As a bigger bodied yoga practitioner, I have to be creative in the way I approach certain yoga poses. As a regular practitioner and a strong, flexible person, I can do a lot of poses with not a lot of effort, but some poses really chip away at my self-esteem (arm balances in particular).
I have come to learn that I must reframe my mindset about certain poses and not let being unable to do them define me. Instead, I must figure how these poses can best be explored in my body.
So, in my quest to become more loving to the body I have been blessed with, I have learned not to blame my body for not being able to do asana perfectly, but to adjust the asana to fit my abundant body.
My Biggest Asana Challenge
The pose that I find gives me my biggest challenge is Shoulder Stand, aka Salamba Sarvangasana. My ample bust line usually gets in the way, and I feel like I’m suffocating. When this pose is presented in class, I generally opt for Legs-Up-the-Wall (Viparita Karani), or just hide out in the bathroom.
So in my search to find a version of this pose that feels good in my body, I came across a great solution for large breasts in Shoulder Stand from Youtuber and Body Positive Yoga Teacher Amber Karnes—use a strap to secure your breasts out of your way! Brilliant!
After this awesome tip, I started trying different strategies for getting my bigger body into Shoulder Stand. Here are some tips I came up with and I hope you can find them helpful!
1. Grab a strap.
2. Place it just above your breasts underneath your arms to keep your girls from falling in your face.
3. Using two folded blankets, lay on your back with the edge of the blanket at your shoulders, and your head on the floor.
4. Inhale and come up into Bridge Pose and place a block underneath your hips at your sacrum. The block will hold your pelvis upright.
5. Engage your core muscles, and on your exhale, lift your legs one at a time until your feet are in the air. Now you are in Shoulder Stand.
Note: Be sure to tuck your shoulder blades on to your back to open your heart and allow for a deeper breath.
1. Come to Legs-Up-the Wall Pose (you can use your blanket for support here as well).
2. Tuck your shoulder blades underneath your back, and press the back of your head lightly into the earth.
3. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the wall.
4. Press into your feet and lift your hips.
5. Hold for 5 breaths, lower and repeat.
I found these Shoulder Stand variations have helped me achieve the shape of the pose without my breasts getting in the way, while supporting my hips and lower back and minimizing pressure on my neck. These variations have also allowed me to feel more comfortable in classes when these poses are taught.
In order to be kind to myself and to keep a positive outlook when poses seem daunting and near impossible, I try to remember yoga is not about the perfect pose. Yoga is about getting to know you through self-study and self-awareness.
Explore your curiosity of yoga and asana, and learn how to adapt the poses for your yoga body. There is always room for opportunity and growth if you are kind and compassionate with yourself. See you on the mat!