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Yoga for fatties

April 11, 2012
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Exercising 30 minutes a day has been shown to be super-beneficial for EVERYBODY regardless of weight, or weight loss. So many of us larger people run into a lot of push back and prejudice when we DO try to work out — I have left a gym never to return because of a muttered “look at the sweaty whale” comment.

Health at Every Size® (HAES) recommends that you do movement that you love. For me that is swimming, hiking with my dog, and yoga. Yoga is awesome because it’s one of those workouts that doesn’t feel like a workout. It feels more like meditation, especially if you find a good online class (more on that later).

It helps gently stretch and strengthen muscles and joints, making movement in other areas of your life easier. Also, you don’t really need any equipment to start, except maybe a few towels. If you really like it, then you can spend around $30 on a mat and another say $10-15 on yoga blocks, if you need them. I have always been afraid of the traditional yoga class though — those perfect, skinny bodies, doing poses that look oh-so-different when done by a curvy body. Bellies and flesh get in the way making, say, a child’s pose look VERY different with a plus size body than it does with a “normal” body.

The book that I found most helpful is MegaYoga by Megan Garcia. She demonstrates all the poses and gives advice on how to adapt a pose for your belly. Her advice boils down to remembering to spread your legs apart, and your belly will fit between. At first, you will think “Oh this isn’t hard,” and then 15 minutes into it you will be shaking like a leaf. The poses look deceptively simple, but, oh, they aren’t.

Once you get the basic poses down, try a class online. Some of the classes move a little quickly, so it’s best to know what downward facing dog, or child’s pose, is and how to adapt it for your body before you get into the real world classes.

There are so many great resources online for yoga. There are many to choose from on YouTube. Here are a few good teachers:

After practicing via YouTube for a few months, I decided I wanted something more, so I joined My Yoga Online. If you click that link, you will get two weeks free to try it, no obligation (Note: this is NOT a paid review, although if you DO join through that link I will get a free month).

Think of it as the Netflix of the yoga world. For $10 a month, you can access to thousands yoga classes ranging  in difficulty and style. Many are updated weekly, the day after they have classes. I have found that I like the kind with a more meditative, holistic approach, but others make prefer more rigid types.

My personal favorite is Laughing Lotus Studios. They are very life and self-affirming, telling viewers to “move like you, dance like yourself.” Laughing Lotus has lots of spirituality mixed in without being preachy. They are also (so far) body conscious and not fatphobic. I love their studio space: on one wall is a great Ganesha and the other has all kinds of self-affirming graffiti, which is exactly what I need when I am trying to exercise without self-hate.

I am a size 28 US (not sure of the poundage; somewhere around 280), so if I can do this anybody can.

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Here I am doing child's pose. The key is to split your legs so you can get that stretch to the lower back and shoulders, where it belongs.

Warrior pose

Downward facing dog pose

Seated twist

Butterfly stretch

The trick to most larger body adaptations for yoga is getting your belly out of the way and realizing that a downward facing dog done with larger hips and a butt can look very different from traditional yogis.

Since starting yoga about a year ago, I have seen measurable changes in my flexibility and balance. I feel  stronger and I breathe better. I have bad asthma, which is triggered by most cardio. Yoga — especially yoga flow routines — allow me to up my heart rate without triggering my wheezing. And because I am working my lungs, they have gotten stronger. My lower back, usually in pain because of my DD breasts, doesn’t ache any more.

Don’t let the skinny, flexible yoga body stereotype fool you. Yoga is fairly easy to start with, can include meditation (which is a bonus for some), and is extremely accessible. So what are you waiting for?

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. JeninCanada permalink
    April 11, 2012 2:59 pm

    I have the Mega Yoga dvd, sent to me via my blog and one of my wonderful commentors. It’s really great, as you say, because she shows how to easily adapt certain poses for bigger bodies. My stomach and boobs get in the way with yoga, but not anymore! Yoga is something I’ve been meaning to do again, especially now that I’m pregnant, to gently build stamina and strength. Great post, Erylin!

  2. MrsS permalink
    April 11, 2012 4:03 pm

    Even people of normal weight have difficulty with yoga. I have had both excellent and poor yoga teachers, so you may not be missing anything by not going to a formal class. After several yrs of no yoga, I can tell the difference in my flexibility. Thanks for the post. You have inspired me to try yoga again.

    Congrats, Jenin, on your pregnancy.

  3. Christi permalink
    April 11, 2012 8:08 pm

    Thanks so much for writing this. I’ve been walking my dog in the evenings, but on evenings when it gets too late for me to be comfortable walking outside, I’ve been thinking of doing a yoga DVD. Knowing about these online options is great. You also inadvertently reminded me to be gentle with my big belly and to get back into a space of body acceptance. Thanks again.

  4. April 11, 2012 9:40 pm

    I like the Heavyweight yoga DVDs by Abby Lentz. I’m really new to yoga, so I can’t speak to the quality of the yoga, but I know I have a lot of room to improve with just this DVD. I tried another yoga DVD many years ago that catered to plus sized people, that I’m blanking on the name of, but I think it was sponsored by Just My Size, that was too easy for me and I’d never really done yoga before.

    I’ve never taken an actual class, but Abby stresses that we should go at our own pace and I just find the yoga to be really comforting, whereas with other yoga dvds I’ve tried, I just got frustrated that the exercising wasn’t going faster.

    Unfortunately, I’ve been unwell lately with headaches exacerbated by bending over so no yoga for me lately. But I’m really looking forward to getting back to it.

    I also picked up a tap dancing DVD and I just absolutely LOVE IT. I know not really on point, but I never danced when I a little girl even though I wanted to. So I’m really happy that I’m doing it now, or at least I was until I got sick. (God, I hate seeing new doctors, sorry, totally going off topic.) I’m looking forward to getting back to tap dancing and yoga, and movement in general.

  5. vesta44 permalink
    April 12, 2012 1:52 am

    I bought Megan Garcia’s Just My Size Yoga but couldn’t do much of it – anything that required me to kneel or be on my knees was out – I have severe arthritis, almost bone-on-bone for one knee, and kneeling is very painful, even on a padded surface (if anyone would like to have that DVD, email me and I’ll mail it to you). I do like my Chair Aerobics DVD, however, that’s one I can do seated and it doesn’t bother my knees or my back (and I can put my heavy metal music in my cd player to listen to while I’m exercising, keeps me motivated and moving).

  6. April 14, 2012 4:53 pm

    Great article … I think yoga is the perfect exercise for all bodies and all ages. People of every size and age can find poses they can do, and they are incredibly beneficial. You don’t need to twist yourself into a pretzel to benefit from yoga. I also haver Megan Garcia’s Just My Size dvd … I did it for a couple of months and then as usual, got bored with doing the same thing every day and shelved it. Have you heard of Peggy Cappy? She is another yoga teacher and she’s very good at showing adapatations of poses for people who are less flexible. “Yoga for the Rest of Us” is one of her dvds, which I’m currently doing, and it’s great. She uses chairs to make the poses easier.

  7. clare permalink
    February 2, 2013 6:23 pm

    \loved you comment , not sure about the poundage, lol Too funny!
    How are you knees?
    , cause I have trouble most of the time, either kneeling or bending.

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