Every Body is equipped to derive Yoga benefits.
If you are looking for enhanced mobility, pain management, inner strength, self love, body positivity, calming of inner thoughts and a better link between mind and body being a plus-sized person, you can do yoga but will need to incorporate some simple modifications to derive its benefits.
The great thing about yoga is it can be accommodated for any size body by use of tools (such as yoga belts and blocks) as well as just allowing your body to naturally form itself into the way in which it feels right.
If you are looking to get started with yoga, below are some poses to begin with,
1. Mountain Pose
It’s good for aligning body posture and improving steadiness. Stand with your back to the wall and your buttocks touching the wall. Focus on one still point in front of you. Gently ease your shoulders and your triceps back against the wall. Lift your arms up, with your elbows bent at 90-degrees. Keep them flat against the wall. If you have a yoga block, try squeezing that between your legs while in position. Relax and repeat 3-5 times.
2. Reclining with raised legs
Place a small pillow on the floor near a chair. Put another pillow a foot or so closer to the chair. Lie back on the floor so your head rests on the pillow, with the other pillow supporting your lower back. Raise your legs and put them on the chair. Breathe steadily and hold this position for several minutes.
3. Knees-to-Chest Pose (Vatayanasana)
Lie on the floor, feet close to the buttocks, knees facing the ceiling. (This supports the back.) Each heel aligns with the center of the corresponding buttock. Toes point straight ahead; hands are on the floor by your sides. On an inhalation, lift the right knee. On an exhalation, bring the right knee slowly toward your chest, keeping it toward the center of the body rather than letting it wander out toward the hip. Do not push too hard. 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 detoxify the internal organs. As they let go of their toxins and tightness, swelling in the belly decreases and back pain and discomfort are released.
4. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
If you can easily get down on all fours, open your knees and feet equally (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, the stretch becomes a hip opener more than a back stretch.) To modify, place your hands 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.
5. Corpse Pose (savasana)
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. This pose relaxes and soothes the sympathetic nervous system, helps treat high blood pressure and removes physical and mental fatigue (Iyengar 2001).
Know Your Size
There are generally four types of people to consider when teaching yoga for obese people— and many variations within these types. One size—or one way of thinking or teaching—doesn’t fit, inspire or help all.
The Athletic but Fat Person. This type carries more weight than is considered healthy, but it is pretty evenly distributed over the entire body. She is active, positive, motivated and heavy, and will do everything she can to prove that she can keep up with your class, even though it may kill her for the first 2 weeks. This person should be encouraged to come out of poses earlier than more fit students and not place too much weight on her ankles and knees. She may need props and extra blankets to help her body into a pose.
The Soft, Large and Flexible Plus-Size Person. This person is usually quite willing to begin an exercise program after being convinced that like-minded people will be there. She may, however, feel embarrassed and intimidated. Most of the weight sits in her belly, stomach and buttocks. She can sit on the floor with legs either spread or crossed and may even be able to touch her head to the floor. She can do many of the poses and enjoys stretching her body. Sun Salutations, lunges, headstand, shoulder stand, triangle pose and balance poses are not recommended. Instead, begin with floor-based, back-supported and simple standing poses.
The Very Inactive, Inflexible, Unhealthy Person. This type may sit all day at a desk and then go home and watch television most of the evening. They are pretty inflexible all over and will never have dreamed that they could do yoga until someone drags them to a class. Such student should start very slowly, preferably in a private or specialized class, to “open” their body slowly and carefully, while building confidence.
The Supersized Person. This type is well over 100, sometimes 200 to 300, pounds overweight. Simply lifting the arms can be a challenge. The supersized individual can’t get up and down off the floor or be on her feet for long periods. Embarrassed and humiliated by her weight and health, she spends a lot of time at home. This type desperately needs yoga’s stress-reducing qualities and gentle movements. She can do chair yoga and sit-and-stand yoga quite successfully. If emotional issues come up, she may benefit from working on them with a qualified health professional.
If you focus on relaxation and pranayama (focused breathing), the pain will lessen with time and you will eventually be inspired to stretch gently into simple poses that will relieve the pain even more.
The mental component of yoga—the deep breathing, positive meditation and awareness -can boost confidence for people of all waistlines.
Note: Don’t be afraid to modify poses to accommodate your body. In most yoga classes (especially those for beginners), the teacher will explain different options for each pose, but if you’re still not sure what to do, feel free to speak up and ask for help.