Big-Ass Yoga

A yoga class where instructors have struggled with weight and help students feel comfortable in their bodies

| July-August 2009

  • Big Ass Yoga Class

    image by Stephanie Glaros

  • Big Ass Yoga Class

The story is regrettably common: A would-be, bigger-bodied yoga student faced with attending a class designed for and packed with smaller-bodied students stops practicing—or never starts. Even the student who soldiers on does so only by steeling herself at the studio door. “I was the only person [in the fitness center class] who looked like me, the only person who wasn’t there working out all day, wearing a teeny-tiny outfit,” Jennifer Gray told Spirituality & Health (July-Aug. 2008). “I just came in and kept my eyes on the mat.”

In the West, yoga has been reduced to the “fervid pursuit of textbook alignment,” Anna Dubrovsky writes in “Stretching the Mind”. The meditative element suffers, and so does yoga’s reach—cutting off students who don’t come into it lean or limber. A new kind of practice is cropping up in response.

The Yoga Center of Minneapolis, which Gray opened in 2000, began offering “Big A#%!” classes a few years ago. One key: All of the instructors have struggled with weight, so they’re prepared to help students feel comfortable in their bodies. Over in Michigan, Meera Patricia Kerr has rechristened integral yoga—a practice that focuses on “an easeful body”—“Big Yoga” and released a DVD of the same name. Her book, Big Yoga: A Simple Guide for Bigger Bodies, is due out in November.

In our weight-conscious society, big people tend to disconnect psychologically from their bodies, Mara Nesbitt explains to Yoga Journal. Nesbitt, who has released two instructional videos for larger-bodied yogis, says, “Yoga is a good way of getting back in touch with your body and making friends with it again.”

Sue Ann
3/3/2010 1:46:10 AM

Enjoyed the article and comments. I'm an over weight woman wanting to learn Yoga and appreciate the suggestions for DVDs and books. Thank you. Will search for a class in my hometown of Fort Worth, TX.

10/28/2009 8:20:13 PM

Size really doesn't matter, although I understand that it's more about a person's comfort level in a class where people look like they are in better shape and maybe have more experience. I have seen larger women teachers and they are very adept at their practice. I have seen smaller people who really are not fit , even if they are not overweight. Having more body fat does not mean you can't get into the poses. and being thin does not mean you'll have the flexibility you would like. But what I love about this article is the concept of making people feel comfortable enough to practice yoga because it is so good for you in every way. Mentally, Physically, with regard to strength and flexibility and in helping to create a better body image and personal accomplishment and happiness.

8/24/2009 11:18:43 PM

dorrie, I think you have a book in you, great writing style...thanks for the laugh. From Maddie, a round Yoga teacher.

Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!

Facebook Instagram Twitter