T his past Sunday, I had the pleasure of taking Body Positive Yoga with Misia Denea at Four Elements. I’ve taken a fair bit of yoga in my life, and I always balked at it a little. For one thing, I am very short and muscled and round, and not very flexible at all. This means that twists and poses that require entwining one’s limbs like a mangrove tree are not very accessible to me.
Also, as a plus size person, I often feel uncomfortable in yoga classes, because having more weight is so often associated with less fitness. In most classes, I feel like I need to “prove myself”, which means attempting to keep up with everyone else, even if it’s inappropriate or unattainable for my body. While I think that pushing yourself a little further and being motivated by other people is great, it’s different from the kind of shame bigger people feel when they’re pushing themselves to get into poses that aren’t a fit for their bodies. Strains, pulls, and dislocations can result from this kind of stress.
This class was not like that at all. Misia, a curvy woman herself, made clear at the beginning that we should only do poses if they felt reasonable to our bodies. Modifications were offered for each pose, without us having to ask. And she also explained why certain poses were more difficult for bigger bodies in particular. No shame, just information. And that felt really empowering.
For so long, I’ve thought that it was my own weakness and lack of flexibility that made yoga inaccessible to me. In reality, it’s really that some kinds of bodies like certain poses, and other kinds of bodies do well with other ones. I can Chaturanga Dandasana like no one’s business, while ladies with thinner arms might not be able to hold that with so much control. But they, in turn, might be able to do Ardha Matsyendra as easily as breathing, while I can hardly get my elbow behind my knee.
We all bring something different to yoga. This class was a celebration of everyone’s unique skills. It was a safe space to try new poses and new practices. I loved it. I think you might too.
The good news is that Misia will be teaching a series next month. I urge you to check it out and think about signing up, even if you haven’t loved yoga in the past. This might help you get better flexibility, strength, and mindful awareness of your glorious body and all it can do.