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Fat? Yoga No Longer a Four Letter Word to Plus-Sized

in In Class, Meditations on Mutations, YD News

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Let’s see… there’s yoga for elders, yoga for kids, yoga to restore, yoga to rehabilitate, yoga to invigorate, yoga for gravity-dissers, yoga for DOGs, for barking out loud! (heh) Why not yoga for Big Bods? Fat Yoga? (why is fat a bad word anyway?) By now if you haven’t heard about the NY Times article tossing a healthy-sized spotlight on new classes that cater to the chubbier lot, well then here’s your big slice of Yoga Dork commentary pie.

Here’s the scoop: there are plenty of thicker yogis, or yogi hopefuls, out there who feel a little intimidated by the mass media image of wistful skin and bones slender yogs wearing butt-enhancing spandex. Seriously, though, who isn’t intimidated by that?

So a few yoga visionaries decided to do something about it and started up specialized classes with titles like Yoga for Round Bodies (Whole Life in Seattle) and specifically suited studios like MegaYoga, and Buddha Body Yoga (both in NY).megayoga_megangarcia

Says Megan Garcia of MegaYoga:

“A lot of plus-size people are very embarrassed about sweating and struggling in front of people,” she said. “They try to be very well groomed and not stand out. Yoga can get very sweaty and awkward, so it’s easier to do when you’re surrounded by people who look like you. You don’t want to be the one sweaty, fat person in class.”

While some may find a problem with singling out the biggest yogis, we’re wondering why not make yoga accessible to everyone? Besides, it’s yoga! Where everyone is accepted. Kelly McGonigal, the editor in chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, disagrees….

There’s something wrong that we’re doing as a community if people have to be shunted off to these classes designed for their size,” said Ms. McGonigal, 31, who has a Ph.D. in psychoogy and is an instructor at the Avalon Art and Yoga Center in Palo Alto, Calif.

Eh, saying it’s not cool to “segregate” (what a nasty word) is kind of like inferring yogis of the cushi-er form is something to be ashamed of. Nowadays there’s specialized yoga for literally everyone else! (as noted) Do we have to descend into a no child left behind discussion? Seriously. But, we see her point, does the separation create further alienation?

Happily, we can personally report the appearance of many more rotund yogsters in class lately. Not sure why, could be the teacher, could be the overall mass acceptance of yoga these days, but there is a surge in the less fantasy-sized Barbie heinies swaying in down dog. It is lovely.

Truth is, there’s yoga for weight loss, sure, but there’s also yoga for LIFE. What it boils down to is who cares what size yoga pants you wear?

Striking a Pose for Girth [NYTimes]

Further Reading: elephant journal has an informative post on Heavyweight Yoga: DVD – proving yoga is for everyone, even the “volumptuous” Additional perspectives from virtual yoga dorks: Yoga For Bigger Bodies [Yogoer], and the jiggly one’s Yoga for the Bigger-Bodied [Jiggaroo] Also, remember plus-sized Yoga on The Biggest Loser way back when?

And a Poll for Your Pleasure

19 comments… add one

  • First I would consider myself a “thicker” Yogini. I am not and never have been skinny. I love talking about about Yoga and opening people eyes to the fact that Yoga is for every “Body”.

    Honestly the idea of this bothers, it really does. What are we missing in teaching new students, if they are going to care about what the other bodies in the room look like?

    Yogadork you continue to impress me with your real attitude about Yoga. I’m buying my Yoga is my Bail Out” Shirt today.

  • Kim

    Indeed, true it is. We should not leave anyone out of yoga. I would like to see yoga wear for plus sizes and more for men, too, when I walk into a studio. More so, class descriptions and even studio invites should be sensitive to any body type ~! very nice YogaDork, great coverage.

  • Matt

    Part of the reason I waited so long to go to my first yoga class was my body-type. To an outsider, the images that come to mind are these thin, nimble people who’ve been practicing for years. If there were a class designed not just for beginners, but for people of my own shape, I’d have jumped in a LONG time ago.

    Once I got to a point where I was at least more comfortable and networked a little, I was able to attend various other classes without focusing so much on myself and what I looked like, but it was definitely a journey getting there. A journey that might’ve been a little shorter if I were surrounded by people who I felt understood the boat I was in and the special attention I might need to my joints and limitations at the time.

    It doesn’t necessarily denote a negativity (everyone’s pointing and laughing because you have to go to the “fatty” class)…it just speaks to the potential attendee and gives them a little peace about what sort of special attention might be paid them.

  • Hi yogadork! Great entertaining perspective on the issue (and thanks for the link addition!) – seriously, no shame in using the word “fat”! I second guessed myself writing that post, haha! As for the segregation thing – I agree wholeheartedly that there’s already different types of yoga for everyone else, why not for the bigger bodied? Varying types of people come with differing needs and its great that we can have choices and decide on our own terms whether or not we want a more “segregated” type class or not. :)

  • If yoga classes for ‘bigger’ people means that more people try yoga that might not otherwise… then I think its a good thing. I am not a thin, waify yogini. I am tall, have an amazonian build, with enormous boobs (that sometimes get in the way of some asana!). So, I’m not your average looking yogi. That said, I’m not obese either.

    I can imagine if you can’t touch your toes or perform trikonasana because your belly gets in the way, that could be embarassing. Even if the only person who notices is the person who can’t do the pose.

    We make special classes and adjustments for pregnant women, who can’t and shouldn’t perform all asana, so how is this discrimination if pre-natal classes aren’t?

    The more people who make it to a yoga class and can enjoy it, the better, I say…

  • As a full-figured yoga teacher in the Atlanta area, I say rock on with plus size yoga classes! I’ve had a well-known yoga teacher tell me I have a ‘yoga heart, but not a yoga body’, and other teachers haven’t had enough understanding of props to assist me in classes (Don’t even get me started on the notion that props = weakness!). One plus sized woman told me she only went to pre-natal classes, because it’s the one class where it was okay to have a big belly. That broke my heart. There is a practice for Every Body, regardless of size, shape, or ability. Sometimes we need the opportunity to commune with others like ourselves in safe, sacred space where we can find ways to make postures fit our bodies, rather than the other way around. Blessed are the teachers who create safe, sacred space for all of us!

  • I see nothing wrong with “special” classes for rounder bodies! Many of my larger college yogis have told me that they felt very intimidated signing up for a yoga class, thinking that it would be filled with skinny girls. But they decided to sign up anyway. So if “special” classes help “rounder” people come to yoga, if that’s what it takes to make people feel comfortable, then it’s all good.

    There are “Yoga for Men Only” classes, why not for others?

    Now if only the “Body of Yoga” on the cover for Yoga Journal would NOT be young, skinny, and white!

  • ceci

    I am excited about the possibility of finding a yoga class for bigger (and out of shape) people…YOGA itself is a little intimidating, so it would be great to not have to worry about the other insecurities we dish out to ourselves…where can I take a class in atlanta?

  • Hey Ceci-

    Check out http://www.jaishantiyoga.com/series#curvygirls. I’m teaching a 5 class “Yoga for Curvy Girls & Big Guys” series there on Mondays beginning August 3rd. It’s specifically geared toward women and men with larger/rounder/more generous bodies. Each week will cover a different theme. Jai Shanti is a great space that welcomes people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities in the Atlanta area. Hope you can make it!

  • I am the guy teaching yoga for big people from the New York Times article. I just saw this blog, and I love the thinking and talking around yoga for students who live outside the box of how yoga is seen in magazines and movies. I now teach 3 classes a week, and in October will be offering 4 a week.

    My aim for Buddha Body Yoga is to open up a place for large people to explore their body. I’m currently working my own space to offer more classes and create a school for yoga for large people. I’m looking for support for trying to get this up and running by January.

    For class or other information check out: http://buddhabodyoga.com

  • I’ve taken my plus-sized self to all kinds of yoga studios, including Bikram, and done just fine. If others feel more comfortable in classes for larger-sized people, then great! I might drop in sometime, but I do just fine in the classes I attend. The world NEEDS more people practicing yoga, so let’s get ‘em any way we can!

  • Jennifer

    Although the one yoga class I attend is not specifically geared toward larger people, and it’s ok, I would LOVE a class geared for larger people. I live in a relatively small town and there are very few yoga classes to begin with. The yoga in the class is very low key, almost geared to being therapeutic. It’s great and I love it. I am the largest person in the class, in decent shape and just do the best I can, but I would love to find a class geared to larger people.

  • i have been teaching yi have been teaching yoga for big people for over ten year in new york city
    teaching about the form & function foundation , leverage ,taken back the floor
    what i say to every student or teacher is to explore your thinking of what possible
    i teach two class right know and i think i found a home for my school .
    my plan is to be teaching 4 class
    this school will have the great yoga wall which will help student work with poses as well as make them see where there are in there yoga aliment

  • sorry typos

  • I have been working with Michael of Buddha Body Yoga in NYC for a little over a year now. I knew yoga for big people had to be around somewhere and was so happy to find the class.

    I’m heavy and had been to a “regular” yoga class; I was self-conscious, uncomfortable (mentally and physically), and injured my knee. Not a good experience.

    Why shouldn’t big people – fat women and men (yes, like YogaDork, I don’t think it is a dirty word) be able to do yoga? With a teacher who knows what he or she is doing everyone can benefit from yoga. The use of props such as blocks, bolsters, and blankets make the poses accessible for everyone.

    At Buddha Body Yoga we now have a yoga wall. It is amazing – basically it is a wall with places to hook straps. The support of the straps allows me to feel poses and gain flexibility even though I wouldn’t be able to balance in the pose otherwise.

    YogaDork, thank you for shining light on the ability for big people to gain the mental and physical benefits of yoga. Caring and intelligent teachers who have the training to work with appropriate modifications make yoga possible for everyone, regardless of size.

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