We completely understand that out in social media land that a majority of images around Yoga and Pilates feature skinny, often really flexible women contorting their bodies in different ways.
Let’s be honest. It is not what Yoga and Pilates are about.
It is about learning to observe yourself and your body. No matter what that looks like on a particular day.
Physically it is about learning to move your body in a safe way that works for you and how you are made and feel on that day. It is about coordinating the mind, body and spirit. It is not about what size tights you fit and what cool shapes you can create with your body. In the words of the late, great Joseph Pilates “A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion.”
There are so many health benefits from a regular practice of Yoga and Pilates. From increased strength, muscle tone, flexibility, mobility, improved sleep, digestion, breathing, body awareness, balance and mood. It is important that every body feels comfortable in being able to participate and enjoy the experience.
So how can a ‘bigger’ person get started?
Find a studio that have teachers that are able to be aware of and make adaptions. Granted, some positions can be uncomfortable, challenging or nigh on impossible when there are bits that don’t quite fit! This is why it is important to attend classes and be supported by teachers that plan and sequence their classes either so these challenges do not happen, or give respectful and kind options that support the integrity and purpose of the class and ensure that each pose is achievable in some form by every student.
If you do not feel ready for a group class, consider booking a few private yoga sessions. This can be a great way to learn basic poses and gain the confidence to use props in an effective way before joining a group practice. Becoming knowledgeable about yoga and Pilates is the best way to ensure that you will feel at ease.
Props, such as blocks, straps, chairs (and even a wall!) are going to be your best yoga and Pilates friend. Using them doesn’t mean you are inferior. It means you are smart. If you try a type of class that is not prop-friendly, find another class. The same goes for any teacher that discourages the use of props.
Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable. When you are starting a new thing or being in a new environment it is important that you feel as comfortable as possible with what you are wearing. If you are constantly tugging tops up or down or worried about ‘what might be hanging out’ you will struggle to have an enjoyable experience. You do not need the latest in athletic clothing (sadly many clothing retailers do not even stock larger sizes FYI we do!). Just be comfy for you. For ladies this means wearing a comfortable bra that still ‘contains’ you when you bend forwards. Do a double ‘bend over in the mirror’ test for your tights- and maybe consider not wearing your brightest undies underneath! Ensure that your tee (or singlet if you are comfortable) is mid hip length even when bending over. For men- please do wear undies especially if you are wearing shorts, we say no more!
Remember once you are at class that everyone is so focused on what they are doing that they will barely notice what you can (or cannot) do in your first few classes. A wee tip is to visit a studio at the time the class ends and that way you can see what the other students are like- super important if you can get nervous in social situations. You can then see how they interact with each other and how the teacher and staff interact with the students in ‘real life’ so you can see if it is a good fit for you.
So in essence, Yoga and Pilates are really beneficial for every body. It is important to find a place that suits you and helps you feel comfortable- so that you can start getting the benefits too!