28 May “I Have a Bigger Body Can I Do Yoga?”
“You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.” ~Sharon Gannon
In this modern age, with 50 different “power” yoga studios down the block and celebrities claiming yoga to be the foundation behind their rockin’ bod we all too soon forget that yoga is not just about the body, it is a beautiful mixture of soul, body, and mind. Through the practice of yoga we find a connection within ourselves that was always there. We are not creating anything; we are finding what has been lost.
1. Overcoming Fear Of The Body
Whether you are overweight, or 5’0” and 90lbs it is easy to fear your body. In this society we are taught unrealistic ideas of what a beautiful body looks like, leaving us with an insecure anxiety of our own physical being. Yoga is the perfect way to face the fear of our body, which is really fear of the unknown. We don’t take the time to ever really get to know our body. We run from it, we challenge it, we criticize it, but do we ever look at it for what it is? During our physical yoga practice we are taking the time to sit in our vessel and inspect it. We lay in frog and feel muscles we never even knew existed. There is no better way to start to love your body then to get know it. By facing our fears we learn to overcome them. Articles and mentors preach about learning to love our bodies, but first we must learn about our bodies.
I once heard someone say, “If you can breathe, you can do yoga”. This is such a simple and realistic statement. Yoga is all about the breath, learning to center and integrate. I constantly tell my students that breath is the one thing in life we actually have control over. We cannot change the past, we cannot predict the future, we cannot manipulate it to happen according specifically to our plan.
Our breath however, that we can own. We can make it as deep, as shallow, as hot, as slow or fast as we desire. Yoga is centered around your pranayama and is truly the practice of quieting your mind. So if you are capable of sitting on your mat and activating Ujjayi breathe and breathing louder then all the negative thoughts that are running through your head, you are in fact practicing yoga. You have power and jurisdiction over your breath, your breath is life, so indirectly you have power over your life. You can accomplish anything thrown your way.
3. “Pick It Up And Move It”
In regards to the actual physical yoga practice for someone who is overweight, I would like to share a story with you that my YTT Instructor, Leslie Arboleda, shared with the class. She shared a story about a past experience when she was 100lbs overweight and had been complaining to her teacher about how she could not get into her twist because her belly was in the way. This is a very realistic and significant concern for heavier people when practicing. Leslie’s teacher took her completely off guard when she looked at Leslie and said “Pick it up and move it”. Leslie was taken aback, embarrassed, and stunned thinking “You want me to acknowledge my tummy, actually grab on to it, and move it?” Leslie took her teacher’s advice and picked it up and moved it, both literally and figuratively. This short statement completely changed Leslie’s approach in her asana practice and her life.
If something is in your way you don’t stand there and wait for it to move itself, you actively work around your obstacle. This is such a poetically beautiful phrase. Pick it up and move it.
In addition, asanas are always modified, not just for the overweight. I am an instructor with no meniscus in either of her knees and I have to modify ever day. Pregnant women, the elderly, the inflexible, the close-minded, the timid, the nervous; we all have to find modification in our physical practice. That is the beauty of yoga, any asana can be modified to fit your personal practice.
Specific Modifications For Bigger Bodies:
– Use a wider stance to increase stability.
– If your skin from your belly, legs, arms, etc. gets in the way, pick it up and move it.
– Props are your best friends. Use a bolster to support your body, stack blocks to bring the floor closer to you in stretches, and use a strap to make a connection in a bind.
4. Manifest It
At a hippie-filled music festival in Colorado, I once heard someone make a joke about creating a drinking game where you have to drink every time you hear the word ‘manifest’. Yoginis and like-minded friends are firm believers and practitioners of manifesting your life. Any yoga instructor can help you learn how to utilize the spiritual power of manifestation.
You create an energy that is powerful enough and put it out into the Universe and it will pull the same energy back to you, it is the Law of Attraction. By focusing on positive or negative thoughts you will in consequence bring about those results. However, manifestation is not about thinking of what you do not want, but about what you do want. Practice positive affirmations for positive results. Instead of saying “I do not want to be overweight” try “I am fit, healthy, and happy”. Repeat this phrase every morning when you wake up and look at yourself in the mirror.
“Life isn’t happening to you, life is responding to you”-Rhonda Byrne
5. Love Yourself
In order to manifest your life, you have to truly believe it. You cannot just wish for a fairy godmother and expect her to appear, you first need to truly believe in magic. Before you can manifest a fitter, healthier, happier you, you have to love yourself. The reason no article can get away without the cliché of telling you to love yourself is because of the severe importance it holds.
People who are overweight are learning an important lesson in this lifetime, love yourself regardless of any faults or shortcomings. Until the lesson is learned and you discover how to truly and completely love yourself, you will continue to struggle with your weight.
Yoga is the perfect way to learn to love who you are deep down in your core. People often come to yoga in search of a good workout and leave with so much more. You may have come to get a tighter core, but you have no idea what you’re about to discover. Yoga helps you connect with your soul on a magical level.
I trained to become a yoga instructor to learn how to share my passion with the world, I never realized that I was really embarking on a journey to further get to know myself. Once you step on your mat the world melts away and all that is left is you and that mat. The mat is an island and you’re stranded on it, left to realize yourself. Once you learn to love YOU, the rest will follow.
So to answer the often-asked question, yes you can do yoga if you are overweight. Yoga is literally for everyone, plain and simple. If you are nervous to practice with a group, there are many ways to explore yoga from the comfort of your own home. Private instructors, such as myself, can come to your house and give modifications specific to you and go at a pace you are comfortable with. Websites such as yogaglo.com offer classes at anytime and are perfectly convenient. Head to Barnes and Noble and pick up a book about pranayama techniques, or the Bhagavad Gita and dive into your own personal study of yoga. However if the thought of a large yoga studio and many students’ eyes sparks discomfort inside of you, I encourage you to explore that. There is most certainly a reason why that challenge has entered your life, so make like Ganesha and pick it up and move it.