Yoga is good for every body, but unfortunately body image stops many people from practicing yoga or attending classes. I had a private yoga therapy client who came to me exactly for this reason, as she felt she could not attend class until she lost 20 pounds. She recognized the benefits of yoga for her weight management and thyroid health, as well as self-acceptance.
As a yoga teacher, my training did touch on how to work with all different body shapes; however, in the classes I attend, rarely do see obese or largely overweight people. If they do, I sense that teachers not sure how to help them and support these individuals without offending or drawing attention to their physique.
The truth is there is no yoga body!
From magazine covers and famous yogis and yoginis, the public has an image of what the yoga body looks like. It is slender but strong. It is toned with excellent posture. The truth is our genetic make up has a lot to do with the yoga body we develop. Yoga won’t make you taller, shorter, have narrower bones, etc. What yoga will do is help you body reach its optimal blueprint, a term used in Anusara yoga to express your perfect alignment for your body and mind, not the magazine cover.
Body Divine Yoga explains:
The taut and toned ‘yoga body’ on display in the media marketplace is a lie. It is NOT obtained from a regular yoga routine (as many would have you believe) – no , its obtained at the price of constant work, a Herculean effort to burn calories, and a saintly denial of carbs…
The real questions no one is asking are these – why do so few yoga teachers admit that they work hard to maintain their fat-free physiques?Why does the yoga world, from the cover of Yoga Journal to the glossy advertising of main stream studios, continue to display the “yoga body “ as a norm? Where are the images of average woman with rounded thighs and obvious bellies, women who practice yoga with regularity and passion?…
Lets face it, the yoga body is not a healthy ideal. It is a body overworked and underfed. It is not the result of regular yoga classes but the result of a narcissistic obsession with working out.
Modern Hatha yoga came from Non-Dual Tantra (although many credit Patanjali), in which everything is divine. The large yoga body is just as divine as the muscular, toned yoga body. There is no difference in the benefit of yoga to both body and soul of the individuals. It is radical, global acceptance and tolerance. It is what yoga has to teach us.
As Christopher Wallis, author of [amazon_link id=”0989761304″ target=”_blank” ]Tantra Illuminated[/amazon_link], explains:
Well said. I would say this is the number one problem in practice of yoga in the West, that people think that the purpose of yoga is to feel good. All the original authorities agree that the purpose of yoga is to transform yourself into somebody who can see things as they really are, see yourself as who you really are, see reality as what it really is. You discover that at the core you are divine, you are a manifestation of God. But in order to find that core you also have to see all the places in yourself where you are lying to yourself, inauthentic. Of course, that is painful, transformation is challenging and painful. These people practicing yoga to feel good and have fun – that is fine unless they think it will bring them to final liberation and full awakening. Then they are deluded. But if their goal is to have fun then there is no problem. So, this is the tantric attitude – not to put down or condemn anyone`s practice, instead it just tries to show when the practice is not aligned with the desired fruit. Any good teacher would ask you what you want and help you choose a practice that will lead to that.
If your goal is to obtain the mythical yoga body, that is not to be judged. But what about those who are kept away from yoga because of this mythical body?
We were sent a book designed to give access to yoga for those with larger bodies. As a teacher, I was especially interested in the suggestions for modifications, as I want to support every student that comes to my class.
[amazon_link id=”1936303485″ target=”_blank” ]Yoga XXL: A Journey to Health For Larger Bodies[/amazon_link]. I am not sure how I feel about the title (the XXL part), but I love the book and photographs of real bodies practicing yoga. This a great book for someone to start a home practice and gain the confidence to come to class.
Yoga XXL shows you how to create a safe, enjoyable, and effective yoga practice no matter what your age, size, shape, or physical fitness level. Yoga is not just for the lean and limber. With modified postures and props, everyone can experience yoga’s many health benefits including increased flexibility, strength, stamina, balance, energy, and calm.
For the person who has never done yoga before or the regular practitioner looking to refine their practice at home, Yoga XXL includes:
- Practical information about clothing, mats, and equipment
- Over 50 postures in a variety of positions including seated, lying down, and standing, chosen specifically for people with larger bodies and those with limited mobility
- Variations to accommodate every body shape, size, and fitness level to ensure comfort and safety
- Postures to ease back aches, tight muscles, and joint stiffness
- Quick daily routines to help recharge and relieve stress throughout the day
- Detailed instructions and photos illustrating each pose, and much more.
WithYoga XXL you’ll have everything you need to bring yoga – and more health and wellness – into your daily life immediately.
The modifications for larger bodies are very similar to the modifications for tighter bodies. Using straps and blankets where range of motion is limited or weak provides great support for all bodies. I did find poses with different names than I have been taught, like Hero for Warrior 3, but that is not really uncommon with yoga to find some asanas called different names, even dating back to the [amazon_link id=”8185787387″ target=”_blank” ]Hatha Yoga Pradikipa[/amazon_link].
I like how the book states, “Healthy yogis come in all sizes.” Flexibility is not limited to the thin. Neither is strength.
The benefits of yoga go beyond attainment of the “perfect body”. When practiced authentically, it teaches us to accept the body we have and lead us to holistic health, both body and mind.
Many people come to yoga wishing to lose weight or improve their bodies. What they discover along the journey is so much more!
[amazon_enhanced asin=”1936303485″ /][amazon_enhanced asin=”0989761304″ /]