It seems that a yoga teacher gaining 40 pounds on purpose would be antithetical to what yoga is all about. What with all the skinny, pretzel model-types proving the physical benefits of regular practice on TV and on magazine covers, yoga seems to be a physical perfection cult at times. But yoga instructor Trina Hall, 34, actually put on the pounds so that she would learn compassion and understanding — which is part of what yoga is (really) all about. It happened after her good friend came to her in tears, afraid to be seen as the "fat yoga teacher." Trina never saw this woman that way, but wondered what that might be like to feel that way.

Trina ate what she calls "The Seat diet"—she would eat whatever she saw. But the eating was just means to an end. As she explains on her blog, "As a yoga teacher, this could be considered career suicide. Instead of slaying my means of supporting myself, I want to slay the notion that people who do yoga need to look like the beauties on the cover of magazines. Last year, my best friend said crying as she dealt with her lifelong eating disorder, 'I don’t want to be known as the fat yoga teacher.' I was taken aback by this statement because I would classify her as beautiful, fit, and trim. I wanted to explore her statement."

Trina was surprised at the complexity of feelings and emotions she had when she was at her heaviest (about 170 pounds on a 5'5" frame); she felt guilty about food, and wondered what people were thinking of her. She said she discovered that she's just as guilty as the next person about judging people based on their appearances.

What she thought would be an experiment turned into a challenging self-assessment and a new understanding of how she saw herself and her body. She writes, "Suddenly, my self-worth was proving to be connected to how good I looked wearing spandex – something I completely denied giving a shit about before this experiment – and that pissed me off."

Proving once again that walking a mile in someone else's shoes is easier said than done.

Trina has gone back to her normal healthy eating plan and has started losing the weight she put on over four months. But the lessons remain. "If this story was about me losing 40 pounds, people would be saying how proud they are of me and how good I look. I’m just questioning our values – I learned that I value my physical appearance more than I could have imagined before this."

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

This yoga teacher gained 40 pounds on purpose
Trina Hall purposefully put on weight to see exactly how it affected her self-perception — and the results surprised her.