My partner is a massage therapist; he often hears clients lament about how they need to exercise but encounter so many barriers (internal and external). Tom likes to ask them if they know what the best kind of exercise is. This usually puzzles them — until Tom suggests that “the best kind of exercise is the kind you enjoy doing.”
I’m always appalled when someone mentions that they’ve finally started doing some sort of exercise and are really enjoying it and the immediate reaction they get from a friend is how some other exercise (usually the friend’s favorite exercise) would really be much better for them.
No, actually, it probably wouldn’t.
Even if that “other” exercise is easier on the knees, or better for flexibility, or a more efficient aerobic workout, or less expensive in terms of club or class fees. Because if the person doesn’t enjoy that class, or that club, or that video, doesn’t like it, and stops — then they aren’t exercising at all.
Exercise, when done in a class setting, is as much about relating to the teacher and the people around you as it is to the exercise you’re doing. In a room where you trust the teacher and enjoy your classmates, you’re going to use common sense and modify to prevent injury or re-injury. You’re going to be willing to try new challenges. You’ll have time to listen to your body because you aren’t wasting energy wondering if someone thinks you’re too fat, too old, too clumsy or — you get the idea.
The two fitness instructors I most enjoy working with are in Naples, Florida, and Las Vegas, Nevada. Since I’m in Seattle, Washington, this presents a challenge. At the moment, I’m addressing it using Skype for two classes a week.
Inspiration from yoga students
Meanwhile, I’m inspired by the stories of a number of people who have found, or created, yoga experiences that work for them. It takes persistence.
- Decolonizing Yoga: Project Bendypants: Practicing Yoga While Fat . I particularly liked her description of the skinny yoga teacher who didn’t get that size DDD breasts won’t compress flat against your thighs when you fold over.
- Article in the Guardian (UK): Fat girls do yoga too . Deborah Coughlin’s stories are right on target.
- And then there’s the blog at Confessions of a Yoga Princess about a plus-size yoga enthusiast.
Note: While researching this post I came across several online articles and blog posts about why older and non-skinny women can and should do yoga but even the one that purported to be written by a 51-year-old yoga instructor was illustrated by a stock photo of size 2, heavily made-up, professional model. Really!
This is very timely, as I’ve been thinking I’d like a change. I’d actually serious been thinking about yoga, since I’d like to improve flexibility and strength and I have a friend who loves yoga. But after reading Decolonizing Yoga, I’m out – at least I’m off taking a yoga class. I don’t need to spend my emotional strength navigating classes for one that will treat me well. Screw that. Maybe I’ll just get a DVD!
Nadya, it’s completely about the teacher! Try a few classes. There are some amazing ones. I like yoga because it focuses on core strength, flexibility, and balance — all of which reduce the chances of injury when you later add in things like Zumba, running, dance, etc. According to this article, Portland has an highly acclaimed all-sizes yoga program along with several other unusual yoga classes I’d love to try: http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-22158-yoga_issue_2014_the_next_wave.html
I found an excellent Iyengar yoga teacher in Seattle by Googing the words “irreverent” and “yoga.”