It’s impossible to wander the streets of New York City without encountering several yoga studios, all touting a different celebrity instructor, original method, or special kind of trademark that makes their classes especially worth the exorbitant New York prices. But one trend that’s certifiably different from all the rest is the idea of yoga for “big people” being taught at Buddha Body in Union Square.
Buddha Body’s “curvy yoga” was featured in yesterday’s New York Daily News, started by 250-pound yogi Michael Hayes, who decided to establish his own classes because he was sick of doing vinyasa next to the model-bodies in other studios: “”I started my practice because I was tired of being the biggest person in the classroom,” he said. He peddled his class around to other studios, but they all thought his classes wouldn’t be popular with students, and turned him down. But his students disagree: “The women [at other studios] were nice, but they had their legs stretched over their head. They weren’t my size, and it was really uncomfortable,” said Alexandra Newman, another yoga teacher from Brooklyn who now attends his classes.
In an ideal world, all yoga classes would treat their students equally, and every teacher would be able to handle various body types with knowledge and agility, but the reality is that those “open” yoga classes most yoga studios conduct before and after regular working hours aren’t great for anyone with “special needs” — including being bigger than other students. And while yoga studios can’t be responsible for their students’ self-esteem, coming to a class full of whip-thin women does get tiresome when you’re not in the majority party (guys: we feel for you, we really do). And even if you’ve never thought twice about the way your body looks in yoga (liar! everyone does), everyone knows the feeling of wanting to learn in a comfortable, safe environment (hence the popularity of women-only surf camps and other demographically exclusive activities and classes).
I’m not overweight, and I usually find a way to rise above my pangs of jealousy when I find myself seated next to a model in yoga class (or maybe that’s just because I’m trying so damn hard not to fall on the ground next to her), but even I want in on a less body-conscious yoga class. While Buddha Body’s classes aren’t all about body image — the students are emphatic about needing a teacher who’s more familiar with what their bodies can and can’t do — I do think that more teachers and studios could benefit from fostering an attitude that’s more accepting of different body types and abilities. “Open” classes should be open to all kinds of yogis, not just the ones who are skinny.
Would you feel more comfortable doing yoga at Buddha Body’s classes for curvy students? Tell us what you think in the comments section, below:
(Photo: New York Times/Buddha Body)