Plus-Size Yoga for Every Body

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Benefits and What to Avoid

Benefits of Plus-Size Yoga

The dramatic improvements that Garcia cites are numerous: from stronger and more limber muscles to relaxation and improved heart health. One of the outcomes that you won't hear plus-size yoga teachers pushing, though, is weight-loss. Students may drop pounds as they challenge their bodies, but yoga's true focus remains set on the mind-body journey toward self-awareness. Sally Pugh, a San Francisco Bay Area teacher who has been instructing plus-size students for six years, sees the spiritual side of yoga as the core of her classes. "I think that we've kind of commercialized yoga, and made it into this athletic sport, and we've taken out the spiritual aspects and the personal growth aspect," she says. "I think that [the mind-body experience] is really very healing for everybody, and especially those who are discriminated against" as a result of their weight.

What to Avoid

All students should know their personal limits to avoid a yoga-related trip to the emergency room. Most experts advise heavier students to steer clear of headstands, which can overwhelm the spine and result in neck problems. Similarly, if any pose triggers a twinge of pain in delicate joints, such as the wrists or knees, the student should modify the pose or skip it altogether to avoid a nasty strain. And those with high blood pressure should take care not to hold postures in which the head hangs below the heart for more than a beat -- the head rush could be dangerous.

Despite these concerns, many yogis stress that their students of size can conquer advanced postures just as adequately as slimmer ones can. "Most plus-size women and men who start practicing yoga are told to go to a gentle class," Garcia observes. "I don't believe in that. I think that gentle and restorative classes have their place in a practice, but if you would really like to see your health dramatically improve, try the regular hatha class once you learn how to modify the poses for your body. Because when you challenge yourself you'll be stronger."

Continued on page 3:  Getting Started at Home


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