I can understand your hesitation, but I encourage you to overcome any concern about being heavy and follow through on your interest in yoga. If you’ve seen videos or photos of yoga classes, those participating often do appear to be very slim, flexible and fit. It is not always the case, if you actually attend a class, you likely will find that all the bodies in it aren’t picture perfect, and not everyone is young and fit. According to a 2016 study conducted by Yoga Journal and the Yoga Alliance, 19 percent of those who practice yoga in the U.S. are age 18 to 29, 43 percent are 30 to 49, and another 38 percent are age 50 and older.
Depending on where you live, you might be able to find a yoga class designed for overweight beginners. And if you live in New York City, Austin, TX or Portland, OR, you could sign up with one of the few yoga studios that cater exclusively to overweight people. Given that more than two in every three adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese, it makes economic sense for yoga studio owners and instructors to cultivate this market.
On a practical note, you may find that the heavier you are, the more difficult it can be to assume some standard yoga poses. Your belly may get in the way of certain bends and twists, and you may have to modify poses in order to perform them comfortably. Please don’t despair or give up! Yoga classes designed for the overweight can help you compensate for limitations imposed by your size with the aid of supports, such as ballet bars, blocks and straps that can help you stretch to get into position.
If you can’t find such a class, talk to the owner or an instructor at a local studio to gauge the level of experience in working with larger people. You might be better off looking for a small class where the instructor is able to give you some individual attention, at least at the beginning.
While I believe that it is best to learn yoga from an instructor, if you can’t find a class locally that suits you, consider getting started with a DVD or video. A quick Internet search can likely direct you to ones designed for overweight yoga beginners.
Andrew Weil, M.D.