Meet the Plus-Size Yogi Who’s Taking the Yoga World By Storm: ‘I Don’t Feel the Need to Defend My Body’

09/25/2015 at 10:41 AM ET

Big Gal Yoga
Courtesy @biggalyoga

When Valerie Sagun began practicing yoga to better herself, she never imagined her blog and Instagram account Big Gal Yoga would help others as well.

By posting photos of her practice — which she’s been working on for nearly four years — Sagun, 28, has not only encouraged the yoga community to accept body types of all kinds, but she’s also inspired newbies to break out their mats.

“It’s something I never really intended to happen but it’s nice that it has happened,” the San Jose native tells PEOPLE. “I’m humbled by the fact that people are really enjoying the visual look of my yoga practice and that I’m inspiring them to try something they never thought they could try.”

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With over 88,000 followers, Sagun — who says she’s never had a problem with body image — has received some negative comments about her unique look. But, she says, most of the feedback has been positive.

“I’ve never hated my body or thought I had to lose weight. I’ve mostly been fine in my bigger body,” she says.

Glad to be back home from my trip in Portland and Montana. Though I will be traveling to NYC real quick and heading back. Lots of travel time ✈ Words can't describe how much love I have for you guys! Sometimes I don't feel like I'm fully immersed into the community enough, but I still care about all of you! I'm excited that there are such generous people out there to help me out with my yoga teacher training journey! I also think that I want to take @amber_karnes and @diannebondyyoga's body positive course as well. Even though i'm a bigger bodied person and understand how bigger bodies work, it would be great to learn from some experienced amazing body positive yoga teachers! Also loving my new rad sea creature leggings from @personalrecordofficial ! Glad that her shop has finally launched and she's having great business! Leggings by @personalrecordofficial 🐚 Mat by @laviebohemeyoga 🌼

A post shared by Valerie Sagun (@biggalyoga) on

“I don’t feel the need to defend my body but I want to have a conversation about it,” she adds. “I’m trying to normalize the image of bigger bodies in any kind of media.”

And with so many followers, Sagun has decided to elevate her practice by becoming a yoga instructor. She’s raising money for the endeavor with a GoFundMe page.

“I didn’t aspire to become a teacher but a lot of people have been wanting me to do it,” says the recent graduate of San Jose State University. “So by getting help from the community, I can give back as well.”

RELATED: Miss America Betty Cantrell: ‘It Doesn’t Matter If You’re a Size 0 or 12, As Long As You’re Healthy’

—Ana Calderone, @anacalderone

FILED UNDER: Health

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Showing 10 comments

kew on

wow.. good for her I am not a big person & can’t do half the stuff she can do…..

Julia on

Yoga is amazing. It helped me become a happier person in my body and lose weight. The clarity of mind and flexibility is priceless. DO IT, regardless of your body size.

yogi2 on

Good for Valerie. I too am plus size and I started doing yoga in 2009. It is great for balance and flexibility. It also helps with my RA. Everyone thought I was nuts when I started but there are more & more plus size people doing it now. My doctors have all praised me for doing it. I was also lucky that I found a wonderful yoga studio and instructors where I do my practice.

Marley on

I don’t think her fatass is a role model. But it’s cool if fat people get inspired and start exercising after they see her.

Emmie on

This girl can do more things than I could think about doing by practicing yoga! She is bettering herself, and that’s what is important…doesn’t matter if she is a plus sized girl or not! Haters need to take a look in the mirror and judge themselves before they judge others…what are you doing to better yourself??

Emlow on

Way to go!

Aloha on

You go girl !!!!!!!I have practiced yoga for many years and plan to do for the rest of my life. It is for everyone! Any age, gender, body type, or disposition can benifit from this amazing discipline. Also, you can make as gentle or athletic as you wish. Those who poopoo it just haven’t tried it.

Shadows on

I wasn’t sure before, but now I am 100 percent certain. Yoga does not help you lose weight or tone. Case and point!

Adaku on

I am so proud of you, Valerie. You have always conducted yourself in a positive way, being proud of who you are rather then what type of body you have.
As for shadows comment: Yoga is about strengthen one’s body and spirit. You should try it.

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