For some, yoga conjures up an image of emaciated and scantily clad bendy people twisted up like Rold Gold pretzels. This can be a big turn off for those of ample form, but thankfully, several pioneers have paved the way for all sizes to feel comfortable joining a yoga class or practicing at home, so they too can gain the health benefits of yoga.
Megan Garcia, founder of MegaYoga is a plus-sized model based in New York City. She took her first yoga class as a college elective credit in 1991 and since then received her yoga teacher certification at the Kripalu center in Lenox, Massachusetts. In 2004, she teamed up with the plus-size clothing line Just My Size to create “Just My Size Yoga with Megan Garcia,” a best-selling yoga DVD for plus-sized beginners. In addition to the video, Megan wrote the book MegaYoga published by DK books in 2006.
A Gentle Way Yoga & Joyful Movement Center
A Gentle Way Yoga & Joyful Movement Center located in La Mesa, California opened its doors in 2001. Owner and certified yoga teacher Lanita Varshell discovered yoga after struggling with the depressing effects of yo-yo dieting, the pain of fibromyalgia and the debilitating symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Determined to reclaim her health, Lanita joined a yoga class with the encouragement of a teacher who assured her it would be different from what she feared: making a fool of herself by not being able to imitate the “skinny little yoga teacher.”
During class, Lanita knew she had to become a teacher herself. Feeling that others like her needed this style of yoga, she began to mentor with her teacher. One year later she began teaching.
Since 1995, Lanita has taught Gentle Yoga, and has inspired countless people to share in her love of yoga regardless of their weight. Her message to those who take her classes is, “It is never about how much you weigh, it’s about how happy and healthy you stay, in body, mind and spirit.” She has created a non-judgmental space for all shapes and sizes to exercise without pain, supported by the presence of others who are also committed to their health and happiness.
In Austin, Texas, Abby Lentz, founder of HeavyWeight Yoga, teaches classes by her principle of the 3 A’s: awareness, acceptance and affection. Her yoga class programs are not about dieting, aerobic exercise or weight loss, they are about creating a sense of well-being for real people with real bodies. She created the DVD series HeavyWeight Yoga and is now working on the third DVD, Fun with Sun Salutations.
Anna Guest-Jelley created Curvy Yoga in Nashville, Tennessee because of yoga’s transformational powers in her life. After years of struggling with her self-esteem, weight, and body image, she became inspired by yoga as a means to live joyfully, regardless of her size. This inspiration has fueled a desire to help others determine what that looks like in their own lives and create “a life built on happiness rather than self-loathing.”