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Yoga for Any Size

Meet the inspiring women of Big A#%! Yoga. A number on a clothes label or scale doesn’t stop these gals from exercising their bodies and spirit. There’s only one rule: No skinny minis, please.

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A Unique Exercise Class

One of the first clues that this is not your typical yoga class is the instructions given by teacher Celia McCoy. “You may need to grab your belly and move it out of the way for this, but you can do it,” she says to the group of women standing before her.

McCoy, who has taught the Big A#%! Yoga class at Yoga Center Minneapolis (yogacentermpls.com) for three years, has a calming and encouraging voice. “If you have a larger body and you try to do certain yoga moves, stuff gets in the way,” she says after the class. “We acknowledge that and work with it.”

Getting Motivated

Yoga classes for larger bodies are popping up across the country. Classes like these are a great place for overweight people to begin an exercise program. There is something about being around people like you. A less intimidating environment means people are more likely to come back. They become motivated to take better care of themselves.

Martha Crump did. She started class in 2006, and it has helped her lose 100 pounds. “I had done yoga before at a health club, but it was intimidating,” she says. “This is a very forgiving class.” Because the practice of yoga focuses on breathing, it has taught Martha to recharge, de-stress, and stay focused. “I’d go off my diet, but then I’d come in here and realize it’s just part of the journey and get back on track,” she says.

The class, however, does not focus on weight loss, McCoy says. Big A#%! Yoga, created by Yoga Center Minneapolis founder and co-owner Jennifer Gray, aims to build self-trust and teach people to reconnect with their bodies. McCoy teaches traditional yoga postures and uses straps, blocks, and bolsters to aid the women with stretching.

Michelle Simonsen started taking the class in March last year, and she’s fallen in love with it so much that she is training to become a yoga teacher. “This is a place where you feel safe,” Michelle says. “You don’t feel self-conscious when you walk in the door. You just feel comfortable.”

Yoga is a wonderful form of movement for larger bodies, Michelle says, because it is so adaptable. You do what you can do. “Every one of us needs to love and appreciate the body we are in today, and yoga helps you see your strength,” she says. Paula Larsen agrees. She has prediabetes and is working hard to improve her health and lose weight in the process. “I tried paddleboarding last summer, and I never, ever would have done that if not for Big A#%! Yoga.” Paula also loves the class’s cheeky name: “It’s what drew me in. It’s the reason I’m in this class.”

Check Out These Yoga Programs:

  • Curvy Yoga: Anna Guest-Jelley created this program for larger bodies, and she trains teachers around the country. Search for a class near you and check out videos and free downloads at curvyyoga.com.
  • Mega Yoga with Megan Garcia: Plus-size model Megan Garcia conducts classes and workshops for curvy women at the Yoga Collective in New York City. She also sells videos at megayoga.com.

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