Feeling comfortable in a yoga class should be every practitioner’s right. This is what Anna Ipox believed when she founded Fat Yoga in Portland. This is what many other plus-sized yoga teachers are embracing as they stand up to stereotypes and welcome larger bodies to the yoga mat.
There is a movement afoot and it’s about inclusion. It’s about yoga for every body. This is the real stuff, yogsters.
As much as we see a growing and disturbing trend of yoga marketing for weight-loss and the incessant stream of skinny, stick figures gracing the cover of yoga magazines and stock photos (really, someone has to fix this), there is a welcoming counterculture of acceptance, tolerance and a why the hell not? let’s do this attitude.
The Washington Post published a piece the other day called “Yoga for larger bodies.” It focused on a growing yoga niche, if you will, that caters to, well, the yogis you don’t typically see in class, or at the kool summer yoga festivals, for that matter.
Yoga teacher Annie Carlin, who leads a mixed-level Hatha class at Golden Heart Yoga studio in Washington, is a larger-bodied yoga practitioner who started a “larger bodies” workshop series because she’s experienced herself what it’s like to be the only “larger person” in the room.
“I’ve lost 100 pounds and gained it back,” the Takoma Park resident says. “For a really long time, I was angry. All these moves, I couldn’t do them anymore.”
But Carlin still adored yoga, and in 2010, she went ahead with her plan to take teacher training, despite being the only “larger person” in the program. Beyond lessons on prenatal yoga that required her fellow trainees to strap big pillows to their bellies, most had no firsthand experience working with different bodies.
In her series, Carlin focuses on modifications to poses using props or variations to better suit other body shapes, like “wall dog” instead of making the full V position that often puts lots of extra pressure on the wrists. Or how about the simple variation of standing with feet hip-width apart in Tadasana instead of together.
One student of the series, 30-year-old Emily Goodstein, shares why this is so needed:
“You don’t want to be the only person who says, ‘I don’t like child’s pose,’ or the only person using props,” explains Goodstein, a Dupont Circle resident who researches extensively to find “body-affirming” yoga environments. It’s tougher than it should be to find classes that don’t feel competitive and instructors who don’t use weight-loss-focused language, she adds.
“I’m not new to yoga. I know what I’m doing,” Goodstein adds, echoing Project Bendypants’ Tiffany Kell who wrote:
Often, yoga teachers ask me if I’ve ever considered *starting* a fitness program. I let them know I work out 10+ hours a week.
Often, yoga teachers treat me differently than all the other students, either peppering me with questions about my “disabilities” or refusing to make eye contact with me.
Often, they assume I’m new, without asking.
Goldstein and Kell are not alone in wanting to experience yoga in their own bodies and minds, as Anne Carlin isn’t alone in wanting to help them do just that. Anna Guest-Jelley has been promoting body positive approach with Curvy Yoga for years now and offers training for plus-sized yogis and those who wish to add more tools to their yoga-for-every-body toolbox. And the list is growing. Here are a few more:
- Annie Carlin’s Supportive Yoga (supportiveyoga.com)
- Body Positive Yoga (bodypositiveyoga.com) based in Norfolk, VA.
- HeavyWeight Yoga (heartfeltyoga.com) in Texas.
- Mega Yoga (megayoga.com) in NYC.
- Buddha Body Yoga (www.buddhabodyoga.com) in NYC.
- Big Yoga (bigyoga.net) based in Michigan.
- Fat Yoga (fatyoga.org), a dedicated studio in Portland, OR.
Clearly, there is a lesson in here for all of us, in open-mindedness and awareness, and not just to avoid the dreaded “death-by-boob-smush,” (some of you ladies, know what’s up!), but so that yoga may truly be a practice open to all, despite what size our yoga pants come in.
image via supportiveyoga.com