Content Warning: Talk about weight loss and eating disorders throughout this article.
Natasha Rusilko is an online yoga teacher and spiritual advocate, with a huge following on social media. What makes Natasha unique is that she is a plus size teacher in the yoga community, which is not always what is pictured when “yogi” comes to mind. Natasha is breaking the stereotypes surrounding the yoga industry, one post at a time!
Here is our exclusive interview with Natasha about her spiritual and yoga journey.
Bold Magazine: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your yoga/nourishment/spiritual journey. How did you get started?
Natasha Rusilko: So, funny enough, years ago, I started on Tumblr when that was the cool thing. It was a weight loss blog – where I documented my weight loss journey. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the healthiest and I was sucked into the ‘thinspiration’ world online. I ultimately ended up losing 80lbs the unhealthy way and my Before/After picture went viral. When I started recovering from my eating disorder, I slowly started to migrate to Instagram and it was about three years ago that I started posting about my yoga, self love, recovery journey, etc. I have been teaching yoga for about five years now and practiced for around seven! I’ve always loved food and I’m a culinary school dropout. So nutrition and mindful eating seemed like the perfect path for me. As far as the witchy stuff, I’ve always been into that! It all really came together on my Instagram when I moved to Vegas about two years ago and then quit my full time retail corporate social media job to pursue my own social media and put my all into it.
BM: How do you feel plus size women are viewed in the yoga space? Do you believe you are combatting that narrative?
NR: So, the funny thing is, I’m not technically plus size. While I totally don’t mind being thrown into that category, I’m actually a couple sizes smaller than what is considered ‘plus size’. I do believe, however, that any woman that isn’t thin and white does get stigmatized in the yoga community as a novelty OR we don’t get the respect that we deserve. I’ve had times that I’ve walked into a yoga studio and got nothing but looks of confusion and disgust – and then I bust out a headstand and people are in shock. I combat that narrative every day!
BM: What made you decide to take your yoga/spiritual journey online? Do you find the community is more accepting of plus size women there? Why or why not?
NR: I truly believe my purpose on this planet is to help people – and if my journey and my posts can truly help one person, then my work here is done haha. I think, just like in real society, it’s hit or miss. I get my fair share of trolls and haters online, and the health police who want to come at me for my size. I usually instantly block and ignore.
BM: What has your journey to self loved looked like, and what does it mean to you?
NR: Self love, to me, is a constant journey. There is never a destination. It is always evolving and getting deeper. Sometimes I feel like I’ve hit the peak “I love myself!” and then I have a bad body image day and I’m like “Guess I have some more work to do!” There have been constant ups and downs – but it’s worth it!
BM: What struggles have you overcome to get to where you are now?
NR: The biggest life changing event I had was when my father passed away very suddenly and traumatically when I was 25. It was after that I decided that if it doesn’t make me happy, I’m not doing it. That led me to my divorce, which was just finalized about two weeks ago, which was definitely another huge life change – but it was for the better. I’ve also seen the dark sides of plastic surgery – when I was 21 and had lost all of that weight via eating disorder, I had a breast lift and implants put in. The breast implants completely ruined my health and I had them removed just before my dad passed away. So that was probably the worst year of my life. It’s been hard, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, as they say!
BM: What does being a plus size woman in the yoga space mean to you?
NR: It’s empowering for sure, and to me, it means standing up for those who can’t and creating a space for us. Inspiring those like me – or anyone who has any kind of insecurity or anyone who doesn’t fit the ‘norm’ – to take up space.
BM: What does your yoga practice look like, and why do you believe it’s important?
NR: I do yoga on the daily, whether it’s just breathing and meditation or a full hour of flow. I believe yoga is important for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. It’s probably the biggest thing that helped me recover from my eating disorder and find my strength and love my body for what it can do.
BM: Let’s talk yoga clothes. Do you think there are enough plus size yoga brands out there? How do you go about finding good yoga outfits?
NR: Like I said before, technically I’m a few sizes smaller than the traditional plus size, so I have the privilege of shopping at most ‘regular’ yoga shops. I do wish certain brands would be more inclusive – but I am sponsored by a few brands that rang from XXS-3X! I shop via Instagram, no surprise there, and am constantly on the lookout for new yoga clothes!
BM: Do you think the yoga/spiritual community still has a long way to go as far as plus size inclusion?
NR: I think that yes, there is definitely some progress to be made – but just in the two years that I’ve really been in the online space, it has come so far.
BM: What inspires you to be BOLD?
NR: My inner fire. Those that came before me and paved the road to this inclusive space. Anyone who has shown up, taken up space and continued to be themselves no matter what. Lady Gaga said, “When I’m on a mission, I rebuke my condition. If you’re a strong female, you don’t need permission.”