a comfortable place to be."
Kristina nods, "It was more emotional than I expected. Most of the women were in tears, saying it was the first time they'd been able to exercise since they were kids."
The brunette's boyfriend has been a big supporter. She smiles, "He likes rocking his Fat Yoga T-shirt." As for Sarah Jane, she jokes she's "married" to her fashion business, working on it 14 hours a day.
While Fat Yoga has proved hugely successful, the pair haven't made any money from it – they donate all profits to Kristina's charity. However, their newfound friendship and the fact they're helping others has made their lives richer.
"It feels like we've known each other for ages," grins Kristina. "It's really cool that we've become such close friends and connected over something we're so passionate about."
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