I dragged myself out of bed early early to get to yoga class. Luckily it was worth it! And now I’m done for the day, so that’s a good feeling. (Well, done with workouts anyway; I still have the entire workday ahead.) My legs and hips are super tired today, and holding lunges was brutal. I didn’t like that part. My hips need a break…
The teacher of this class is pretty good, but I feel like I’d like to write a general letter, to him and to other yoga teachers I’ve encountered, talking about how to make yoga accessible for all kinds of bodies. (Inspired mostly by, no, I’m not going to be able to keep my feet together doing locust because I HAVE THIGH MEAT IN THE WAY.) I’ve been at yoga long enough that I have a pretty good idea how to modify poses, but I rarely see them in beginner classes.
I’m really enjoying your class. However, I’d like to encourage you to think about the particular geometries of different kinds of bodies! One of the great things about yoga is that it meets our bodies where they are, so it can be accessible to people of all shapes and abilities.
Props are great; encourage your students to use blankets and blocks and straps and demonstrate how they can be used to enhance and change the poses. And do some variations and modifications of poses. It might take a little longer to show how props and variations work, but it’s worth it so every student can get the most out of their practice. Make sure students know that it’s okay to come out of a pose early or ask for a way to make it easier.
And consider how different bodies may interpret instructions like ‘feet together’ or ‘big toes touching’ or ‘hip distance apart’. A person with thick thighs (like myself) may find that instruction awkward or downright impossible. For me, I can squeeze my thighs in so my feet come together in standing poses, but it takes a large amount of effort, my knees go out of alignment, and it really detracts from the pose when you ask for this. For students with big bellies, forward bends can be really uncomfortable! Inversions can be suffocating for students with large busts.
There are lots of resources on the internet that talk about modifications for different kinds of bodies. Especially in a beginner class, don’t leave it up to your students to know how to help themselves– a lot of students will blame themselves and their bodies for being ‘wrong’; if you can show them a way to make the pose work for them, or a modification that works in a similar way, they can take that forward in their practice and have a much more positive experience with yoga.
Yoga can be good for everyone!