How Do I Start Yoga If I’m Overweight? — Yoga Kali

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It’s true that yoga is still predominantly white, skinny, and body-abled. But the days when these were considered prerequisites for starting yoga are far gone now.

Jessamyn Stanley, Dianne Bondy, and Anna Guest-Jelley are just some of the inspirational social activists that promote body positivity and self-acceptance as well as work on the accessibility of yoga for everyone.

If you’re a bigger-bodied person trying to take up yoga but don’t know where to start – this post is for you.

Read on to learn:

  • why yoga practice is so good for plus-sized people
  • how to start yoga if you’re overweight in 4 easy steps
  • what gear you need for a comfortable yoga practice
  • essential yoga alignment tips to make your yoga practice work for YOU.

1/4 Is Yoga Good If You Are Overweight?

Yes! Yoga is a perfect low-impact practice for overweight people who might otherwise struggle with traditional strength and cardio workouts. What’s more, yoga is also good for your brain, mental health, and body image (Check out the whole list of yoga benefits here).

The best part is that there are so many different types of yoga that everyone is able to find the style to fit their needs. Vinyasa, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Power Yoga, Yin Yoga are just some of the yoga styles out there. Some styles are physically challenging or flexibility-focused, others more relaxing and spiritual.

If you’re overweight, doing yoga can help you reduce the risk of certain health conditions that may result from excess body weight or help manage them. These conditions include:

  • hypertension
  • type 2 diabetes
  • heart disease
  • body pains and aches.

What’s more, yoga can help you lose weight, if that’s your goal. Not only will yoga classes help you get more active throughout the week, but they can also help you manage stressors that often trigger overeating and binge eating behavior.

Even if you practice for an hour or two a week, you will reap many benefits over time. The more you move and do yoga, the bigger the benefits you will feel.

Yoga is for every body. No matter who you are or what you look like or what your abilities are, you can do yoga.

Dianne Bondy – Yoga for Everyone

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2/4 Can Overweight People Do Hot Yoga?

Hot yoga and Bikram are types of yoga practiced in a hot room. It’s considered a physically challenging style of yoga that will help you burn calories and improve flexibility. Many overweight yogis successfully incorporate hot yoga as a part of their fitness and weight loss regime. Even so, exercising in scorching heat poses some risks especially if you have blood pressure issues.

Make sure to talk to your doctor to decide whether a hot yoga class is right for you and take extra precautions during the hot yoga class to prevent dehydration.

Take frequent breaks or leave a hot room entirely if you feel nauseous, dizzy, or have cramps.

3/4 How To Start Yoga When You’re Overweight: 4 Essential Steps

Make Time For Your Practice

To start practicing yoga, you need to START. This sounds cheesy, but it’s the truth.

Include your yoga practice into your to-do list, add it to phone reminders, or Google Calendar – whatever you use to plan your day. Plan exactly how much time you want to set aside for your yoga practice.

There are no rules about how long your yoga session has to last. You can start as short as 10 minutes and build up your practice from there, adjusting the time to suit your needs.

Gear Up

Whether you start yoga at home or join a group class, the right yoga wear and props will set you up for success.

Props are ingenious yoga accessories that will help make poses work for you rather than you trying to fit your body into the poses. Here are the basic yoga props that come in handy no matter if you’re a plus-sized yogi, a beginner, or a slim seasoned practitioner.

  • Yoga mat. A yoga mat is not an absolute must-have for starting yoga, but it will sure make your practice more comfortable and safer. There are a ton of yoga mats out there. If you don’t know where to start, check out this extensive guide on choosing a yoga mat. What type of mat you choose as well as its material and thickness is a matter of personal preference. However, if you have no prior exercise experience, I suggest starting with a thicker ¼” yoga mat to provide your curvy body with more cushion.
  • Yoga blocks. Blocks will help bring the floor closer to you, making certain poses more accessible. There are three types of blocks out there: foam, cork, and wooden. Any type of blocks will work great to start your yoga practice, but I find the cork ones the best. They are more stable than foam blocks and less sturdy (thus more comfortable) than wooden blocks. Check out these useful posts on how to choose yoga blocks and how to use yoga blocks in common yoga poses.
  • Strap. The yoga belt will help you extend the reach of your arms. It’s useful to improve your range of motion and release tension. There are many lengths available (see how to choose a strap here), but I suggest going for 8-10ft strap since it’s more functional. Also the taller you are, the longer strap you’ll need. Yoga blanket. Yoga blankets are basically cute dense towels. They provide an extra cushion and add to the comfort of your asana practice. Read what makes a good yoga blanket here.
  • Chair. Sometimes you might want the assistance of a chair in your yoga practice. Choose a sturdy chair without wheels for your practice. If you’re ready to splurge, you can also invest in a yoga chair specifically designed for yoga.
  • Yoga clothes for overweight people. Wondering what you should wear for overweight yoga? Comfort and freedom of movement are a priority when it comes to yoga clothing.

I suggest going for form-fitting yoga pants or shorts. However, stretchy wide-leg pants or joggers will work fine too as long as they are cuffed at the bottom. This way, you won’t need to adjust your bottoms every time you’re lifting your legs up.

Female yogis should also make sure the sports bra is supportive and doesn’t cause any chafing. For more coverage, pair your sports bra with a flowy top.

If you’re a male oversized yogi, go for a form-fitting tee or tank top that won’t ride up in Downward Facing Dog and Standing Folds.

If you’re an oversized yogi heading to hot yoga, pay extra attention to the material of your clothes. It’s not ideal to wear 100% cotton yoga tops and bottoms since they will absorb sweat and get heavy. A technical moisture-wicking fabric will do a better job at keeping you dry and helping your body cool down. You might also want to use a hot yoga towel to protect your mat from sweat and get extra traction when things get hot and messy.

There are many brands making plus-sized yoga gear. Here are some suggestions for plus-size yoga clothing from Girlfriend Collective, Athleta, Lululemon, and Fabletics.

Girlfriend Collective Compressive High-Rise Legging
PDP Dylan Plum1
Girlfriend Collective Plum Dylan Tank Bra
Image number 1 showing, Cloudlight Muscle Tank
Image number 4 showing, Salutation Textured Jogger
LW5DSHS 049230 2
LW1CWCS 047867 3
Lululemon Cool Racerback Tank Top
Laila Wrap Top - Pixie Ethereal
Fabletics Laila Wrap Top

Create A Yoga Routine

Now it’s time to get to the practice!

Learn the basic yoga postures and breathing techniques (you can check out the must-know yoga poses here).

Here are some of the beginner-friendly yoga poses for overweight people to try:

  • Mountain pose (Tadasana)
  • Tree pose (Vrikshasana)
  • Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
  • Seated Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
  • Cat/Cow (Chakravakasana)
  • Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)
  • Reclining Hand to Big Toe (Supta Padangusthasana)
  • Corpse (Savasana)

Make your yoga practice YOURS. Your yoga routine should bring you pleasure and relief. It should be the time you set aside for yourself to let go of worries rather than imposing more stress onto your mind or body.

This means you don’t have to practice classic beginner poses because somebody said that you should or practice all yoga poses that you’ve learned. If you feel like you’re forcing your body into some asana, it won’t likely benefit you. Plus, with a bit of practice and experimenting, you will probably find a more comfortable alternative.

Stay Curious

Curiosity is what helps us grow and evolve as individuals. It is also what helps us deepen our yoga practice and feel its benefits to the maximum.

If you’re just starting out with yoga, begin with staying curious on your mat. Ask yourself questions about how your body is feeling and what your body needs in each specific pose.

Anna Guest-Jelley, the author of Curvy Yoga, suggests asking yourself these questions while on the mat:

  • What’s happening with my foot (or any body part, perhaps one that is sometimes harder for you to notice or one that’s a focal point of the pose)?
  • How am I breathing here?
  • What could I do to make myself even 10 percent more comfortable?
  • What can I stabilize, elongate, or strengthen (depending on what’s relevant to the pose)?
  • Where can I relax?
  • What story am I telling myself about my body right now? Or about this pose?
  • What does my body need in this moment? How can I meet that need?
  • What does my body want in this moment? How can I meet that want?

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4/4 Four Important Yoga Tips For Overweight People

Yoga poses have the same foundational alignment for all yogis, whether you’re overweight or not. However, don’t be scared to “break the rules” to make asana practice comfortable for you.

With time and experience, you will find the adjustments that work best for your body. But here are 4 important yoga tips to make your yoga start as smooth as possible.

  • Keep your feet wider. Many yoga poses such as Mountain or Chair are traditionally taught with feet together. While it might work for some overweight people, you will likely feel more stable and balanced when you widen your stance. Stepping your feet wider will also make standing forward folds that compress the belly more accessible and much more comfortable. The same principle applies to stepping from Downward Facing Dog. Rather than trying to pull your knee toward the chest and stepping in between your hands, step outside your hand to make space for your belly.
  • Adjust the belly position. If your belly prevents you from getting into a side bend or feels compressed, try moving it to the center first and then get into the pose. You might also try experimenting with adjusting your belly in forward folds. You can lift your belly up off your hips before folding or try gently pressing it into your torso.
  • Use a strap around the chest for upside-down poses. If you feel your chest is suffocating you when you attempt doing Bridge, try securing the extra skin with a strap. Locate a strap around your shoulder blades and hold the ends of it with your hands.
  • Play with alignment. Don’t forget to experiment to make yoga poses work for your body. For example, try doing Savasana on your side rather than the back. Use a wall in balancing poses as well as head down poses such as Downward Facing Dog. Replace kneeling postures with seated variations if you find the first ones straining.

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