Yoga for the Plus-Sized
Just because you’re on the plus side (fine, I said it, Fat) doesn’t mean that you will not enjoy what the slimmer ones could do. Like yoga. One of the biggest misconceptions about yoga is that you need to be slim, fit and flexible to participate. The truth is everyone can take part in yoga. Of course, just like how it is with the slimmer ones, you just need to practice to get the hang of it. The type of yoga, degree of difficulty of poses, and the focus of each session can be adjusted to meet your individual needs and capabilities.
Of course, you don’t jump all the way in to find out if yoga will work for you. You have to test the waters. You may not initially have the focus or stamina to endure a long class, but even a 15-minute session in which you practice just a few poses will help you get used to it and can definitely improve your overall health.
Most yoga poses can be adjusted depending on your needs, your level of strength, flexibility and balance. You can stretch only as far and hold each pose only as long as is comfortable for you. Begin with simple poses for several weeks and work your way gradually up to more challenging ones.
Here are a few easy poses that you can start with:
Knees-To-Chest Pose (Vatayanasana)
- Benefits: This pose gently massages the digestive system and gives relief from excess wind in the stomach and intestines, and at the same time relaxes and stretches the lower back.
- Traditional way of Doing the Pose: Bend your right knee, wrap your hands around it and press it to your chest, keeping your left leg long and straight on the floor. Flex both feet, toes pointed upward, left heel reaching out for the wall ahead of you, right knee pressing to your chest. Using your abdominal muscles, raise your head and bring your chin to your knee. Breathe. Release, and repeat with the left leg.
- Plus-Size Method: This pose can be initially hard for the plus-size practitioners, specially if there is so much bulk in the stomach. It is difficult to bring the knee forward manually and be in proper alignment without straining the back, neck and shoulders. Do this pose progressively, beginning with this simple modification. Lie on the floor, both feet close to the buttocks, knees facing the ceiling. (This supports the back). Each heel should be centered with each buttock with your toes pointing straight ahead; your hands are on the floor by your sides. While exhaling, bring the right knee slowly in toward your chest, keeping it toward the center of the body rather than letting it wander out toward the hip. Hold it there for one full breath, visualizing your right lower back melting into the floor; then take the knee down, rest and repeat on the left side. Practicing this pose will begin to awaken the fat in the belly and release tightness in the back.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
- Benefits: This pose can relieve lower-back tension, gently stretch the spine, massage the abdominal organs, refresh the legs and quiet the mind.
- Traditional Way of Doing the Pose. Sit in a kneeling position with the tops of the feet on the floor and the buttocks resting on the heels. With an erect spine, exhale and bend forward from the hips, folding the abdomen to the thighs. Lower the forehead to the floor and rest the arms alongside the body, palms turned up. Feel the motion of the breath against the thighs and at the sides of the rib cage.
- Plus-Size Method: If you can easily get down on all fours, open your knees and feet equally and as much as you need to as you push back toward the heels and drop the belly and chest toward the floor. (If the knees and feet are not equally open, it becomes a hip opener more than a back stretch.) The hands might need to go under the head, creating a pillow so the head does not feel it’s sinking into the floor. If the hands aren’t needed, relax even more by stretching both arms out toward the wall ahead of you, gently walking the fingertips forward until you feel a “little” back stretch. Now focus on breathing into your spine.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
- Benefits: This pose will relax and soothe the sympathetic nervous system, can help treat high blood pressure and remove physical and mental fatigue.
- Traditional Way of Doing the Pose. Lie on your back, feet spread about 18 inches apart, hands about 6 inches from your sides, palms up. Ease yourself into the pose, making sure your body is symmetrical. Let your thighs, knees and toes turn outward. Invite your eyes to sink deep into their sockets, and focus on your breathing—both the sound of the breath and how it feels flowing through you.
- Plus-Size Method: From the start position, bend your knees and bring the feet closer to the buttocks to take pressure off the lower back. Knees can be touching or close, with feet a little apart, pigeon-toed style, to add back support. The focus is on softening and relaxing the belly.
Of course, before participating in any session, ask your doctor if it’s all right to try yoga. If you have endured heart condition, or suffered any major joint injury or disability, neuromuscular disorder or any other serious medical condition, you must take special care and do not participate in a hot yoga session (Bikram) as this is practiced in high temperatures because it may not be good for you.
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