Yoga Is for Every Body
I'll say straight away that I shamelessly stole this title from an article that a friend of mine sent me about yoga. When I read it, the article really resonated with me but after a few more months of yoga, I think I've finally started to really understand what the author was getting at. When you're heavy like I am, self consciousness about your body permeates everything you do. In truth, that statement probably applies to almost every women I've met, whether she's heavy or slender, but the difference for the heavy person is that you feel like you're being judged in a less-than-postiive way all the time. So when you feel like you can't do something because of your size, it's like being cut off at the knees. That happens in yoga more than I would like. There are certain poses that I just can't do. It has nothing to do with tightness—it's about the size and shape of my body. Seated twists, for example. My legs are short and they're wide so getting one leg all the way over the other leg with my foot on the floor, and then putting my elbow on my knee just won't happen. When I realized this for the first time in a class I was mortified. It wasn't just that I couldn't do the pose, but that I couldn't do the pose because my body was all wrong. It brought back every size insecurity I've ever had because, of course, in my head the fact that I couldn't do the pose means there's something wrong with my body.
One of my biggest struggles has been to come to grips with this and to recognize that not all poses work for all body types, and that there's no shame in using props to compensate for short arms or tight hamstrings. Or that sometimes, certain poses aren't for you. The truth is, the "proper" yoga postures don't work for everyone.
I read somewhere that one of the goals of yoga is to push your body to the edge, and then relax into that edge. How you get there can be subtly different depending on your shape. If that wasn't the case, then yoga would only be for the select few who happen to have the body type that's most amenable to the poses. And I suspect that even for those folks, some poses don't quite work the way they'd like them to. Admittedly, it's not always easy to embrace this wisdom in the moment. When I attempt a pose that my body just doesn't want to do, I have to fight off the insidious sense that yoga just isn't for my body and remember that yoga as a discipline doesn't judge. It's benefit is for everybody and every body that wants to embrace it.