When I started studying Yoga, I was always the most “well-rounded” person in the room. My Yoga teachers were, without exception, slender, graceful, soft-spoken, and flexible. I, on the other hand, was beefy, athletic, and loud. Even though I was as flexible as everyone else, it was clear I was of a different body type. Surprisingly, though, it didn't bother me! The benefits of Yoga class far exceeded any embarrassment I may have had.
I was used to being different. I grew up getting criticized for being fat by my mother, who never had a weight problem, and ridiculed by my brother, who liked to call me “Fattie Pattie”--the name of a pop song from the 1950's. My father was more understanding because my body fit the template of all his relatives, who were, in the words of the day, “heavy-set.” And I, for some mysterious reason, had a certain obliviousness to the negativity around my size, even as a child. It's not that it didn't hurt to be singled out, even taunted by people of normal weight, but I always had a feeling it was their problem, not mine.
What a gifted mindset. And it really was a gift, a natural grace, rather than something I had to figure out or earn for myself. I just came that way. Similarly, I never had any fear of singing or performing in public, and was the unrivaled choice for star of the kindergarten musical. I still love getting up in front of people and sharing my passions. If I didn’t, I could never have allowed myself to be photographed for this book in revealing positions and outfits!
I stopped going to the gym years ago because I felt so out of place, but I still wanted to stay fit. If you, like me, are a curvy-girl or a hefty-man, you may also be looking for an exercise program that allows you to accept your body as it is right now. It is possible to be fit and fat! In fact, research shows that a healthy person of size has a better chance at longevity than a thinner person who is out of shape.
Big Yoga is a fitness program that offers adaptations to traditional Yoga poses, making them accessible to all people including those challenged by weight, stiffness, age, or disabilities. The simple act of breathing and stretching with mindful awareness--which you’ll learn about later--is the key. In fact, you can even get benefits from a Yoga video simply by watching it with full attention, so imagine how great you'll feel if you actually do it!
There is more to Yoga than just the physical postures, but these poses, traditionally called asanas, provide a good point of entry into the path of health and self-discovery. Big Yoga offers a smorgasbord of different techniques and approaches that appeal to different styles of learning and transformation. As you begin your own Yoga practice, you may find yourself attracted to the exercises, but gradually, you may be drawn toward Yoga’s other, more meditative aspects.
I've been teaching Yoga for over thirty years and have watched my body change with the cycles of life: young and voluptuous, pregnant and plump, post-partum and nursing, struggling to get back in shape, menopausal and cranky. Now, I seem to have settled into older and wiser. I have realized the need to modify my personal practice to bring myself more ease and comfort, to accommodate my own soft curves, and to bring the maximum benefit to my body. Though I am constantly changing, my Yoga practice grounds me in self-care, and my meditations help me to accept the eccentricities of nature.
If you have a body that looks more like mine than, say, Charlize Theron’s, Kelly Rippa’s, or Will Smith’s, then Big Yoga is for you. Its gentle stretches will increase your flexibility and muscle tone. And practicing it regularly will help turn your mind inward to the peace within. This meditative awareness is a powerful tool in reducing stress.
WHAT YOU WILL FIND IN THIS BOOK
Over the thirty-five or so years I've been studying Yoga, I’ve accumulated a vast amount of practical knowledge, hard-won experience, and numerous books, tapes, and CDs. I was privileged to sit at the feet of my own teacher, His Holiness Sri Swami Satchidananda--who we called Swamiji, and later, Gurudev--and humbly listen to his inspiring lectures on the day-to-day application of Yoga philosophy. Swamiji could not only speak on Yoga, he was a living embodiment of the goal of Yoga: to realize the Truth within. Yoga is a deep subject, and I find myself going back to the well time and time again. Hopefully, a little of Swamiji’s spirit has been imparted to me and I, in turn, can share it with you. This book is a refinement of all I have learned, and my hope is that it makes Yoga accessible to everyone.
Part One will ease you into Yoga by giving you some historical background information, as well as some preparatory tips. You will learn about props and equipment that you can buy to assist you with your practice, as well as alternatives that you might already have lying around the house! Additionally, you will learn that everyone encounters stumbling blocks and has days when their motivation is lacking--you are not alone! We all struggle to find the time to take good care of ourselves. However, this book will teach you how to handle and overcome those situations so you can continue on your path toward health.
Part Two is where the Yoga exercises are explained and demonstrated. It starts out with the physical postures (what most people think of when they think of Yoga), and then moves into the deeper Yogic practices of breathing, meditation, service, and devotion. Throughout, you will find a blend of information for beginners, interspersed with more advanced ideas to hold your interest as you become better practiced. Thus, regardless of your ability level, you will find the information you need to be successful.
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
You can use this book in many ways, so choose the one that works best for you. If you're a kinestheticlearner, that is, someone who learns in a physical way, you might want to skip all the preliminary information in Part One and jump right into the physical poses, which are pictured and explained in Part Two. However, if you learn more readily through words and language, you may be more comfortable reading the entire book cover-to-cover first, and then going back to the section on asanas. If you're a visual learner, you may discover that watching Yoga movements on a DVD is easiest for you. If that is the case, I suggest you check out the Big Yoga Hatha One DVD, which offers a gentle adapted Yoga practice that you can do in the privacy of your own home (see page for details), and simply use this book as a supplement.
Regardless of how you use it, though, there is a depth to Yoga that will keep you coming back to this book as your primary resource. It’s all right here! Whether you’re a beginner to Yoga or have tried it in the past (and maybe gotten discouraged), Big Yoga has something for everyone. Incorporating it into your daily routine can truly change your life on many different levels. So, let’s get started!