Human bodies come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, and so do yoga practices. You can start doing your asanas now regardless of how much you weigh.
Your poses might look a little different from the thin flexible models who tend to dominate the images in yoga magazines and YouTube videos. Try out these tips for adapting yoga to suit a bigger body.
Practicing Yoga When You’re Overweight – General Principles
1. Love your body. Forget about competition. Yoga is a gift you give yourself. Avoid comparing yourself to those around you and focus on appreciating your own physical assets. Think about what your body does for you, and be thankful.
2. Shop around. Sample different yoga traditions and instructors. If Ashtanga is too demanding, take a look at Yin. Find a teacher who is encouraging and supportive.
3. Stay home. Eventually, you may want the guidance and moral support that develops in a group class, but it’s okay to practice solo while you build up your confidence. Buy books geared towards bigger bodies or browse online for videos.
4. Seek inspiration. A quick Google search will turn up images of plus-size practitioners in advanced poses that most certified teachers can’t manage. Let them be your role models while you work within your personal limits.
5. Look inwards. Remember that yoga is a mental discipline too. Reap the benefits of deep breathing, increased concentration, and greater compassion.
6. Ask your doctor. Talk with your doctor about exercising, especially if you have chronic conditions or you’ve been sedentary for a while. Your physician can help you stay safe while you shape up.
Practicing Yoga When You’re Overweight – Specific Strategies
1. Open wider. Simply widening your stance can reduce pressure on your joints, and make it easier to balance in some of the most basic poses like forward bends and sun salutations. Shift your feet around until you feel secure and relaxed.
2. Clear the way. Generic yoga instructions may not mention what to do if your chest or stomach gets in the way. Feel free to gently push body parts aside or modify the pose.
3. Use props. Straps and blocks can help any practitioner to go deeper into many poses. You’ll still receive the full benefits of the positions as long as you maintain proper posture. You may even progress more quickly because you’re extending your range of motion.
4. Take a break. Move at your own pace and come to a complete stop if you feel like you’re overdoing it. Your teacher can show you resting poses or you can study them on your own.
5. Expect surprises. Differences in individual body structure can make some basic poses difficult and some advanced poses a breeze. Forget about labels and just enjoy doing a routine that’s feasible for you.
6. Speak up. If your teacher doesn’t volunteer information on how to modify a pose, ask for suggestions and alternatives. There will probably be others in the class who are looking for similar ideas, and will appreciate your taking the initiative.
7. Trust your instincts. On the other hand, a teacher may try to lead you into a pose that’s too risky for you. Listen to your body and respect your limits.
Yoga is a versatile and low impact form of exercise that can help you stay active with less risk of injury if you’re overweight or obese. Treat your mind and body to greater strength, flexibility, and peace by connecting with a yoga practice that works for you.