The picture one imagines when one thinks of yoga, is that of a sandy beach, the sun, an athletic man/woman, thin, contorting in difficult poses that look difficult even for the person who has a normal weight. But, can you ever imagine a bigger bodied person doing yoga?
If the answer is Yes, Congrats! Maybe you are a bigger bodied person yourself, practicing yoga or you are someone who has seen yoga being performed by a bigger bodied person.
If the answer is No, then welcome, to explore and open your mind to a new possibility. Impossibly thin and tan women are used to sell not just yoga, but everything today. Just like how no woman washes her car in a skimpy bikini, not all women who practice yoga wear underwear and have perfect skinny bodies.
Yoga Is For All Bodies And Sizes
Yoga is not just for those who are thin and flexible. Anyone who’s open to it can benefit from it. It can adapt to any and everybody. In fact, India- the origin of yoga did not have traditionally skinny women practicing yoga. The only exception to this were the Swamiji’s who from pictures and texts as we know were extremely thin (yes almost rib-showing, anorexic).
But this is not necessary for everyone. This is was just a part of their spiritual practice where they would hardly eat, fast for months and practice certain yogic postures that can could improve concentration to stay in meditation longer.
But, yoga has grown beyond that. Ancient yogis looked at plants and animals around them and adapted them into yoga postures. This was not just for physical health but for mental health too. But now, yoga has become a good exercise practice and some or most of its spiritual connection has been severed. Yet, practicing yoga alone can help your brain become calm, be more focused and attain inner wisdom.
For people carrying more weight, a low-impact exercise like yoga can be more comfortable and beneficial than say, running. Moreover, the mental component of yoga that involves deep breathing, positive meditation and awareness can boost self-confidence, relax and give you insight that can help you eliminate negative self-talk.
Tips For A Bigger Body Person Doing Yoga
Find A Teacher Who Works With You
In an ideal world, all yoga teachers should be equipped to guide you and work with you and your body. But everyone does not do this. Even yoga teacher’s training programs do not always teach about working with bigger sized people. So finding a yoga teacher who you feel comfortable with may take time.
If you have questions about whether a teacher can accommodate your needs, feel free to talk to him or her before class. Discuss your concerns and see what he or she has to say. If that person isn’t the best teacher for you, they may be able to direct you to one who is.
Work With gravity
Bigger sized people hold their weight differently. Take Downward-Facing Dog for example: If you’re a bigger bodied person, then the weight of the belly may be pulling you forward and tightening the glutes among other things.
So the first step is to release these tight muscles. Working with gravity, rather than fighting it. Using props like blocks as leverage will allow the weight to drop and the muscles will begin to release. This is not just from a yoga point of view but also in life. To let go of negative thoughts about yourself and your weight.
Be Okay With Slowing Down
Due to the 80’s boom of aerobics, we all are conditioned to think, exercise needs to be fast, with loud music playing and hard. Even in yoga, fast-paced vinyasa styles or excruciatingly hot Bikram yoga studios have taken precedence.
However, yoga is in its original form is slow. In fact, slower forms of yoga improve flexibility and strength while balancing the nervous system. They help flush the chemicals released by stress that cause inflammation and weight gain.
Be Aware, Listen To Your Body
All yoga postures may not work for you. However don’t be disheartened, this may take time. Listen to your body at all times and do not perform anything you are not comfortable in. Keep yourself away from injuries and pain and NO that is not a necessary part of exercise no matter what anyone says.
There is a difference between ‘I haven’t stretched and feeling body parts I never knew existed’ and ‘I pulled a hamstring and in excruciating pain’. Your body knows the difference, listen and respect it.
Your Weight Is Great For You To Work With
If you weigh more, and doing arm balances you are lifting as much as you weigh. Or say push-ups or anywhere, where you need to support your weight. If you weigh 160 pounds, you are lifting that much weight. So you are literally lifting heavier weight, gaining muscle mass and growing stronger. Isn’t that great?
Use Props To Your Advantage
Yoga studios will have lots of props to choose from, including blocks, straps, bolsters, and blankets. If you’re practicing at home, you can get creative. For example, a belt makes a pretty decent yoga strap.
Props are great because they allow you to get into poses that might otherwise be impossible for you. For instance, if a standing pose calls for you to touch your hand to the floor, and you can’t reach, placing your hand on a block essentially raises the floor by eight inches. If you’re sitting with legs extended, and you can’t reach your toes, a strap around the balls of your feet will allow you to get into the stretch.
Remember Why You Are Practicing Yoga
Yoga is a mental practice. The postures provide an opportunity to practice staying present with our physical experience, observing and accepting oneself in the present. This process gives us the chance to exert control over our thoughts. For some of us, the hardest part can be letting go of the constant stream of negativity and self-badgering.
Yoga Practice Tricks For Bigger Bodies
1. To step forward for the lunges, either swing your foot and knee wide, then squiggle it into place, or step forward until your thigh contacts the belly, stand, and hop into the foot forward into the full lunge.
2. For lunges place a block under the back knee in a lunge, giving the back thigh a little more length and allowing the hips and belly to release forward.
3. In your forward bends, aim for a long spine, arching your heart towards the floor, lengthening the crown of the head away from the hips. This can give a deep stretch if the belly and thighs are restricting the full fold.
4. To reach the floor from the lunges, or any standing pose, place the back knee on the ground, come to hands and knees, and once the hands are placed at the front of the mat, lift the knees into Plank Pose, and move through the vinyasa, or straight into Down Dog.
5. To step forward from Dog Pose into Mountain Pose, step or hop your feet as far forward as possible, then lift your hands, come to stand, and walk the rest of the way up.
6. Widen your stance. In many standing postures, feet are often supposed to be hip-width apart. But if you’re bigger, it may help to spread your feet farther until they’re at a comfortable distance to increase stability.
7. Know your body. If the skin of your belly, thighs, arms or breasts get in the way, grab on and move it. This type of instruction may not be written in the scripts of most traditional yoga classes, so take the initiative to make yourself more comfortable.