Last week I overheard a discussion where the general consensus was yoga is not for fat people. This widespread belief smote my heart!
Yoga has been so incredibly healing for my body image that I can’t fathom not having my practice because someone told me my body made me incapable.
I used to weigh 250 pounds.
Looking back, there’s no way I ever thought I’d be arm balancing in public, inverting during my yoga practice, and accepting my body like I do now.
If I had been told my body was incapable of great things because of my size, I would have been utterly crushed.
You see, yoga is for every body. Gone are the days where yoga is a skinny person's activity.
An increasing number of "fat yogis" are proving again and again that yoga is accessible for you regardless of your pant size, weight, or body fat percentage.
Size doesn't matter when it comes to practicing yoga.
Embrace this. Breathe it in. Make it your mantra.
If you have a body, you have a yoga body!
Thankfully, there's a strong movement in progress: yoga for fat people. It's beginning to seep into yoga studios, home practices, and social media.
Eventually, the “fat yoga” revolution will bloom and create a colorful, diverse riot of self-acceptance and body positivity.
Let’s stop making “fat” a dirty word and turn it into something that empowers instead of diminishes.
And before we move on, let's just listen to this amazing lady for a second:
Yoga for Every Body
Ask a yoga student of any size, age, or experience why they love to practice yoga. Most people start a routine because it's a great workout, but many students tend to give some surprising answers.
Why are people practicing yoga?
Patrick Beach, a world-famous yoga teacher, really hits the nail on the head with this quote:
"The more you practice, the more yoga becomes about strength of mind, having the strength to stay focused, not tie yourself to the expectation of what you did yesterday, or what your goal is for tomorrow.
Yoga is all about the true connection to the self, sometimes strength comes up because that is what is needed, but other times compassion or patience is needed.
I truly believe a consistent yoga practice will strengthen the elements of the self that are needed to navigate the paths that we walk."
The physical benefits of yoga are well-documented and they are typically the biggest factors in motivating students to get on their mats.
However, when we constantly prioritize the physical practice of yoga and what an admirable “yoga physique” looks like, people who aren't built like the stereotypical yogi are often discouraged from joining the yoga community.
This is why it's so important to emphasize other parts of yoga, such as the thrilling and challenging poses, the calmness a routine helps you develop throughout your work weeks, as well as the transformative and fun yoga community that will support you through all of your endeavors regardless of your body shape.
These parts are all just small, but necessary, pieces of the puzzle though!
We need to make the postures, and the benefits of the yoga community, accessible to everyone to truly let the practices work their magic.
Finding Your Reason to Practice
There's no wrong reason to practice yoga. Are you in it for the satsang (community) or the yoga gun show (i.e. your biceps)? Maybe the allure of the handstand?
None of these are wrong! If it gets you on your mat, it's right!
It’s also important to rememeber that it’s possible to find non-physical reasons to keep you practicing.
You might be healing from an abusive relationship or perhaps you've been battling an eating disorder, and you're trying to reconnect your spirit to your physical body.
Maybe you just want an hour to yourself and a quiet, warm yoga studio is the perfect escape.
There are hundreds of reasons why you can practice yoga and finding one that resonates with you is an integral part of your routine.
Trust me when I say you get infinitely more from yoga when you bypass the weight loss aspect of it and focus on the most important part any routine: the deep connection between your body and your spirit.
Kino Macgregor, a world-traveling Ashtanga yoga teacher, has something beautiful to say about the non-physical side of yoga:
"Far beyond a perfect physique the beauty of the yogi is in the wisdom of the heart, burning with courage and compassion, living a life of inner peace.
There is a place of true beauty within each of us, a place of timeless, transcendent grace. It is through the practice of yoga that you discover the true beauty of your spirit..."
Let these words sink in.
Yoga is not about your waist, buns, or thighs.
It's ultimately about the beauty found inside of you in the form of strength, joy, and peace.
Find Amazing Plus-Size Yogis to Admire
Instagram is dripping with yoga inspiration, but it's proving to be a fantastic source of motivation for plus-size yogis.
Check out some of these outstanding women if you feel like you can't do yoga because of your size.
#1 Jessamyn Stanley (@mynameisjessamyn)
This North Carolina yogi rose to Instagram fame when she turned her account into an inspirational body-acceptance journal.
Not only does she document her yoga practice, she is also brutally honest and raw about her body image, as well asthe self-deprecating pressures society puts on women.
A strong and sassy advocate for loving the body you have, Jessamyn is now a writer, body positivity advocate, and world-touring yoga teacher who truly believes “yoga is for every body.”
via mynameisjessamyn on Instagram
#2 Brittany Danielle (@crazycurvy_yoga)
Brittany is a self-described plus-size yogi, but when you visit her account you're greeted with her glowing smile and sweet, genuine spirit.
She practices yoga in vibrant pants and colorful crop tops, which is a refreshing change from the typical svelte yogi in barely-there workout attire.
She regularly drops yoga poses in the middle of busy walking paths, surprising passers-by with her ebullient spirit and carefree attitude.
Brittany’s posts range from lighthearted diary-like entries to empowering monologues on the importance of loving yourself just the way you are.
via crazycurvy_yoga on Instagram
#3 Dianne Bondy (@diannebondyyoga)
Dianne has been featured in some incredibly empowering advertisements, but her video with Yoga International shuts down the common reasons why curvy people are told they "can't" do yoga (spoiler alert: there aren’t any)!
She's a strong voice and lead instructor for Yoga for All, an organization that strives to make yoga accessible to everyone regardless of size, race, or socioeconomic status.
Dianne leads curve-friendly courses for current yoga teachers all over the country.
via diannebondyyoga on Instagram
#4 Valerie (@biggalyoga)
A certified 200-hour Hatha yoga teacher, Valerie pops all over Instagram proving daily that absolutely everyone can do yoga.
She frequently posts pictures in which she's wearing nothing but shorts and her sports bras, while tagging all of her photos with the hashtag #selflovingyogis, inciting inspiration in someone new every day.
Whether you’re overly critical of your cellulite or love-handles, Valerie helps you see there is beauty in every body, including your own!
via biggalyoga on Instagram
#5 Dana Falsetti (@nolatrees)
Dana is very open with her body, as well as her past and current issues regarding body image. She focuses on the importance of every limb of yoga and not just the physical asanas.
She's a natural yogi, having advanced to impressive poses in a very short time. Alongside her yoga practice, Dana posts stunning pictures of herself in lingerie that highlight what other people view as "flaws" but she sees as perfection.
One of her most recent captions read, "My body is beautiful, but it doesn't make me a beautiful person on its own. I don't need to change a thing. I can own and love and be confident with what I've got, always."
via nolatrees on Instagram
The Benefits of Plus-Size Yoga
Now that you're all juiced up on Instagram inspiration, it's time to create your own. It's been established that you can do yoga regardless of your body size or type, and here are a few reasons why you can and should practice!
#1 You Become Stronger Safely
If you're overweight, becoming active may initially come with a lot of pain. Weight on your joints makes aerobics, running, and other high-impact sports painful.
via positiveyoga on Instagram
Many people embark on weight loss journeys and they're frequently sidelined because they get injured.
It’s frustrating to try to lose weight, but you are unable tobecause you keep getting injured from participating in high-cardio sports or activities.
Believe me, I know how disheartening that canis unique because it will slowly strengthen your body with little to no impact on your joints. You only get one set of joints, so they need to be taken care of!
The founder of Big Yoga, a foundation that strives to make yoga accessible for all bodies, says that yoga strengthens your body from the inside out, which is a critical component in losing weight safely.
When you slowly build muscle while simultaneously lowering your weight, it’s easier to avoid injuries and you can keep up with your active schedule.
#2 You Can Modify Everything for Your Body
It doesn't matter how big or small you are, yoga poses can be modified and they should be modified by every individual student, regardless of their size.
via shaturanga on Instagram
Fortunately there are never any limitations on poses, because of the endless amounts of modifications for every asana available.
Just because you aren't getting into the "traditional" pose, or the one you see on Instagram, doesn't mean you aren't doing the pose.
A few simple tweaks make it possible to have a continually progressive practice that makes you stronger, and allows you to do at least one variation of any asana you have your eye on.
#3 Yoga Raises Your Self-Awareness
It's easy to become disconnected with your body, and sometimes this has nothing to do with your size or weight.
Yoga enables you to become more in tune with your body, regardless of your current emotional or physical circumstances.
via nolatrees on Instagram
When you become disconnected from your physical self, it's really difficult to take care of yourself the way you need to.
If you are not fully self aware you probably don't sleep as much as you need, you don't drink enough water, and you don't eat well. Notice how there's no mention of eating less here?
That's because you don't have to be a rigid clean eater with perfect portion sizes to get back in tune with your body.
When your practice is regular you quickly see how important it is to be in tune with yourself, meaning you treat your body with respect by fueling, resting and moving it.
Yoga encourages you to move past the obsession with weight loss so you can focus on developing healthier habits, which willmake you feel really incredible, Health, not appearance, becomes the priority.
When you reach this point,because you will, it’s incredibly freeing!
#4 You Become Comfortable with Your Body
Most people are uncomfortable with becoming intimately familiar with their body. This is especially true for people who don't fit the societal norm in terms of body type!
Via amber_karnes on Instagram
Yoga classes geared towards "fat" people encourage you to mush, squeeze, and accept your body parts. They are yourbody parts, after all, so don't be shy to touch them and learn to love them!
When you grow accustomed to moving your belly out of the way or pushing the real estate on your bum around, you grow more loving towards the body you currently have.
Yoga helps you to feel proud and good about yourself, while you begin to see the amazing things your body is capable of doing.
#5 You Embrace the "Do No Harm" Arm of Yoga
One of the eight limbs of yoga is called Yama, which are the basic ethical, societal and moral guidelines for anyone practicing yoga. In layman’s terms, it has to do with how you conduct yourself in life and towards others.
via danielle.bex on Instagram
There are five Yamas:
- Ahimsa: non-violence
- Satya: truthfulness
- Asteya: non-stealing
- Brahmacharya: using your energy to achieve peace and happiness
- Aparigraha: being happy with what you have
These vows are supposed to be directed towards yourself, as well as others in your community, so everyone can live a happy and healthy life. When you're being honest, gentle and kind to others, you will get the same in return.
The beauty of the Yamas is how applicable they are to you! Anyone can embrace the Yamas, it doesn't matter how advanced of a yogi you are.
Ahimsa is the most important in terms of learning how to show compassion and accept yourself.
Don’t focus so much on your weight and your size, or beat yourself down because you can’t wear a size 10 in yoga pants.
Negative self-talk is violence, and violence of any kind should be eliminated from your life completely, yogi or not.
Ahimsa will help you keep all the emotional, mental and physical violence at bay, so you can focus on how strong you are becoming!
The other four Yamas are equally important, but if you're having difficulty with this concept, start with Ahimsa and see how quickly the rest of them fall into place.
Yoga gives you the ability to change your life, both externally and internally. It doesn't matter why you're coming to yoga.
The practice doesn't care if you're overweight, overworked, or overwrought; it's always there to fill the empty spaces you didn't know you had.
Please don't ever think of tailoring your practice so it becomes "yoga for fat people.” Instead, tailor it to your life.
Whatever you need to make yourself feel happier, healthier, more compassionate and healthy, yoga qill give it to you!