There are few studios that list plus size exercise yoga classes specifically, but this isn't such a bad thing. No matter what your body shape may be, there are many yoga movements and disciplines that you can practice.
Well Mind, Well Body
The first thing to remember about yoga is that it truly is for everyone. Abby Lentz, the founder of Heavyweight Yoga, has a message for you: "You're beautiful - now give yoga a try!" She believes you don't have to stand on your head to do yoga, and has taught thousands of plus-size students to experience the benefits of a regular yoga practice. Regardless of your fitness level, your yoga journey starts with an open mind.
While it might seem that yoga practitioners who are thin and bendy like a willow branch embody the general perception of yoga, in reality, no one can stake a claim on what an individual's yoga experience should be. Yoga benefits the body, mind, and spirit, without a prerequisite of a particular waist size or assumed flexibility. The more you practice, the more you'll receive the total package of benefits.
Yes, there are some advantages to practicing yoga with people at the same fitness level or with similar challenges. For example, if some people feel embarrassed about their weight or lack of fitness, they may feel less obvious in front of others who understand. Nevertheless, weight and body image shouldn't keep you from pursuing a rewarding yoga practice.
Plus Size Exercise Yoga Classes
Most of the plus size exercise yoga classes are localized, not national. One exception is the athletic club Curves, which has some locations with plus size classes. Here are a few others to try:
- A Gentle Way: Lanita Varshell teaches plus size yoga at locations in La Mesa, CA
- Heartfelt Yoga: Part of Abby Lentz's Heavyweight Yoga program in Austin, TX
- Willow Street Yoga: Offers the "Belly, Mind, and Spirit" class in Silver Spring, MD
Considerations for Plus Size Yoga Practice
Remember: even if there's not a plus size exercise yoga class near you, there is always a beginner's yoga class. And that's the perfect place for someone new to yoga, or someone with particular health or fitness challenges.
There are some considerations for the plus size yogini to keep in mind.
Choose the right clothing. For yoga, you want comfortable clothing that allows freedom of movement, but isn't so big that it swallows you up when you bend forward. You'll also need a supportive bra. Read the LoveToKnow Plus Size article about plus size athletic wear to learn more.
Ask for pose modifications. Some practitioners might find certain poses, such as inversions or arm balancing postures, uncomfortable. People with knee pain may find some bends or standing postures difficult to hold for long periods of time. Also, people with high blood pressure shouldn't dip their heads below their hearts for too long. So, talk with your instructor prior to each class and make sure you learn pose modifications that help you maintain the proper form while taking care of yourself.
Use props. While some yoga styles don't always use props, most studios are equipped with blocks, bolsters, blankets, wrist cushions, straps, and other yoga gear that help make positioning easier.
"Move the flesh" if necessary. If you have a belly or large breasts, move them out of the way to make certain postures more comfortable. Don't be self-conscious -- the goal is to maintain the best form you can and keep the breath flowing.
Don't worry. There will be some poses you can't do, and maybe even shouldn't do, right now. That's okay. This happens to everyone. Return to a centering position and allow yourself to rest while the others practice, then join back in when you're ready. Remember, you're in class for the full journey.
Make sure to talk with your health practitioner about your interest in yoga before taking a class.
DVDs for Home Practice
If you feel you're just not ready to try a studio yet, there are many great DVDs that you can do at home.
- Plus size yoga instructor and model Megan Garcia has a couple of DVDs available, including Yoga: Just My Size and Megayoga.
- Abby Lentz presents Heavyweight Yoga and Heavyweight Yoga 2.
- Meera Patricia Kerr offers Big Yoga.