reposted from June 2015. since writing this, I have completed the Yoga for All training and in two weeks I will begin teaching a Yoga for All class in Emeryville, CA. Join me Sunday nights at 6:30 at square one yoga.
A few weeks ago I was asked to sub for a class at the yoga studio for people with larger bodies. I was excited about this class existing at our studio, and had done a little to spread the word about it. I was happy to see new faces coming to the studio and to hear about what the class offered. When I was asked to sub, I did a little research for idea. I had lots of information for modifications in general from my teacher training notes. Then I found the site Body Positive Yoga, led by Amber Karnes. There were videos offering many options for many poses. I had more information than I could use in one class. I am a new teacher but some of these variations are brilliant adaptions that even some of my experienced yoga teachers are new to.
Which is why I think that this is important for all classes, all teachers. Because this is not just yoga for larger bodies, because we all have different restrictions and openness in our bodies. Our bodies are at different places every day. Knowing more options means bringing the benefits of a pose to more people. A few years ago, I found that child’s pose was restricting my breath. I felt like I was suffocating. When a teacher offered the option of opening my knees wider, with my toes touching, it changed the pose for me. I stopped dreading this “resting” pose. Simple modifications like this can take the struggling out of a pose and bring us more ease.
And that is the point, right? Our physical practice, the asana practice, brings us more in touch with our bodies. Which means we can be present in our body and maybe take that presence with us throughout the day. Yoga is bringing your body and mind and breath to the same place. Finding ease in our poses allows us to be fully present. This is some basic yogic philosophy that is hopefully evident in all of your classes. Hopefully your teachers are offering you a place to connect with your body, maybe as the groundwork for a more mindful existence.
Which is where body positive yoga comes in. Offering modifications do not mean an easier, or less challenging practice but offer a way for your body to experience a pose. Body positive yoga, while offering many suggestions for people in larger bodies, is not limited only to larger bodies. There are plenty of smaller framed folks who have tightness, who can’t access the poses the way Iyengar coaxes. Similarly, not all people in larger bodies are not just looking for a gentle yoga class. Check out #selflovingyogis on instagram for photos of plenty of people in different bodies doing challenging poses. In your gentler or slower classes, offering modifications can benefit all. My teacher, Jennifer Meek, taught me by example, to have everyone in class try the “modifier” version of a pose, or using a prop. This allows everyone to experience the pose in this way, sometimes offering new insight to their own bodies. Sometimes we struggle to attain a certain end in a pose, such as our palms touching in garudasana , that we don’t feel the subtleties in our back. Using a strap can help access that for everyone (thank you Amber for the idea!). It also takes away any stigma of using a prop, so that anyone who might have felt shy, or like they were not working as hard as others can feel comfortable and confident. In moderate or strong flow classes, knowing minor modifications such as lifting the belly skin in twists can make poses available to people who found it too uncomfortable before or who could get enough from the pose.
The class I taught went well, and I learned a lot that I have been using in my regular classes. Sadly, the class was discontinued at the studio, but it is exciting to see the strength of the online community of yogis in larger bodies and see how this informs my teaching.
check out www.bodypostiveyoga.com for so much information!