This was a comment from a dear friend when we approached looking for a simple yoga pose that she could be comfortable with. Dear Friend has been suffering with many physical problems due to being overweight for years. She told me all that I needed to know with that one spontaneous response when she attempted to get into a simple knee to chest pose. On the other hand it was this simple position, which revealed to Dear Friend and to me of how she related to her body.
One definition of Hatha Yoga is “to harmonize,” to balance body, mind and breath. When I first started yoga I was not challenged with a lack of flexibility or strength, I was challenged by an intense restless mind, which created an equally restless body. Yoga captured me by giving me an experience that was calming and centering. My first experience gave me something I hadn’t had before… a relationship with myself that gave me back to myself.
While so many people are strangers to their body, turned away or have never allowed themselves to be introduced, others are strangers to their “inner self.”
When people are very overweight there is a deep disconnect from the physical and the emotional body. While the desire for change is great, they cannot imagine how they could ever begin to exercise, or for that matter ever join in on a general yoga class.
I am an advocate for “yoga for every body,” because there is something to be found from practice on so many levels no matter what difficulties or limitations we face. Yoga is the most wonderful tool that can give one a sense of self-intimacy and the potential for an inner calm, which eludes the majority of people looking for a way to relax.
Although I started doing yoga for the exercise that it gave my body, I was not prepared for the transformation that I would experience years after I started, that still continues over 30 years later.
For students who are overweight and have been intimidated by group exercise classes, I consider yoga a practice that emphasizes not only movement of muscle and joints, but also the movement of consciousness and awareness back to connecting with one self. Too many people shy away from yoga because they are overweight or physically very tight. This assumption keeps people from yoga who would receive the greatest benefits and need it as much as anyone else. Emphasized by media coverage of beautiful, skinny, flexible, young women shown in hard to achieve contortions segregates most full figured women from feeling comfortable attending yoga classes.
Yoga gives you a connection with your body in a way that changes habits in diet through self-awareness. I would hope that people with weight issues would try yoga with the expectation of coming back to their body. Along with a calm approach to dealing with emotional blocks, which is what so often keeps people a stranger to their body, yoga can be the beginning of a healthier and happier relationship with their body, which was intended to serve us as a graceful vehicle for the spirit to creatively express itself.