Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Day 267 Yoga for Bigger Bodies

I asked a local yoga teacher for some thoughts on this after I signed up for her class later this month. Love to see you there!

Top 5 Reasons for Attending a Dedicated Yoga Class for Bigger Bodies

When is having a separate class for people with bigger bodies a service, and when does it cause more labeling, more separation?  This is a question we spend time with every so often at unfold studios and in the Samarya Yoga community. We believe that yoga is truly for everyone, and we believe that everyone adapts yoga to their own needs and wants.  Just because someone has a larger body, a smaller body, an older body, or an injured body, it doesn’t mean that they are doing special yoga – it’s all just yoga. 

The people that we see on the cover of a yoga magazine aren’t doing the “real” yoga, while the rest of us are doing some watered-down version.  However, this is the perception (and sometimes close to the true experience) of what is happening in many yoga studios where classes are filled with young, flexible, athletic, white women who seem to fully understand what is going on in class: the terminology, the clothes and the gear, the pace, and what is expected. This can be an intimidating environment.  So, while we who practice Samarya Yoga believe at our core that all shapes and sizes of people can practice together, regardless of perceived barriers, we also see that having a dedicated introductory class can be beneficial for several reasons.  Here are our top five:

1. Being with others with similar body type –  This can provide a sense of safety, belonging, and understanding.  We know that all bodies are different, regardless of size, but knowing that you won’t be surrounded by lithe, stereotypical yoga bodies could be just what you need to help you walk through the door.

2. Being with others who are new to yoga – The language of yoga can be intimidating.  When we know that we will be taken through the ABC’s, it can be a welcome relief.

3. Learning modifications for larger bodies – As earlier stated, all bodies are different, and knowing some standard modifications for bigger bodies will dramatically increase your ability to modify many yoga poses.

4. Learning the underlying idea or “heart” of a pose – When we can figure out the main goal, idea, or “heart” of a pose, we can choose other ways to achieve the same goal.  For instance, the instructor asks everyone to get on their knees for “camel pose,” but your knees don’t like that kind of pressure.  Although there are many things going on with that pose, the “heart” is backward-bending.  And there are many accessible ways to backward bend.  VoilĂ !  We can make our own modifications.

5. Knowing you can take your time – In a class dedicated to specific needs, we can slow down and trust that it’s okay to take the time to ask questions, to clarify, and to find what’s really best for each of us.


E.B. Ferdig is a yoga therapist and teacher in Portland, Oregon, and is a co-owner of unfold studios. For more info see: http://www.unfoldportland.com/instructors.html

E.B. is offering Intro to Yoga for Bigger Bodies, on Saturday, December 21, 10am – Noon.  Cost is $30 or $20 if you bring a friend.  Check out with discount code: FRIEND10.

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