How to Make Yoga Work for Your Curvy Body
Quick: when you hear the word yoga, what do you think? Who do you see practicing it?
If you’re like most people, you think of lithe people with their leg behind their head. And if you’re not one of those people, you might have thought that yoga isn’t for you.
But you’d be wrong.
Yoga with Curves
Yoga can work for any — and every — body. And it can be particularly helpful for people who are new to exercise and wanting to move but aren’t sure how to get started.
This is true because, when taught accessibly, yoga is something that can be done in a customized way that meets whatever your body’s needs are in this moment. And although the stereotype of yoga is that it’s only done by people with gymnastic-like abilities, there’s a growing community of bigger bodied people who are claiming their space on the yoga mat.
All it takes is knowing a few key tips to making yoga work for your body so you can go into any class and practice in a way that works for you.
The following tips can be used in many different types of yoga classes. So no matter the style you may try, you can give these a whirl and see how they work for you.
Step your feet wider: Many yoga classes instruct standing poses with feet together or close together. However, if you have a wider body, you need a wider base of support to feel stable. Try stepping your feet a comfortable distance apart instead, and then working from there.
Move your skin: If you’ve ever been to a yoga class before, you might have heard the teacher instruct you to “lay your belly on your thighs” in a forward bend. Well, if you’re like me, you don’t have to move far to make that happen! But what may come up for you instead is the uncomfortable feeling of belly compression. If that happens for you, come up for a moment, bring your hands to your low belly and either tuck the skin in towards your pelvis or pick it up a bit. Either way can give you more space to feel less smushed — and breathe easier.
Use support: Can’t touch your toes? Bring the floor to you! Look for yoga classes (or videos) that offer the option of using yoga props, such as blocks, straps, chairs, and even the wall. These handy tools can help you practice safely, in a way that actually works for your body. When you can do this with ease, it’s much easier to continue with your yoga practice over time.
Take multiple steps: One of the trickiest things for bigger-bodied people in yoga classes these days is the commonly taught Sun Salutation. This linked series of poses often moves at a rapid pace, and one of the biggest challenges is stepping forward from Down Dog. If you’ve got any belly at all, your knee is likely to bump into it, making that move forward seem challenging at best, if not impossible. Instead of stepping forward in one move, try taking multiple steps (and stepping your foot wider, outside your belly).
Putting It Together
Using the tips above, look for a yoga class in your area. If you’re new to yoga, look for classes called Beginners, Gentle or something along those lines so you can learn the poses in a way that works for you. In addition, there’s a growing community of people with bigger bodies practicing yoga across the country and world, so you might also look for that type of class in your area.
And remember, if yoga feels awkward the first time you try it, or you don’t love the first class you check again, keep going. Sometimes it takes a bit to find the right fit, but it is possible.
There’s a reason why we call it a practice.
Anna Guest-Jelley is the founder of Curvy Yoga – a training and inspiration portal for full-figured yogis and their whole-hearted teachers.
As a writer, teacher and lifelong champion of women’s empowerment and body acceptance, Anna encourages women of every size, age and ability to grab life by the curves. And never let go.
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