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Does DC Need “Fat Yoga”?

A studio in Portland caters to overweight yogis. But is that a good thing?

A yoga studio in Portland, Oregon caters to plus-size people, with hopes in busting the stereotype that only skinny people can do yoga. Would a similar program work in Washington? Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

Last year introduced us to the world of plus-size-only gyms, which ban slimmer folks from the premises. But this year, it’s all about “fat yoga.” 

A new studio in Portland, Oregon, is raising eyebrows for its efforts to encourage overweight and obese people to do yoga at their studio. Fat Yoga’s mission is to bust the stereotype that yoga is only suited to Spandex-wearing skinny people.

In an article published on Yahoo, Fat Yoga studio owner Anna Ipox said that while people of every size are welcome to the studio, her instructors work especially with overweight students who cannot perform traditional moves like child’s pose due to their stature. According to Fat Yoga’s website, most of the instructors also “identify as fat.” 

Fat Yoga’s mission isn’t all new, however. Buddha Body Yoga in New York City is advertised as being “for every kind of body” and works with larger people to achieve yoga poses by providing modifications. There’s also the online community called Curvy Yoga, which encourages curvy women to start their own yoga practice and teaches yoga instructors how to instruct their plus-size students.

But would Fat Yoga work in Washington?

“I don’t know that it would work anywhere,” says local instructor Peg Mulqueen. “I think any time you want to box people in and label themselves, you run into some problems.”

Mulqueen says she can understand the uncomfortable feeling of walking into a room where you’re the minority; while she’s not overweight, she says she’s often the oldest person in her yoga studios. The same uncomfortable feeling is often felt among less flexible men or people who are completely new to the practice. Mulqueen points out, “Anyone who walks into a yoga room for the first time feels self-conscious.”

The bigger issue about the Fat Yoga studio is that it shows a yoga community exists that does not foster a sense of welcoming and acceptance, Mulqueen says. She cites Sri K. Pattabhi of Ashtanga Yoga, who once said, “Old man, stiff man, weak man, sick man—they can all take practice, but only a lazy man can’t take practice.”

Yoga, in other words, is for everybody. “It doesn’t matter if you can’t touch your toes,” says Mulqueen. “If we’re not doing a good job as a community by communicating that, that’s where we need to be better.”

  • B

    The person in the picture is doing that pose incorrectly.

  • @theswillersroom

    What do the fats do when they've made friends, really got something working for them, but have lost so much weight they are no longer considered fat? Are they dismissed from class, grandfathered in, or worse, peace out because they are now better than the fat people now? This is just another easy way out for those (save medically challenged) who let themselves go. They need to stop making excuses and get back in the game with exercise and diet, not a fat yoga class.

  • Annie Carlin

    While I appreciate the author's attempt to address this issue, it would have been nice if she had made an effort to actually find and talk to someone in DC who a. has had the experience of being a larger yogi taking mainstream classes who might want to take advantage of or might benefit from a "fat yoga" studio or b. a yoga teacher who specializes in teaching larger yoga students. It's so easy to say something isn't needed if you don't need it.

  • Curious

    I wonder about the quote used by the yoga teacher interviewed: "anyone can practice yoga except lazy people." is she insinuating that fat people who feel at a disadvantage then are somehow lazy?

  • peg

    no i most certainly was not. the point being made was that ALL students are welcome. fat and lazy are not correlated and anyone struggling with weight can attest to this. but thanks for asking so i could answer clearly and directly.

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