Yoga for Larger Bodies

Untitled designI’ve had a lot of shame about my body’s size. I would call my self hyper-aware and self-conscious about my body, even today, at a more “average” weight.

When I started practicing yoga, I would often look around the room and notice if I was the largest person or not. It was a huge relief if I was not, and it was a pretty significant milestone in my yoga practice when I realized I no longer did this. I’ve lost weight since I started practicing, so it wouldn’t be fair to frame this as a mental shift or improvement on my part, at least not 100%.

I also wouldn’t wear form-fitting clothing at first. No yoga pants, no sleeveless shirts, mainly t-shirts and track pants. Teachers sometimes talk about challenging yourself with a posture or something – being there in the room was a challenge for me! I remember specifically the first time I wore yoga pants and the first time I wore a sleeveless top.

I was (and am) also very aware of whether the teacher treated me similarly to others in the group … if a teacher assisted others and not me, in my head it was about my body size.  Mostly I enjoy receiving assists, but occasionally I cringe if an assist touches a part of my body that I’m feeling is fat, or if a teacher says something like “belly fat” (no one has said that to me specifically but I still cringe).

I would not have wanted anyone talking to me specifically about how to modify.  Today, I still don’t like being singled out in class, even for something positive. And even now, as a yoga teacher, it’s hard to share this with others – so it’s not something I would ever have mentioned to a teacher before class like you might mention an injury or health condition.

I don’t assume that everyone’s experience is the same as mine … plenty of larger people may be at a different mental place than I was (and am). This is probably a good thing! But when I see articles about modifying class for larger bodies (here and here), or “fat yoga” studios, they just seem so completely counter to anything that would have helped me. I would take these articles with a lot of caution.  Maybe these tips help people who are already at peace with their bodies, but I don’t think these tips would bring me peace. I don’t assume that my point of view should inform everyone teaching to people with larger bodies, but I feel like this perspective isn’t heard very often.

(I should say, I don’t think these articles are bad, or wrong, just that it’s easy to mix “what I like” with “what’s right for everyone” – your mileage WILL vary).

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