As a freshman in college, Dana Falsetti was miserable. She had hit her heaviest weight ever – 300 lbs. – and was suffering from what she later recognized as depression and binge eating.
“I had tried losing weight for most of my life,” Falsetti says. “I always felt a lot of pressure to lose weight so that was always something I was really focused on.”
Frustrated with herself, Falsetti ended up leaving her college in New Orleans and transferring to a school closer to her hometown of New Hope, Pennsylvania. That was when something changed for Falsetti.
“I went to lose weight again, and that time something was different,” she says “I’m not sure if I hit my limit, or a light bulb went off, but I knew I needed to make a change to make my life better.”
And after reducing her portion sizes and hitting the gym regularly, Falsetti, now 22, was able to drop around 70 lbs., but she was surprised to find that she still wasn’t happy.
“I went on that whole journey to health to lose weight because that’s what I thought I needed to do to be happy,” she says. “And it’s just not what happened. And yes, I did lose that weight, and yes, I did start handling the binge eating disorder, but at the end of the day I didn’t feel any different even though I had a smaller body.”
Looking for something new to try one day, she decided to try out a yoga class.
“I went into it feeling like, ‘I just lost all this weight! I feel super strong now!’ ” Falsetti recalls. “I did go into the class thinking it wasn’t going to be that bad. And it definitely did not go that way.”
“First of all, I was definitely the biggest person in the room, and I had gone in expecting that, because that’s just been the reality of my life. So I was the biggest person in in the room and also a beginner, and I remember looking around the room, and we’re doing down dog pose which is supposed to be this resting pose, and I remember it not feeling like that at all for me, my shoulders weren’t strong enough to support me and I didn’t have flexibility, it was so uncomfortable.”
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But with her “all or nothing” personality, Falsetti stuck with yoga, partially out of a sense of pride.
“I have a little bit of a compulsive personality,” she says. “And I think it’s probably the same thing that led me to binge eating, and the yoga kind of replaced that. In the beginning there was a part of me that was trying to prove everyone wrong. And that’s what got me to keep going, but that eventually shifted.”
With each practice, Falsetti’s inhibitions and concerns about her body would slowly disappear.
“The whole practice for me is about limits,” she explains. “Because I spent my whole life thinking of my body as a problem, and that was limiting everything else in my life. As I kept practicing I thought that my belly was too big or my thighs got in the way, and then they slowly start to go away. And all these limits were ones that I was making up for myself.”
“And that’s what translated to everything else in my life. I realized that I was just making excuses, my body was an excuse that I was using to hold me back from seeking my potential and being happy and living my life. And superseding those limits on my mat is what really changed my life.”
Falsetti is now a yoga instructor, traveling the country to teach classes that focus on body-positive fundamentals. Though reluctant to take the credit, she inspires her 83,000 followers on Instagram with her awe-inducing poses.
“The power of visualization is so important to me,” she says. “People see these photos and it’s someone who looks a little bit more like you or just someone in a bigger body doing something that you think you can’t do, and you start wondering, ‘Oh, maybe I could do that.’ ”
“I’m happy to be public about it, and hopefully people will open some doors to making a change that they’ve maybe been afraid to make their entire lives.”