Though being overweight will make yoga more challenging, this doesn’t mean you must first lose weight before taking your first yoga class.
Keep in mind that many yoga poses are done while seated on your mat. Yoga is not about jumping drills, pushups, climbing ropes or other actions that are notoriously difficult for plus-size people.
It’s actually quite irrational to believe you must lose weight before taking up yoga, being that this discipline is very easy on the joints. Some moves even involve lying on your mat.
Don’t let images of yogis twisted into pretzels while they balance on their palms scare you away. These are highly advanced practitioners.
Like any physical discipline, yoga is on a continuum: from very easy for beginners to very difficult for the advanced.
The idea of losing weight first originates from the belief that obese people can’t do the yoga moves. However, there are endless positions.
And what may seem like a brutally hard position can actually be very fluid, in that it can be modified to fit the level of even the most poorly conditioned practitioner.
“There are several yoga studios that cater to students with weight issues,” says Susan Rubin, Anusara instructor and former owner of Sage Yoga in Armonk, NY.
“For people who have too much weight to participate in an open class these classes can be amazing,” continues Rubin. “Students feel success and many yoga studios promote a healthy lifestyle and judgement free atmosphere.
“If a student attends a class that moves quickly from pose to pose they may get frustrated. But yoga is an amazing tool in getting healthy and feeling better physically and mentally. The style of yoga and the teacher you choose is key to finding your way.”
If the gym that you have a membership to offers yoga classes, check them out. Never assume that the poses will be too difficult for you must because everyone in the class—that you’re looking in on—is a size 6.
This is just a coincidence and not necessarily indicative of the difficulty level of the movements.
“Everyone who does yoga comes into their first class uncertain if they will be able to do the postures,” says Rubin. “Rarely does anyone, even the most flexible or athletic student, walk into a class and not find it a challenge.”
How Do Obese People Begin a Yoga Class?
Rubin explains, “A teacher that is experienced will offer a variety of adjustments to the postures with the use of props which will help students experience the effects of yoga even when facing challenges in a class.
“Iyengar was the first to bring in a variety of props for all different body types so that a newer student or less mobile student could experience the benefits of postures that their body was unable to do without the props.”
Classes for overweight people may also “move more slowly between postures. A beginner Iyengar class is a good starting place. There are many classes/YouTubes and tapes that specialize in larger bodies.”
But even if you can’t find a class nearby that’s just for obese or special populations, and you prefer a class environment rather than a solitary home environment with a video, then just walk into a mainstream yoga class.
If you belong to a health club, chances are it has yoga classes on its group class schedule.
If you feel that you’re “too fat” for a mainstream yoga class, ask yourself why.
• Is it because you don’t think you’ll be able to keep up?
• Is it self-consciousness, fear of being the only “fat” person in the class?
• Is it because you don’t think you’ll be able to get into most of the poses?
Do not decide you’ll lose weight first before pursing yoga. It may be a long time before you lose the weight you want.
And during all that futile time, you could have progressed in yoga!
Solutions for Not Being Able to Keep Up
As for not being able to keep up, there’s an out for this: the child’s pose. Instructors will encourage students to assume this pose when they need to rest.
Secondly, whom would you be trying to keep up with? If you look around in a yoga class, the students are NOT all in perfect synch with each other.
And in order for someone in the class to notice that you’re not keeping up, they’d have to be interrupting their own posing to keep track of you.
Go ahead, try it: Try to stick to the instructor’s directives while simultaneously visually following a targeted student.
Even if that student is right beside you, you will not be able to visually follow them while doing your poses, what with all the changes of direction, plus movements that make it difficult to turn your head up so that you can watch someone.
So the idea that someone ELSE in the room is tracking you is just plain impossible – unless they’re on prolonged pause mode.
“As a practice yoga offers students a new outlook – as they focus on breathing and range of motion their circulation is improved,” says Rubin. “They experience more energy.”
This is important to overweight people, especially the obese. Instead of thinking that you should first lose weight before starting yoga, think in terms of how this discipline will HELP you in your weight loss journey.