Sunday, December 30, 2007

Big Fat Yoga

With all the work to make Christmas gifts, I've been spending a lot of time sitting at the sewing machine. I can really tell the difference when I'm not active. Granted, I'm not a gym rat in the best of times, but being sedentary combined with the holiday stress has really slowed me down. Normally I'm pretty comfortable in my skin. I'm relatively flexible, strong, and can keep up with my friends if we go walking all day without really thinking about it. Of course, I'm still (barely) under 30, so that might change :-)

Yesterday I was feeling stagnant and stiff, so I broke out the Yoga videos that have been collecting dust since I bought them during my "dieting years". My last encounter with Yoga involved someone telling me to do a shoulder stand, at which point I gave them the evil eye and said "My fat ass is NOT going up in the air like that. You guys have fun." Probably for the best, since it's pretty likely I'd come out of it with a neck injury.

This was a Yoga for beginner's DVD, and instead of just diving in full-bore like I would have a few years ago (gotta get my heart rate up, feel the burn, it doesn't work if it doesn't hurt, etc.) I started out with the pose guide and just concentrated on them one at a time. I watched the pose as the tiny superflex-chick on the video did it, then I paid attention to my body and adapted the pose to something I could do without excessive strain. I tried for what they described as the purpose of the pose (elongating the spine, stretching through the arm or leg, etc.) and worked on internal cues to accomplish the same thing in adaptation. Sure, my feet weren't three feet apart in the triangle pose, and my hand was on a rest instead of the floor, but I still stretched from the spine and expanded the rib cage. Isn't that really the point?

At any rate, my usual cycle was throwing myself into a new activity one day, then hurting so much the next day that I was discouraged and tried something else. This time I can feel the difference. I feel stronger and more balanced. My body remembers the good posture I had before I got caught up in the holidays, and I'm aware that the muscles are still there where I left them, if a little dormant :-)

The question is, of course, since I know there's a lot of people in the fatosphere that do Yoga, is there something I'm doing specifically wrong by adapting the poses? Is the end result more important than the precise pose, or is there something about a pose that I could miss entirely by changing it? Of course, the goal is to eventually work my way to the pose as depicted as I regain flexibility, but I'm assuming it isn't important enough to risk damaging something.

Any advice?


FashionableNerd said...

I don't think you're doing anything wrong at all. One of my favorite yoga DVDs actually has two instructors on it: one to do the traditional poses, and another to do easier moves. As a fat woman, I tend to do the easier moves as they are easier on my knees. Continue to modify your moves if you need to. You'll still reap the benefits.

Tari said...

I think paying attention to your body and adjusting in the way that feels best, in keeping with the intention of the pose, is probably a really good approach.

If you're looking for a little more guidance on how to modify poses, I use Megan Garcia's book and DVD, and recommend both as good resources.

geogrrl said...

I don't think so. My yoga instructors always encouraged perfect form, of course, but not at the risk of injuring yourself. If the "standard" pose gave trouble, you were encouraged to modify it or do it to whatever limit was comfortable for us. As you say, the point is extending the spine, or whatever the point is of the pose.

We were repeatedly warned not to push ourselves and risk repetitive injury. As they told us, "If it hurts, stop."

I did find going to the occasional yoga class helpful because it kept me motivated to keep doing it, and the instructor could correct any problems with my poses. But that's up to the individual.

Lindsay said...

I have a copy of Just My Size Yoga on DVD (which is the one i think Tari was referring to) - i've heard rave reviews about it, but haven't had a chance to check it out yet.

SaraS-P said...

There is a wide variety of styles of yoga out there, and while some emphasize perfect form (and are developed and often taught by skinny men), others emphasize the general stretching and fitness goals of each posture.

I live by my yoga strap (any belt, towel, or bathrobe tie will do) and yoga bricks (books will do). They allow my stiff body to benefit while staying safe.

I like yoga because it is more than just moving to burn calories. It is actually quite enjoyable now that I am used to it.

Lady Quercus said...

I teach yoga and am near 300 pounds. I have refrenced some of Megan Garcia's tips, especially the breast binding. I hadn't done a headstand in nearly 15 years... the breast binding was great tip. Although the DVD is very basic, it is good for days when you only want a half an hour. I think the book is well done and gives room for growth. It has good modifications and a fresh sequencing.

robin said...

Sorry for the delayed comment -- I just came across your blog while looking up resources for my yoga classes. (One of my students has a large body, and I want to make sure she feels safe physically and emotionally in my class.)

Regarding alignment in poses -- there is no "perfect" pose. There are literally hundreds of different schools of thought on yoga, which has been around for about 5 thousand years. The asanas (poses) were developed in order to achieve 3 goals: 1. a healthy body free, 2. opening the energy channels, and 3. to allow the body to be comfortable sitting in meditation.

You see, yoga was not developed as an "exercise", but as a path to enlightenment. The main goal is to clear the mind and find union with spirit. If you are adjusting the poses to your body's sensations and to your current abilities and to your breath, then you are TRULY practicing yoga. If you just forced your body into a particular shape, risking injury, then that would not be yoga at all, but something driven by ego.

You are further on the path than most, and I congratulate you!