Check Out the Excellent FitZonePLUS Review at!

Yoga For All Shapes and Sizes 
FitZonePLUS Aims to Make Everyone Comfortable at Its Studio  
by:  Liis Windischmann

Have you ever gone to a gym or fitness studio and felt so intimidated you wanted to leave? FitZone PLUS owner Suzanne Gracan can relate. She was active and involved in sports until an accident in 2001 left her barely able to walk for two years. After gaining over 120 pounds, a mixture of yoga and acupuncture helped her get back in action. But her experiences in yoga studios were not ideal. At her size, she wasn’t able to do all the poses and instead of being shown modifications to boost her confidence and master them in a way that worked for her body, she was told “just do your best.” She wanted to channel the shame and embarrassment she felt into something positive creating a small plus-size yoga class in 2002. She eventually opened FitZone PLUS in 2011 with just two classes — but those two classes sold out from day one! In two short years, demand for classes has grown so much that the company needed to move to a larger location.

As of this week, FitZone PLUS has a new, much larger home in Toronto’s Danforth area, a short walk from Chester subway station. The extra space will allow for even more classes — and not all just yoga. While FitZone PLUS specializes in beginner, plus-size and senior demographics, everyone is welcome to its many yoga, zumba, and personal training classes. Plans are now underway to introduce a kids’ program as well as classes for parents and their children. Other new classes will continue to be added as the company grows into its new space so be sure to visit the site often for updates!

If you are looking for some really fun events to stimulate you mind, body and soul, there are also some great workshops being offered. You can release your inner vixen with Burlesque 101 happening Saturday, October 26th or perhaps learn some tai chi. How about a little Sunday Zen Getaway on November 3rd with four workshops, mini massages and lunch? There are lots of options with new events being regularly added to the fun lineup and if you are interested in a future retreat, contact the studio to request info. No need to feel intimidated at this studio — no matter what shape your shape is in, all the caring instructors are trained to make your experience a positive one!






“Yoga Body”: The Conspiracy

Posted on January 24, 2012 by


I thought I’d said all I wanted on body image and yoga in my last post but controversy in the yoga world regarding a certain video has left me feeling I didn’t say nearly enough. Or say it clearly enough. So let me try again.

The taut and toned ‘yoga body’ on display in the media marketplace is a lie. It is NOT obtained from a regular yoga routine (as many would have you believe) – no , its obtained at the price of constant work, a Herculean effort to burn calories, and a saintly denial of carbs.

The implication that rippling abs can be yours with a couple of yoga classes a week is obviously motivated by profit. It is the creation of yoga studios who want you to buy more classes, and of corporations who want you to buy all the necessary yoga accoutrements your ‘yoga body’ needs (pants, mats, water bottles, mat holders, towels, mat cleansing mists, and even your underwear).

But the point of this post is the shocking depth to which this lie has permeated the yoga world. It seems no one, not even half-starved yoga superstars, will admit that the emperor has no clothes.

Case in point, Kathryn Budig’s article in Huffington Post pleading with us to stop judging her and other yoginis who strip down to sell products. Budig’s post defends a video advertisement in which we spy upon the early morning yoga routine of a near naked limber yogini Briohny Kate-Smyth who is performing in Budig’s words “awe inducing asana in her lingerie”.

Set in a luxurious bedroom, with a handsome young lover asleep on an acre wide bed (on what are doubtless 800 thread count sheets) the yogini moves with complete and awe-inspiring control over her body against a backdrop of wall to wall windows (revealing the skyscrapers of capitalistic success). The camera lovingly caresses each part of her cellulite free body, her concave belly, her taut buttocks, her ripped biceps.

The video’s tag line reads “Equinox’s Briohny Kate-Smyth shows there’s no limit to what the artfully honed yoga body can do.” Her discipline and control (and sexy underwear), the ad implies, have given her the power to have it all.

Budig is the naked ‘yoga body’ in the famous Toe Sox ad for which she received much pillory and now the feet of her former student  Smyth are similarly on the fire.  Budwig defends Briohny and herself against criticisms that these ads sexually objectify women by stating “ Our intention was to inspire and show the beauty of a body that practices regular yoga.”

Umm what?

Most of the following commentary on Budig’s article and Briohny’s Equinox ad, veers between two poles – this is just the same ole sexual objectification of women versus those who claim it is glorification of the beauty of the female form.

But what no one seems to mention, is the glaringly obvious fact (at least to me) that this is NOT what a body that regularly practices yoga looks like – and I’ve been practicing yoga for 15 years for Pete’s sake!

C’mon folks, let’s get real. The body featured in the Equinox ad is not result of regular yoga practice, it’s the body of a finely honed athlete, a dancer, someone who pushes their body to the limits. This is a body in training – but in training for what? To mistake yoga for a performance or a competitive sport goes a long way explaining why yoga “wrecks your body” as the recent article causing such a furor in the yoga world points out.

To think that one emerges carved and rail thin as a result of a regular yoga routine begs the question – what kind of routine are we talking about? A punishing daily routine of Power Yoga in 101 degree temperature is what.

The ‘yoga body’ is a fiction, and its a fiction judging by the favorable commentary on Budig’s post and the video, that many are buying. Numerous comments in the thread were positively yearning ” ….“I only practice yoga twice a week and know that I’ll never achieve that, but it’s still a goal to work toward….. I only hope to achieve your level after years of practice… I’m inspired even though I just got started with yoga….The control she has of her body is astounding! This is inspiring me to take up yoga!”

Comments like these are why I believe we have a responsibility, however tiring it has become, to continue stating the obvious. Yoga blogger Roseanne Harvey points out that protesting such advertising only feeds into the marketing strategy of nude yoga campaigns.

She writes “I’m starting to think that the best policy is to let my silence speak louder than my words… because this is what the brand wants (this is the intention behind the video: not to show a “powerful” or “empowered” or “beautiful” practice; it’s viral marketing, and its ROI – return on investment – is determined by how many people are talking about it, how many click-throughs they get).”

Blogger Carol Horton, in her comment on Harvey’s post, agrees that silence might make these ads less viral but she also suggests that “ there are in fact some people out there who are learning something from these arguments.”

Yes precisely. Silence is a plausible strategy if the target of such campaigns were mature yogini’s such as Harvey – but they’re not. The target is those young women at risk of eating disorders and depression, who on seeing this ad might feel they don’t measure up. Who might feel that if they just pushed themselves further, ate a little less…and so the cycle of eating disorders and depression continues.

Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of women out there already practicing yoga, who by comparing themselves with this image, might just think there’s something wrong with them….maybe if they just worked a little harder, ate a little less….

But I don’t think the debate should be about whether such advertising objectifies women, of course it does -the debate is about what we can do about the underlying attitudes that allow it to flourish.

The real questions no one is asking are these – why do so few yoga teachers admit that they work hard to maintain their fat-free physiques?Why does the yoga world, from the cover of Yoga Journal to the glossy advertising of main stream studios, continue to display the “yoga body “ as a norm? Where are the images of average woman with rounded thighs and obvious bellies, women who practice yoga with regularity and passion?

Perhaps they are absent, if we are honest with ourselves, because we don’t want to give up the fiction? Ads like Equinox transfix because we have bought into the underlying premise that the yoga body is worth having, that it is a currency by which we purchase success .

Women have mistakenly conflated power and control in the world, with power and control over our bodies. And without a doubt, it is an assumption that the corporate world works to exploit and ever aggrandize.

Lets face it, the yoga body is not a healthy ideal. It is a body overworked and underfed. It is not the result of regular yoga classes but the result of a narcissistic obsession with working out. And it is driven less by empowerment than by feeling ‘fat and inferior’ as Briohny herself states in Budig’s post.

This is the Beauty Myth, that feminist author Naomi Wolf has written so eloquently about. A myth that by keeping us chained to self loathing, robs us of energy, time and money, and prevents us from achieving real power in the world.

I’m a Size 18 Yogi, and Lululemon Can Kiss My Fat Ass

Following is a brilliant piece written by Laura Beck which appeared 8/1/2013 on I have re-printed it word for word because I think it’s absolutely awesome and I couldn’t do it any better. 

I’m a Size 18 Yogi, and Lululemon Can Kiss My Fat Ass

Lululemon, like many major retailers before them, likes to pretend that a size 4 is the size of the average woman in the United States. Despite much evidence to the contrary, they cater their overpriced wares to an America that doesn’t exist, and have no desire to change their dumb-ass ways. Therefore, I meant what I said about them kissing my fat ass — go ahead, Lululemon, I’m waiting for you in Downward Dog.

According to former employees, Lululemon carries a few “larger” sizes — a chubbotron 10 and obesity monster 12 — but they just don’t have that many of them, and what they do have is crumpled and hidden in the back of the store.

“All the other merchandise in the store was kind of sacred, but these were thrown in a heap,” former employee Elizabeth Licorish told The Huffington Post. “It was definitely discriminatory to those who wear larger sizes.”

Lululemon hasn’t spoken recently about their feelings on the issue, but in 2005, founder and former chief executive officer Chip Wilson said that it takes 30 percent more fabric to create plus-size clothes, and he doesn’t want to charge more for plus-sized pants because “plus-size people are sensitive” and the company would experience fallout from the community.

“It’s a money loser, for sure,” he said. “I understand their plight, but it’s tough.”

So many questions here: Is it a money loser for sure? 30 percent more fabric than what size? Are they sure fatties would riot if they had to pay more for their potentially see-through pants? It’s not like anyone goes into Lululemon expecting to walk out with a reasonably priced item of clothing.


They claim their next CEO needs to have Oprah Winfrey on speed dial — uh, she can’t fit into your clothes, but maybe when you speed dial her up, she can yell some common sense at you. But, here, let me try before you bother O.

As we already know, many clothing stores offer zilch for the average-sized American woman, and it’s hard to see how that’s good business. As Dodai pointed out, ModCloth conducted a survey — polling over 5,000 women — and found that there were more “wearing a size 16 dress than those who wear a size 2 and size 0 combined.” I’m sorry, but that makes Lululemon and their ilk of size-discriminating companies not just judgmental pricks, but big fucking dummies when it comes to money.

And as I understand it from a source at a major clothing brand that offers plus-sized options, they have no problem passing the price on to the customer. Women desperately want to shop in store, and when given the option of trying things on in person — they’ll shell out the extra moola.

Still, it doesn’t fucking matter. Because Lululemon doesn’t want me to wear their real house pants of Beverly Hills, and I don’t want to wear them either. Maybe it’s a little like calling the girl who rejected you ugly, but seriously: Eat a bag of dicks dipped in a bag of dicks with a side of fuck you very much.

You’ll now never know if I might’ve worn your pants if you made your store accessible to women of every size. You miss out on the big bucks from big ladies looking to get into yoga in hopes of getting fit. You’ll also miss out on the big bucks of the big ladies who are already fit who want to see if the hype surrounding your precious pants is legit. It’s just a whole lot of closing yourself out of the conversation, just because your worldview is narrow and tired — oh, and it’s not working out for you financially, either. So sad, too bad.

It’s just another way in which the world gives fat people mixed messages — lose weight, fatty — but, uh, do it in an xxl Hefty bag in the corner of a dark room SO THAT THE SUN SHALL NEVER KNOW YOUR HIDEOUS FAT FOLDS. If exercising is the mythical path to skinniness, doesn’t it make sense to give fat people workout clothes that fit so we can be less fat? Yes, I think you can all see what I’m getting at here (or at least Lululemon’s new CEO should be able to — he/she must be a magical yogi unicorn who poops goji berries and pisses coconut water, after all): I blame you for obesity, Lululemon.

So, fuck you, Lululemon. Fuck you and your see-through pants, your Ayn Rand, and your child labor. Plus-sized customers are expected to spend about $332 million on athletic wear this years — and that’s at specifically plus-sized stores alone! — and you won’t get one fucking penny of that — or of the $14 billion plus-size apparel industry. Big mistake. Big. Huge.

In dramatic conclusion: I hope your business continues to die in a ditch, and then I hope you’re run over by a tractor driven by a pair of $34.94 size 26 Old Navy Women’s Plus Active by Old Navy Compression Yoga Pants.

Inexpensive Plus Size Yoga and Fitness Clothes

People often ask me where I buy my yoga/fitness clothes. The answer is Old Navy. Although general clothing quality is hit or miss, the active clothes are well made. I’ve been wearing several pair of yoga pants for over a year and they still look new!

There is a huge selection online, however rarely, if ever are there any plus size active clothes left in the store. They must be super popular. I would strongly suggest ordering online. Free shipping for orders of $50+ and you can return to any Old Navy location.

XL is approximately a 14/16, XXL is 18/20. Some clothes are generously cut and all are stretchy. XXL would most likely fit size 22/24 in tanks and yoga pants. (really depends on the item) I’m a size 18/20 and sometimes have to size down to XL.

If you’re reading this post on July 1st, 2013, Canada Day, there is a 30% off sale today only. They often have sales, but even the regular prices are totally reasonable. With 30% off, it’s a steal! I just stocked up and am good for the next year!

Happy Canada Day!

Pose of The Week: Legs Up The Wall  509 Bloor St. W., Toronto

Hello Yogis,

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged! I really didn’t think that anyone was reading my posts but I see there are 168 people subscribed so I promise I will do better.

Starting this week I will be posting a weekly yoga pose, tip or article I think would be of value to you. I hope you enjoy them. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments at




This restorative pose is a stress-reliever which helps open the chest, slowing the heart, breath and brain waves, bringing relaxation.

•Relieves tired or cramped legs and feet
•Gently stretches the back legs, front torso, and the back of the neck
•Relieves mild backache
•Calms the mind

Here’s how to do it:

1. Place a folded blanket about 5 inches away from the wall (further if you have tight hamstrings). Sit sideways on the blanket with your knees bent and the side of your body against the wall.

2. As you exhale, shift and swing your legs up against the wall, lowering your shoulders to the bed or floor. The back of your pelvis should be supported on the blanket and your shoulders now on the bed/floor. Bring your arms to rest at your side, palms up and a little below shoulder level. This will give you an open chest to allow for free deep breathing.

3. Roll your head from side to side two or three times to release tension in the neck and shoulders. Relax your legs, face and jaw.

4. Close your eyes, allowing the muscles around your eyes to release. Breathe and let go for 5 to 15 minutes.

5. To get out of the position, slide back off of the blanket and roll onto your right side. Stay here for a few breaths before slowing sitting up.

Check Out This Awesome Review of YogaZonePLUS! (lots of pics!)

YogaZonePLUS offers Yoga Classes for Bigger Bodies in Toronto

Review written by Karen Ward –
Curvy Canadian – A Blog About Canadian Plus Size Clothing and Fashion
A short while ago, I was invited, by owner/creator Suzanne Gracan, to attend a complimentary yoga class at YogaZonePLUS, a yoga class designed specifically for those with bigger bodies. It was a fantastic experience.
The studio was bright, open, and clean. It was a lovely night out, and so the windows were open and a lovely breeze came into the studio. Suzanne lit candles and placed them at each of the windows and dimmed the lights so that the atmosphere was very relaxing. All the equipment was laid out for us before we entered the studio, and the uses of each piece was explained to us in case we were unfamiliar with it.
It was very comforting to be in a body positive space while practising yoga. Often times, I have been to yoga studios and I feel as though some of the slimmer students are looking at me (even though they’re probably not) and just knowing that I am in a non-judgemental space helps me to focus on my practice instead of what other people might or might-not be thinking about me and my body.
Both Suzanne and Mary (the instructor) were very welcoming and made me feel totally at ease. They both demonstrated each of the asanas (yoga poses) so that you could see what the posture should look like from the front and the side.
We started the class with shavasana, a pose where the student lies on their back with their eyes closed and meditates on their upcoming practice.

Mary came along and gave us each a couple of drops of peppermint essential oil to help invigorate us and our practices. It was lovely!
Then we began some of the more active poses.

Owner/Creator – Suzanne Gracan (left), Instructor – Mary (right)
Mary giving me some gentle posture correction
Warrior Pose

And for our final shavasana, Mary came around, gave us some lavender essential oil to ease us in to a very relaxed state, put a bolster underneath our knees to ensure our backs were making perfect contact with the floor, and tucked us in under a blanket to make sure we were nice and warm. I could have fallen asleep right there! It was like mixing a yoga class with a spa session. I can’t remember the last time I was so relaxed!

All in all it was a really great yoga session, and I think that uniting plus size women for exercise in a body positive space is a wonderful idea. If you are interested in taking yoga or other fitness classes with Suzanne, check out her page here. Many thanks to Suzanne and Mary for a wonderful class!

Health Benefits of Yoga

I came across this phenomenal piece at (California Association of Education of Young Children) It lists the physiological, biochemical and psychological benefits of yoga based on regular practice. This is truly incredible information and explains why I’ve been feeling fantastic lately. I’ve been practicing for one hour at least 3 times a week. Even once a week will provide many of the health benefits below. To view the article online visit:

Health Benefits of Yoga

This information is grouped into three categories—physiological benefits, psychological benefits, biochemical effects—and is based on the regular practice
of traditional âsana, prânâyâma, and meditation. Please note that while pulse rate, etc., may increase during the practice of various âsanas, some forms of
prânâyâma, and some stages of meditation, but overall benefits to general health are as listed below. For information on the physiological changes that occur
during the practice of specific âsanas, etc., please see James Funderburk’s Science Studies Yoga and other resources cited at the end of this article.

Physiological Benefits

􀂃 Stable autonomic nervous system equilibrium, with a tendency toward parasympathetic nervous system dominance rather than the usual stressinduced
sympathetic nervous system dominance

􀂃 Pulse rate decreases

􀂃 Respiratory rate decreases

􀂃 Blood pressure decreases (of special significance for hyporeactors)

􀂃 Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) increases

􀂃 EEG – alpha waves increase (theta, delta, and beta waves also increase during various stages of meditation)

􀂃 EMG activity decreases

􀂃 Cardiovascular efficiency increases

􀂃 Respiratory efficiency increases (respiratory amplitude and smoothness increase, tidal volume increases, vital capacity increases, breath-holding time increases)

􀂃 Gastrointestinal function normalizes

􀂃 Endocrine function normalizes

􀂃 Excretory functions improve

􀂃 Musculoskeletal flexibility and joint range of motion increase

􀂃 Posture improves

􀂃 Strength and resiliency increase

􀂃 Endurance increases

􀂃 Energy level increases

􀂃 Weight normalizes

􀂃 Sleep improves

􀂃 Immunity increases

􀂃 Pain decreases

Psychological Benefits

􀂃 Somatic and kinesthetic awareness increase

􀂃 Mood improves and subjective well-being increases

􀂃 Self-acceptance and self-actualization increase

􀂃 Social adjustment increases

􀂃 Anxiety and depression decrease

􀂃 Hostility decreases

􀂃 Psychomotor functions improve:

       o Grip strength increases

       o Dexterity and fine skills improve

       o Eye-hand coordination improves

       o Choice reaction time improves

       o Steadiness improves

       o Depth perception improves

       o Balance improves

       o Integrated functioning of body parts improves

􀂃 Cognitive function improves:

       o Attention improves

       o Concentration improves

       o Memory improves

       o Learning efficiency improves

       o Symbol coding improves

       o Depth perception improves

       o Flicker fusion frequency improves

Biochemical Effects

The biochemical profile improves, indicating an antistress and antioxidant effect, important in the prevention of degenerative diseases.

􀂃 Glucose decreases

􀂃 Sodium decreases

􀂃 Total cholesterol decreases

􀂃 Triglycerides decrease

􀂃 HDL cholesterol increases

􀂃 LDL cholesterol decreases

􀂃 VLDL cholesterol decreases

􀂃 Cholinesterase increases

􀂃 Catecholamines decrease

􀂃 ATPase increases

􀂃 Hematocrit increases

􀂃 Hemoglobin increases

􀂃 Lymphocyte count increases

􀂃 Total white blood cell count decreases

􀂃 Thyroxin increases

􀂃 Vitamin C increases

􀂃 Total serum protein increases

􀂃 Oxytocin increases

􀂃 Prolactin increases

􀂃 Oxygen levels in the brain increase

I LOVE YOGA! – 509 Bloor Street West, Toronto ON (steps from either Spadina or Bathurst subway stations)

Today we had 2 yoga classes and both went so well and the feedback was so great that it’s really reinforced I’m doing the right thing. Not a moment too soon because I quit my full time job earlier this week, my last day is April 27th. I want to be able to put everything I have into YogaZonePLUS and make it a success, not just for myself, but for all the wonderful plus size people who will benefit. I’ve truly met some great women already. YogaZonePLUS is not just a yoga class, it’s a healthy community for plus size people.

Yoga has given me my health back, improved my confidence, made me a much more calm and centred person and it’s soon to be my sole source of employment. I’ve never been happier. I’m so excited for the future!

I. Am. Blessed.

Come and check out a class!