The yoga body myth: Yoga is for all bodies

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:

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:

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.

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!

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