If you think you can't enjoy yoga unless you are a super skinny waif who can bend herself into a pretzel, think again. The truth is, size doesn't matter. Even plus sized people can enjoy the many benefits of yoga. Recently, LoveToKnow had the opportunity to speak with Meera Patricia Kerr, yoga teacher and author of Big Yoga. She had some great advice on yoga for larger bodies.
About Meera Patricia Kerr
LoveToKnow (LTK): What is your background?
Meera Patricia Kerr (MPK): I began studying yoga in the 70s, and took teacher training in 1975, with Integral Yoga®, founded by my Guru, Sri Swami Satchidananda. I was living in New York at the time, working on an album of original songs for RCA. I began teaching at the New York Integral Yoga Institute that fall, and have continued teaching all these years.
As I got older, I began to adapt my practice due to changes in my own body, and I decided to offer my discoveries about the larger body to the many folks who look more like me than, say, Patricia Walden (a famous Iyengar teacher, famous for her lithe and lean body).
Body Size and Yoga
LTK: What are some misconceptions about body size and yoga?
MPK: Because we usually see images in the media of really slender, extremely flexible people doing yoga - and not just any old yoga, but really difficult poses - most people who are over a size 14 or maybe a little older, with the challenges that come with age, assume they could never do yoga! It's part of my mission to bring an image of an older, rounder body type to the discussion!
LTK: How can yoga benefit people with larger bodies?
MPK: Adapted yoga, like Big Yoga, is a perfect way for a bigger person, who may not be exercising, to get back into loving their body to wellness. It helps tone the muscles and glands, improves flexibility and stamina, improves mood, and also may mitigate the effects of smoking, as it improves lung function.
Practiced regularly, yoga can lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and is helpful in bringing more blood flow to the heart. It also provides a gentle sense of self-awareness which is key to taking good care of ourselves.
Your Yoga Practice
LTK: What type of yoga is best for bigger people?
MPK: Any yoga that gets people off the couch and onto the mat - or even in a chair - stretching and breathing are good!
Big Yoga is patterned after Integral Yoga, which integrates various aspects of yoga (including asana, pranayama, meditation, selfless service and devotion) to bring the whole person into balance, so to me, Big Yoga is the BEST!
LTK: Are there special considerations that people of size should keep in mind before beginning a yoga practice?
MPK: I would ask the student to check with a doctor before practicing yoga if they have issues like high blood pressure, or a recent surgery. Usually, if a person's high blood pressure is controlled with medication, they can still do yoga.
LTK: What would you say to someone who says they are too big to practice yoga?
MPK: I would encourage them to start with an easy class. Speak with the instructor before class and ask if they feel comfortable teaching adapted yoga. Not every yoga instructor is expert in this area.
If a person feels embarrassed to take a public class, find a private teacher. Or, they can start with either of my DVDs, Big Yoga Hatha 1, or Big Yoga Flex-Ability, both of which are available online at my website, BigYogaOnline.com, or on Amazon.
LTK: What else can you share about yoga for larger people?
MPK: Don't get stuck in the notion that yoga means standing on your head or wrapping your legs behind your head! Be brave and confident! Don't wait till you have the "ideal" body before you begin.
There is benefit to be gained at whatever shape you are in. You will never regret it. Yoga can change your life, making you happier, healthier, and better able to serve the people you love.
Give It a Try
If you still aren't sure that yoga is right for you, the best thing you can do is try it and see for yourself! If a particular pose is too difficult, try one that is easier. Soon you'll find that your skill is improving and you'll feel great about what you can do.
LoveToKnow would like to thank Meera Patricia Kerr for taking the time for this interview.