I am over-the-moon excited to bring you a guest post from one of my own personal she-roes: the amazing Anna Guest-Jelley of Curvy Yoga! Once upon a time, I thought that my body was just too big for yoga. Anna’s approach gave me the profound gift of yoga, kindness, and compassion for myself, with a healthy dose of humor thrown in for good measure. It changed everything, and I know it can do the same for you. So without further ado, here’s Anna!
You’ve probably heard the advice that stretching is good for runners. And you’ve probably even heard that yoga is one way to get those stretches in.
But sometimes even if you’re rocking your curves while running, you might not think it’s possible when practicing yoga. After all, running doesn’t involve having to put your leg behind your head, and that’s what yoga is all about, right?
Let me just put it this way: I’m not putting my leg behind my head any time soon.
At least not without a trip to the hospital.
How Yoga Supports Running
So here’s the thing: yoga can be a beautiful way to lengthen hamstrings that might get short while running, bring relief to tight hips, and overall keep your body mobile and flexible so that you can run with more ease and comfort for your joints.
All of this can help keep you running for a long time – both duration and over time.
All you need is yoga that actually works for your curves, not against them.
Yoga with Curves
So let’s break down some key options: the following tips can be used in many different types of yoga classes. So no matter the style you may try, you can give these a whirl and see how they work for you.
Step your feet wider: Many yoga classes instruct standing poses with feet together or close together. However, if you have a wider body, you need a wider base of support to feel stable. Try stepping your feet a comfortable distance apart instead, and then working from there.
Move your skin: If you’ve ever been to a yoga class before, you might have heard the teacher instruct you to “lay your belly on your thighs” in a forward bend. Well, if you’re like me, you don’t have to move far to make that happen! But what may come up for you instead is the uncomfortable feeling of belly compression. If that happens for you, come up for a moment, bring your hands to your low belly and either tuck the skin in towards your pelvis or pick it up a bit. Either way can give you more space to feel less smushed — and breathe easier.
Use support: Can’t touch your toes? Bring the floor to you! Look for yoga classes (or videos) that offer the option of using yoga props, such as blocks, straps, chairs, and even the wall. These handy tools can help you practice safely, in a way that actually works for your body. When you can do this with ease, it’s much easier to continue with your yoga practice over time.
Take multiple steps: One of the trickiest things for bigger-bodied people in yoga classes these days is the commonly taught Sun Salutation. This linked series of poses often moves at a rapid pace, and one of the biggest challenges is stepping forward from Down Dog. If you’ve got any belly at all, your knee is likely to bump into it, making that move forward seem challenging at best, if not impossible. Instead of stepping forward in one move, try taking multiple steps (and stepping your foot wider, outside your belly).
Putting It Together
Using the tips above, look for a yoga class in your area. If you’re new to yoga, look for classes called Beginners, Gentle or something along those lines so you can learn the poses in a way that works for you. In addition, there’s a growing community of people with bigger bodies practicing yoga across the country and world, so you might also look for that type of class in your area.
And remember, if yoga feels awkward the first time you try it, or you don’t love the first class you check again, keep going. Sometimes it takes a bit to find the right fit, but it is possible.
Just like with running, it all starts one step (or forward bend) at a time.
Anna Guest-Jelley is the founder of Curvy Yoga, a training and inspiration portal for yogis of all shapes and sizes. She is the author of Permission to Curve: Inspiring Poses for Curvy Yogis and Their Teachers and the co-editor of Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery and Loving Your Body.