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Plus-Sized Yoga Classes -- Seriously?!

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A new trend is popping up everywhere: There are now entire studios devoted to yoga for overweight people. No skinny minnies allowed. Is the overweight train going too far?

obese woman doing yoga

When thinking of a yogi, you may immediately think long, lithe, agile ... thin. But these days, if you've ever entered any level yoga class, you would find an array of all kinds of people -- young and not so young, pregnant and not, tall and short, skinny and fat. Maybe in the case of the latter, not so extreme. Perhaps this is why "plus-sized" yoga studios are popping up everywhere: Mr. Hayes, a yoga instructor in Manhattan, only teaches big people and claims the concern of bigger people goes beyond the fact that they don't look the same way a skinny actress might, but that typical yoga classes "don't address the needs of big bodies. For example, forward bends and twists are hindered by extra girth." Helping students move better -- by "picking up and moving your belly fat out of the way" before getting into poses -- is what is being facilitated in these classes.

Hmm. Though certainly, most of us can relate to not looking like the skinny model or actress, or being as flexible as an Olympic athlete, is plus-sized yoga taking things just a little too far? Editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, Kelly McGonigal, thinks it's an unfortunate situation: "There's something wrong that we're doing as a community if people have to be shunted off to these classes designed for their size." Let's remember that the philosophy of yoga doesn't at all incorporate competition or weight loss -- it's simply a moving meditation that allows people to improve their overall physical and mental health, and the poses are geared for everyone.

Are separate yoga classes a good thing? If an overweight person feels too embarrassed about their size to attend a "regular" class, wouldn't that give them the opportunity to really embrace the yoga philosophy (rather than judge themselves and others), turn within, go at their own pace, and learn acceptance? Otherwise, we have a different issue on our hands, which hiding in a "plus-sized class" is not going to address.

Lastly, if someone is truly that uncomfortable, it might be time for more cardiovascular exercise to lose excess weight. Separating might just be skirting the issue ...

Do you think creating plus-size-only yoga classes is a good idea?

See Also:

Yoga Angst
Practice Yoga for Better Orgasms
Can Being Overweight Affect Fertility?
Introducing Obese Barbie


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56 comments so far | Post a comment now
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Lori April 18, 2010, 3:51 PM

The fact of the matter is, that there is an obesity problem today and as a health facility how can we bring these folks into our building and make them feel comfortable enough to stay and make any improvements to their spirits, minds and bodies. The above negative comments are just what is running through the minds of plus sized people and that makes it easier to just stay away. To the skinny minnies, We know we are fat, don’t worry we beat ourselves up enough, and people like Rachel, I’m not looking for your sympathy I just don’t want to exercise with you, we all have our weakness, however some can be hidden easier that food.

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Kat July 14, 2010, 11:05 AM

As a heavy person and a yoga teacher, I believe that it is important to teach yoga differently to people who are overweight. I have personally injured myself because of past teachers who did not understand the need to adjust the yoga to a larger body. For example, a forward bend can benefit realeasing tension in the lower back, however, for an overweight person, the forward bend will push the excess fat against the spine, possibly causing injury to the back. Instead, props need to be used in order to maintain a straight back , keeping the spine safe. I know that many overweight people shy away from yoga when in reality, it is the best thing for them. Whether you want to lose weight or not, yoga teaches us to accept and work with the individual body, not the “one size fits all” that you find in many studios. I believe that yoga teachers need to expand their knowledge in working with overweight people, especially since many doctors are now recommending yoga to their patients. Yoga is not a weightloss practice, however, if you embrace the yogic philosophy and create a regular yoga practice, along with mindful eating, you will discover that you body will transform itself. If studios find that overweight customers feel more comfortable being segregated, then it is worth providing this service because the goal of yoga is to bring good health to the body. Whether it is in a regular class or a segregated class doesn’t matter.

justanothergirl October 26, 2010, 9:11 PM

I don’t think this is any more offensive than “women only” gyms. There’s only something wrong with it if the person finds something wrong with it. If you’re overweight & don’t feel discouraged being around the skinnies (i’m in between - in shape & not fat, but not generic skinny), then go to regular classes. If you don’t like being around the skinnies, or men for that matter, then it’s nice to have options. Personally, i prefer going to gyms & classes with people of mixed body types, ages, races, & sexes! It keeps things more interesting.

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Anonymous February 20, 2011, 8:25 AM

WOW,I am just amazed.I don’t know if the person who opened this site is or ever has been over weight,but I as an over weight person have to say that you don’t have a clue. It is always easier for the person without the “PROMBLEM” to say if your tired of being fat then do something about it.WOW if only we knew it was that simple.I don’t know of any over weight person that enjoys the ill effects of being over weight.People that are overweight feel bad enough without jerks reminding them everyday that they don’t fit in.So if it takes a class that accepts only the overweight,then so be it.One day that person might have enough self respect to say I don’t care what you think.

Samantha February 22, 2011, 10:36 AM

I am overweight. I am not uncomfortable around thin people. Thin, fit people do not make me feel self conscious, inadequate, or “less-than” in any way. I chose a plus size yoga class not because I want to hide my body, but because my large body simply cannot do the things that thinner bodies can do. A yoga class that is designed primarily with these limitations in mind - rather than one that offers modified poses almost as an afterthought - allows me to experience the benefits of yoga more fully. My goal is to become healthier, and obviously that includes losing weight. That goal is not facilitated by the frustration of trying to wrestle my body into positions that are physically impossible in my current condition.

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Miranda April 18, 2011, 2:57 PM

It’s easy to say go get on a treadmill, which I do, in fact, 5 times a week. I also use the weight machines, and “eat salads” as was so graciously offered to us “fatties”. I’ve been overweight since my early childhood and I LOVE yoga. I do yoga in conjuction with my entire exercise regimen. Why? It stretches me, calms me, gives me balance.

I am one of those women who would choose a plus size class because I am not comfortable exercising in front of slimmer people. I have been laughed at (very obviously in fact) and ridiculed in regular gyms; therefore, I choose to exercise with those of my body type. I have lost 30 lbs and am very proud of myself. But a plus size yoga class is not about being away from the judgmental eyes of those who find us disgusting. It’s about being in a yoga class that was designed for my body type. I don’t have to “move my fat around”, but I do need to accommodate my larger body. I have been to yoga classes where the instructor offers me zero options and sometimes I simply cannot do the pose. Other instructors offered a modification, but without much support I felt I was doing the pose incorrectly. Being in a plus size yoga class offers me a fully satisfying yoga experience.

Stop telling me to eat salads and exercise. Don’t presume that because I’m fat that I’m not working on it. I don’t wear a badge that says, “I’VE LOST 30 POUNDS AND THE WEIGHT KEEPS MELTING OFF!!” But I have the right to enjoy yoga just like anyone else. If you’re not overweight, then these classes have nothing to do with you. It’s not like there’s a shortage of “regular” yoga classes out there.

Miranda April 18, 2011, 3:05 PM

It’s easy to say go get on a treadmill, which I do, in fact, 5 times a week. I also use the weight machines, and “eat salads” as was so graciously offered to us “fatties”. I’ve been overweight since my early childhood and I LOVE yoga. I do yoga in conjunction with my entire exercise regimen. Why? It stretches me, calms me, gives me balance.

I am one of those women who would choose a plus size class because I am not comfortable exercising in front of slimmer people. I have been laughed at (very obviously in fact) and ridiculed in regular gyms; therefore, I choose to exercise with those of my body type. I have lost 30 lbs and am very proud of myself. But a plus size yoga class is not about being away from the judgmental eyes of those who find us disgusting. It’s about being in a yoga class that was designed for my body type. I don’t have to “move my fat around”, but I do need to accommodate my larger body. I have been to yoga classes where the instructor offers me zero options and sometimes I simply cannot do the pose. Other instructors offered a modification, but without much support I felt I was doing the pose incorrectly. Being in a plus size yoga class offers me a fully satisfying yoga experience.

Stop telling me to eat salads and exercise. Don’t presume that because I’m fat that I’m not working on it. I don’t wear a badge that says, “I’VE LOST 30 POUNDS AND THE WEIGHT KEEPS MELTING OFF!!” But I have the right to enjoy yoga just like anyone else. If you’re not overweight, then these classes have nothing to do with you. It’s not like there’s a shortage of “regular” yoga classes out there.

p April 23, 2011, 5:35 AM

a$$holes- its just an unhealthy to be bone skinny as it is to be obese. weight is one thing, health another

Stephanie May 11, 2011, 2:21 PM

Some people who are over weight have a hard time doing a lot of exercises, and I would think that people would be happy that overweight people are making the effort to lose the weight and if they are made comfortable in a class geared toward their size perhaps they are more likely to exercise, lose the weight and get healthy and anyone putting them down really don’t CARE about those people’s health they just want to make fun of fat people!


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