When I was younger, I used to dabble a bit with yoga in that any time I flipped past PBS and Lilias, Yoga and You was on, I’d stop whatever I was doing, get down on the floor and rock some asanas (poses). At the time, I was young and flexible and never gave a thought to how easy it was for me. I just did it. A few years ago, I remembered this and enrolled in a yoga class at a community center near my workplace, but started feeling defeated at being the only non-scrawny person in the room. The instructor was nice. I hid in the back and tried my best, but in the way of fat people and group excercise, just ended up feeling self-conscious because my body didn’t work like everyone else’s.
Lately, however, I’ve been thinking it might be nice to reintroduce a little yoga to my life. It’s a lovely morning here in Portland, so I decided it would be a good time to start adding the Sun Salutation (also known as Sūrya Namaskāra) into my morning routine. One of my favorite diet books, You on a Diet, includes diagrams of the series of poses that make up the sun salutation, but I thought it would be good to actually see someone doing them, so I headed to Youtube for some help.
The first video I found went FAST. Seriously fast. Fast like the teacher thought I was some kind of fast learner (foolish teacher!) who had been up all night chugging No-Doze and coffee; fast like her guru was Speedy Gonzalez. I bet her mantra was Arriba! Arriba!
It became clear before even moving off the couch that this her video wasn’t going to work.
The second video I came upon was this one from YogaVidya. Because the guy is German, I immediately felt a kinship even though he was dressed like a smurf (or should I say Schlumpf). It made me a little sad that I didn’t have a smurf outfit to wear too, but sometimes one just has to soldier on. I’m glad I did, because he goes through each pose slowly in a way that is easy to follow – or would have been had Teddy the Giant Labradoodle and his two tiny cohorts Lily the Papillon and Gizmo the Snausageywhatsit not viewed the whole proceeding as an invitation to play twister with me on the carpet. You ain’t seen downward dog until you’ve seen a fat lady do it while entangled with three dogs. Somehow they eventually calmed down and retreated to their corners to watch the show. We got through it, but next time they are definitely going to be invited to go play outside first.
While it’s not painful, yoga is (dogs not withstanding) also not as easy as I remember it to be. This could have something to do with the fact that I’ve let myself get so fat that I walk around feeling like there is a dwarf (wait, no, a SMURF!) clinging to my midsection. The reality is that when you’re big, your body just doesn’t move like it does when it’s small. Sometimes it even gets in the way. That’s not a reason to not do things, but it is a reason why modifications are sometimes in order.
Luckily, there are more resources targeted at yoga for larger bodies than I imagined. Maybe it’s because everyone you usually see doing yoga is so lithe, but it took a while for me to even think of searching for “yoga for large women”. I tried “beginning yoga”, “yoga for weight loss”, but those were all lead by thin people who, as well-meaning as they are, probably don’t truly grok (nerd alert, I said grok!) having to make adjustments not because you’re not flexible, but because you have some extra “business” that impedes your body movement. It’s not a one size fits all kind of thing. Even just with me, there are poses I can do just fine. Others are more of a challenge, but that’s the great thing about yoga. It is not competitive and truly is a “start where you are” kind of activity.
Like it or not, where I am right now is fat. And that’s where bodypositiveyoga’s Sun Salutation with modifications for plus sized women come in handy. While some of the advice doesn’t apply to me. For example, the only way my death certificate is going to read “asphyxiation by boob” while doing downward dog is in my dreams. The only thing good about being fat is that I no longer look like I have the cleavage of a 12-year-old boy. That said, there were also some great suggestions that do apply to me. I also like that the video shows how the sequence looks the “normal” way, then slowly walks through each pose with modifications. It’s a perfect approach, because it allows you to do what you can and modify what you can’t (until you can!).
And, finally, I wanted to share with you a video I found by Tae-Marie of youwantitcomegetit. This woman is by no means a professional instructor, but she has such a great, and motivating spirit. She shows that anyone, no matter what her size, can do yoga and do it well. After watching her “FAT PEOPLE CAN’T DO YOGA” video, I watched a couple of her other offerings. This woman, who has lost a sizeable amount of weight already, is such a fun, charismatic individual that the light of her spirit far outshines anything you might notice about her size. I only wish I had her confidence. I’ve included her yoga post below, but she posts on a variety of other things and had plenty of other fun ones too.
And, so, my morning yoga study has left me feeling inspired and happy there are others like me out there to inspire me. I don’t want to live the rest of my life in a large body, but it’s good to be reminded by that life doesn’t start some vague some day when I’ve lost the weight I want to lose. It starts NOW. While the Sun Salutation is great and I will keep plugging along with it, the real lesson of my morning’s yoga study is this: You have to try to be happy and confident where you’re at. Doing what you can is okay, as long as you DO something.