Bigger Body Yoga

As much as we would like to deny it, it is not uncommon to walk into a yoga class filled with slender, flexible bodies moving gracefully from asana to asana. Not a welcoming site to those whose physiques don’t fit into this category. As beneficial as a yoga class can and would be for larger bodies, many shy away from classes feeling out of place and underrepresented. To address this shortage, yoga classes just for bigger bodies are popping up all over the country.

The practice of yoga is about the essence of beauty, which is different than what is perceived externally. The essence of beauty resides beneath the flesh deep in a place that yoga encourages you to discover. But if external appearances are a distraction, its often difficult to focus within. Plus-sized yoga is creating a space that offers common ground to the above average sized person, so that the beauty of the Self can be revealed. Classes are forming in many studios that are taught by bigger teachers to more compassionately and empathetically address their studentship, and whole studios are forming around the concept of size and self acceptance.

Buddha Bodies studio in New York is owned by 49 year old Michael Hayes, a 5-11 250 lb instructor that is “not interested in teaching small people.” In addition to superficial appearance, the larger body has different capacities. Often, asanas that are easeful to smaller bodies present a challenge to larger ones. The needs, benefits, and effects of the asanas can be radically different from person to person, which is often the case with larger students. Classes formulated for larger bodies can address these inconsistencies in a supportive, inclusive atmosphere.

There are critics, though. Teachers like Kelly McGonigal, the editor in chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy disagrees with the segregation of classes for larger students feeling that it is a sign that something is wrong in our communities when we create classes based on size. Something to consider. Most asana teachers can and should be able to accommodate any asana class for any sized person. But, do accommodations and modifications create the most compassionate and suitable atmosphere for inner growth? For some, maybe, but for others who prefer the space and consideration for their individual needs, maybe not. All yoga asana does not fit all bodies, experiences, or needs. Often populations with specific considerations benefit a great deal more by being addressed as individuals with shared needs rather than directed to forgo their personal limitations and keep up with the class.

Yoga classes for larger bodies are becoming more popular and their might even be one in your area. Also, there are several books and videos available to support a home practice. Lastly, if you are a bountiful bodied yoga student who feels limited in your regular asana classes, talk with your teacher about your feelings and concerns. Remember, this practice is open to anyone and everyone that wants to discover it.

Comments 4

  1. As a practictioner on the larger side, my BMI is around 40, I think these classes are a great way to allow people that might be intimitated to walk into a class of very slender practictioners. However, I enjoy the diversity in my classes. There are accomplished practitioners as well as first-time visitors all at different levels. Our regular instructor skillfully leads each pose in a way that doesn’t make anyone feel inadequate. When I’m not able to do a pose, I observe the others and am reminded that even the advanced folks can’t magically do everything, we are all working were we are.

    Hopefuly, the large body classes will being the benfits of yoga to people that would otherwise miss out.

  2. I am newer to yoga, am slightly overweight and had to overcome the very barriers Kelly talks about (just being uncomfortable about my appearance). Two things that I’ve learned:

    (1) Classes that focus on ‘yoga as fitness’ are really the sore spot. Having been in one or two of these, I’ve labeled them ‘competitive yoga classes’ and steer clear. They seem to be dominated by people who have put a lot of energy into their appearance and are overall less forgiving/accomodating to squishier and newer students.

    (2) Having found an Iyengar studio that works well for me (the class assumes a truly beginning starting point), I’ve learned that no one in my class really even looks at each other during class. We are so focused on what our own bodies are doing, that judging how we look compared to others is just really not done. In the several months I have been there, not one student or teacher has even mentioned dieting, weight, or body shapes – even just in the casual chatter before and after class. It is just not relevant.

    So I think there is a lot studios can do to help less athletic and larger students over any initial discomfort that they may feel.

  3. Although I am not big, I can relate to this story. As a 50+ guy who is not particularly lithe or coordinated, I”™ve been in a few classes where I felt completely lost and out of place, in that the classes seemed to be led by and for lithe, young women. I felt like the instructors while very adept as doing the asanas themselves, were not at all adept at teaching a guy like me how modify the poses to suit my abilities.

    Fortunately, I live in Austin Texas where we have lots of schools to choose from and it didn”™t take me long to find a school where they have great beginners classes with skillful, Viniyoga instructors who know to teach to people of all ages, shapes, and abilities.

    I agree with the previous poster that ”yoga as fitness” or power yoga classes are not the best place for big people or beginners to start. If you go to a class or school and it doesn”™t work for you, keep looking till you find one that does.

  4. I think it is great that plus sized yoga classes are being formed. Even though I’ am not plus sized, when I go to class I still feel insecure and it is very much a distraction. Making these classes will be with great benefit. Again, finding what works for you and where you are at is what i think is the key.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *