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Body Positive Yoga

by | July 29, 2015

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“Yoga is about worshipping the body for what it is, not what it “should” be or even “could” be.”

Anyone with curves has probably experienced pangs of insecurity when walking into a yoga class. Let’s be honest — even women without curves probably have, especially when a class is filled with attractive young women wearing very short Lululemon shorts and doing perfect sun salutations.

Yoga practice is supposed to take place completely on the mat. You’re supposed to focus inward, on your own body and on your breathing. Insecurities can make it very, very difficult to do so, but that’s where the body positive yoga movement comes in.

No More Body Shaming

Body Positive Yoga was created by Amber Karnes, a woman who regularly felt like she was the biggest person in the room. She had teachers and fellow students comment on her body, even directly to her face. This inevitably made it difficult for her to focus on enjoying and respecting her body throughout the class. There’s no sense of freedom and release when you’re subjected to hateful comments.

Yoga is about worshipping the body for what it is, not what it “should” be or even “could” be. It’s about making different moves and positions work within the realm of what your body can do, but that concept can be lost when body-shaming comes into play.

Thus the concept of body positivity in yoga was built on this very premise. On her site, Amber proudly proclaims that “Your body is not a problem to be solved.” In turn, she provides yoga modifications for larger figures, and teaches them online, in YouTube videos, in weekly yoga classes located in Charlottesville, VA, and at Body Positive workshops across the country.

Amber’s not the only one who’s providing yoga workshops for larger bodies. This movement is quickly spreading across the country, with more workshops and studios that truly practice what they preach opening each day.

The movement continues not only among yoga students, but yoga teachers, who can become students of this more inclusive and loving form of yoga. Online teacher training courses are available for yoga teachers who want to create and implement classes better suited to people with different shapes, sizes and abilities. One of the key focuses is showing modifications to students who need them in a kind and non-judgmental manner.

How You Can Be Body Positive

Maybe you’ve struggled with  yoga postures that don’t seem to accommodate fuller figures. Or perhaps you’re simply tired of feeling self-conscious in your yoga class due to your skill level, injuries you’ve sustained, or your body type.

Body positivity restores confidence by breaking down poses for any body that may struggle with supposedly “easy,” “comfortable,” and “restorative” movements.  Yoga shouldn’t discriminate, and Body Positive Yoga helps to level the playing field.

Some practitioners of Body Positive Yoga may experience challenges with poses like Child’s Pose, a classic yoga position that requires “resting” with your knees on the floor and your body bent over them. Some people’s bodies just don’t bend this way; others have knee injuries, or can’t sit comfortably with their body tucked under them.

This can be modified simply and subtly by stretching your arms out in front of you as far as you need to, and allowing your backend to stretch as far back as it can. It doesn’t need to sit on your heels. You can also rest on your elbows, and stretch out less than you would otherwise. Additional recommendations include resting on your blocks or bolsters while in the pose.
The key concept here is not doing what you think you should do. Within Body Positive yoga, you embrace what you are able to do—nothing more and nothing less. Isn’t that what yoga is supposed to be about?

What Is Yoga Anyway?

There’s a lot of talk among yogis about what “real” yoga postures look like, and how you can execute a pose in a fashion similar to ancient practitioners. But it’s refreshing to know that there is also a conversation around what is “realistic” rather than “real.” In Body Positive Yoga, the word “should” is eliminated. After all, there’s no point in saying what a pose “should” look or feel like. It will likely look or feel different based on different bodies.

Body Positive Yoga usually provides modifications for classic yoga postures like Downward Facing Dog, Sun Salutations, Seated Twists and Savasana. Modifications work to accommodate a bigger belly, less hip flexibility, and larger chests. They make almost every pose doable in a different way.

It’s about doing yoga the judgment-free way—the way it should be, but definitely isn’t in many instances. If you’re interested in experiencing this powerful movement for yourself, you can either attend a class in the Charlottesville, VA area, participate in a workshop, purchase a Home Practice Kit, or (and perhaps best of all) bring your modified moves with you to your favorite local yoga class.

Body Positive Yoga is one form of exercise that actually is for everyone. While some may argue that it isn’t as real or authentic, it’s actually the most authentic type of yoga at all. It embraces the very spirit of yoga: appreciating who you are, and enjoying what your body can do for you

Featured Image: Pixabay

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