Yoga for fatties
Exercising 30 minutes a day has been shown to be super-beneficial for EVERYBODY regardless of weight, or weight loss. So many of us larger people run into a lot of push back and prejudice when we DO try to work out — I have left a gym never to return because of a muttered “look at the sweaty whale” comment.
Health at Every Size® (HAES) recommends that you do movement that you love. For me that is swimming, hiking with my dog, and yoga. Yoga is awesome because it’s one of those workouts that doesn’t feel like a workout. It feels more like meditation, especially if you find a good online class (more on that later).
It helps gently stretch and strengthen muscles and joints, making movement in other areas of your life easier. Also, you don’t really need any equipment to start, except maybe a few towels. If you really like it, then you can spend around $30 on a mat and another say $10-15 on yoga blocks, if you need them. I have always been afraid of the traditional yoga class though — those perfect, skinny bodies, doing poses that look oh-so-different when done by a curvy body. Bellies and flesh get in the way making, say, a child’s pose look VERY different with a plus size body than it does with a “normal” body.
The book that I found most helpful is MegaYoga by Megan Garcia. She demonstrates all the poses and gives advice on how to adapt a pose for your belly. Her advice boils down to remembering to spread your legs apart, and your belly will fit between. At first, you will think “Oh this isn’t hard,” and then 15 minutes into it you will be shaking like a leaf. The poses look deceptively simple, but, oh, they aren’t.
Once you get the basic poses down, try a class online. Some of the classes move a little quickly, so it’s best to know what downward facing dog, or child’s pose, is and how to adapt it for your body before you get into the real world classes.
There are so many great resources online for yoga. There are many to choose from on YouTube. Here are a few good teachers:
- Yoga with Ester Ekhart — Hooray for Scandinavian women teaching us how to be more bendy!
- Yoga for Beginners — This one is for lower back pain.
- Yoga Vidya English — This guy has several 20 minute videos. He has great pacing.
After practicing via YouTube for a few months, I decided I wanted something more, so I joined My Yoga Online. If you click that link, you will get two weeks free to try it, no obligation (Note: this is NOT a paid review, although if you DO join through that link I will get a free month).
Think of it as the Netflix of the yoga world. For $10 a month, you can access to thousands yoga classes ranging in difficulty and style. Many are updated weekly, the day after they have classes. I have found that I like the kind with a more meditative, holistic approach, but others make prefer more rigid types.
My personal favorite is Laughing Lotus Studios. They are very life and self-affirming, telling viewers to “move like you, dance like yourself.” Laughing Lotus has lots of spirituality mixed in without being preachy. They are also (so far) body conscious and not fatphobic. I love their studio space: on one wall is a great Ganesha and the other has all kinds of self-affirming graffiti, which is exactly what I need when I am trying to exercise without self-hate.
I am a size 28 US (not sure of the poundage; somewhere around 280), so if I can do this anybody can.
The trick to most larger body adaptations for yoga is getting your belly out of the way and realizing that a downward facing dog done with larger hips and a butt can look very different from traditional yogis.
Since starting yoga about a year ago, I have seen measurable changes in my flexibility and balance. I feel stronger and I breathe better. I have bad asthma, which is triggered by most cardio. Yoga — especially yoga flow routines — allow me to up my heart rate without triggering my wheezing. And because I am working my lungs, they have gotten stronger. My lower back, usually in pain because of my DD breasts, doesn’t ache any more.
Don’t let the skinny, flexible yoga body stereotype fool you. Yoga is fairly easy to start with, can include meditation (which is a bonus for some), and is extremely accessible. So what are you waiting for?