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.