Plus-Size Yoga for Every Body

Revive your body and mind with yoga -- no matter what your size.
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All About Plus-Size Yoga

Megan Garcia leads a yoga class

If you think that yoga is only for lithe, rock-bodied contortionists, it's high time you revised your ideas. People of all shapes and sizes can reap the benefits of this ancient Hindu practice, including you -- whether you're practically double-jointed or can't (yet) touch your toes. As an inclusive path to mind-body wellness, yoga is fast becoming the fitness program of choice for growing numbers of real women just like you.

What Is Plus-Size Yoga?

Yoga moves, like bathing suits, are far from one-size-fits-all. More and more teachers are now recognizing the demand for a yoga style tailored to shapely figures. Plus-size yoga adapts the traditional postures, or asanas (AH-suh-nuhs), to accommodate the body's curves. "Plus-size people can do almost everything that their skinny counterparts can do," says Megan Garcia, a NYC-based yoga teacher and plus-size model, "but they need to modify around their bodies."

Fortunately, yoga's inclusive nature allows for alterations. Unlike competitive fitness activities, yoga focuses on the individual student's journey. No preordained requirements (or barking instructors) dictate whether a person is "good" at yoga or not: you keep the pace that feels right to you. Most often, this pace is a soothing one, moderated by deep breathing and meditation. This relaxed focus means that even those who tend to shy away from physical activity can participate in yoga without overexerting themselves or becoming dangerously short of breath.

How It Works

To customize poses that can be uncomfortable for people of size -- such as standing-forward bend, in which a large belly can obstruct breathing -- Garcia recommends a technique called "moving the flesh," which is as simple as it sounds. Students carrying extra weight around the middle may "need to actually reach down, move the flesh of the tummy out of the way, and then they can fold over further." Modifications such as this one allow the student to maintain proper form -- the bare-bones foundation of any yoga practice.

Basic equipment can also help make classic postures doable for plus-size yoga practitioners. Chairs, straps, yoga blocks (or phone books), and even an unoccupied wall can compensate for lack of balance or reach. But the real secret to practicing plus-size yoga is simple: Know thyself. "Everybody carries their weight in a different way, and so everybody kind of has to adapt in their own way," points out Meera Patricia Kerr, a yogini based in Michigan whose DVD Big Yoga promises, "You don't have to be thin to enjoy the benefits of yoga!" The best way to perfect your poses is to experiment with different techniques to find what works for you.

Continued on page 2:  Benefits and What to Avoid


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