Yoga. If the movies are to be believed, it’s designed for ridiculously in-shape stay-at-home mom types who visit the yoga studio right before a visit to the organic grocery store. Or it’s a relaxing thing you do on vacation. It’s for tiny people with amazing flexibility who can get into poses the majority of the free world doesn’t even dare attempt.

But 5 years ago, I learned that yoga was not just for the uber-limber. It’s for me. And for you. I am plus-size—or to be more exact, 4XL sized. As a 6’3″ and well over 300–pound male, I am the antithesis of the stereotypical yoga master. But I was introduced to it though P90X series and found that over time, I got more out of the yoga section than any workout I’ve ever experience. I believe that plus-size yoga is one of the best things you can do if you’re overweight.

I’ve been active all my life, playing sports growing up and always seemingly training for something. I’ve done everything to get in shape, from classes to boot camps, to two-a-days for the football team. When you’re overweight and plus-size, getting in shape is a long, winding road.

For me, yoga offered an opportunity that I never had before. It worked on my core, my flexibility, and honestly, my mind. It was the foundation that helped me improve myself in many other ways. Yoga truly made me a better person.

But it’s not easy. And it takes practice. During my first week, to say I struggled is an understatement. They were doing Downward Dog and I was trying to drag myself off the mat. But each new session became easier. Poses I gave up on day one, I did by day 30. It wasn’t an easy journey, but sticking with it was the best thing I’ve done.

So I want to share what I’ve learned from my experience and encourage everyone to give yoga a shot. To help you succeed, here are my 11 yoga tips for plus-size people.

1. Just do it.

The first and most important step is to get started and develop a plan. And follow the plan! It may take a couple weeks, if not longer, before you get comfortable. Make a promise to yourself to give it enough time to truly see the benefits—which, according to the NCCAM, include lower stress levels, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and relief from depression, anxiety, and chronic back pain.

2. Take it slow & listen to your body.

Whether you join a class at a yoga studio or start with videos, it’s important to do what you can. Over-extending yourself can do more harm than good. You want to push yourself, but listen to your body. If a pose hurts, modify it. The poses are much harder than they look, so stay strong, but understand when you’ve gone too far and back off.

3. Do more each session.

You should try to get further, hold poses for longer, and challenge yourself to improve with each session. Your body will adapt and will allow you to do more. Make sure you push yourself to do more each and every time. By pushing yourself to do more, you should find that yoga will help with pain where other methods fail. Conclusions from a 2011 study of 313 adults with chronic or recurring lower-back pain suggested that 12 weekly yoga classes resulted in better function than with the usual medical care.

4. Understand your limitations.

You will not be able to do every pose the first time. You may not be able to do any of them! Understand what you can and can’t do and own it! Don’t worry if you have to do a modified version of the pose. As a plus-size person, there are things that we can not do. Don’t get discouraged.

5. Find a yoga buddy.

You will have much more success and will be able to stick to it if you have someone pushing you. This is especially true for us plus-sizers. It’s going to be difficult and at times seem impossible. Having someone who is there to help push you can be a key to your success.

6. Don’t get discouraged.

It will be hard. You will likely want to quit. It’s very difficult to see how “easy” it is for everyone else. Understand that this journey is about you! As a plus-sized person, each and every move is much more challenging. Yoga uses your body weight as the resistance, so the more you have, the harder it becomes. Understand that you’re doing more work each time and keep your head up!

7. Start at home.

While this won’t apply to everyone, if you’re conscious about how you’ll look, start at home. Find a good video and a mirror and get started. Once you get the basics and feel more comfortable, then step out into a studio.

8. Modify when necessary & do what you can when you can’t.

There will be poses that you physically cannot do. There’s often modification that your instructor can show you so you can still get the same results. And if it’s something you can’t do? Try plank position or downward dog during those poses. When there are poses you can’t do, replace with with poses you can. By doing what you can to continue practicing yoga, you will see significant health benefits.

9. Use the right equipment.

Yoga blocks, mats, and the right clothes can help you improve your form and get more our of each pose. Find the equipment that works for you and don’t hesitate to ask your instructor!

10. Track your progress.

Keep a journal of what you are able to do each session. Write down what was difficult and which poses came more easily. Find a fitness test and benchmark your progress. Understanding how far you’ve come and understanding your goals is a vital part of maintaining success.

11. Have fun.

Yoga may not be fun when you start, but with practice and patience, it can be fun! Go in with the right mindset and you’ll get as much out of yoga as you put in!

Featured photo credit: Fat Yoga via flickr.com

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