Michael Hayes started Buddha Body Yoga in Union Square for heavy-set people …
I was browsing through yoga websites admiring how incredibly amazing our bodies work and the thought came to mind, “what would I say to myself if I didn’t know what yoga was about and saw this photos?” Well, my knee jerk reaction is, “What the heck am I doing on this site? There is no way I will ever look like that much less get my body to fold, bend and twist like that.” True. You are absolutely right. Perhaps we will never do a headstand or a backbend or much less go into lotus. That is precisely the beauty of yoga. It is about challenging your strengths and honoring your limitations -and we all have them-.
For example, I am only 5’2 and of medium built. I watch my yoga instructors and other students go into these intrinsic bound poses and no matter how much yoga I do and have done, I will never be able to do them because quite simply, my arms aren’t long enough. They never were or will be. My solution: yoga blocks and belts. Yes, I know what you are thinking. These are props for beginners or people who can’t quite do the pose and I don’t want to embarrass myself in front of others. That is the mistake and mindset that keeps most people from doing yoga.
Yoga is NOT a competitive sport!!! It’s one of the few things we can do that is about us and us alone. It is about knowing where you are, where you want to go and whether there are any limitations to getting there. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing (which isn’t usually the case because we tend to focus only on those people who we feel are physically gifted), it’s only about you.
On the flip side, in my experience as a yoga instructor, we always have a strength. So perhaps you don’t have a whole lot of upper body strength, but you are really flexible (I have found that to often be the case). It’s so exciting to see a student who is struggling to get or stay in a pose (or asana) and then see them ease into the next asana quite effortlessly. A word here about “struggling”…don’t. Very often when we struggle aside from tending to hold our breath, we are not listening to our body. This is a sure way to get injured. For example, bend as low as you can go while exhaling and just watch yourself and listen to your body. Try to hold the pose for 3-5 breaths while breathing and then come up on an inhalation. That’s all. Don’t worry about how low you went or how many breaths you took. Once you come up, sit or stand and just breath and allow yourself to scan your body to see what you are feeling. An important thing to remember for everyone who does yoga or is interested in starting. Yoga is NOT about pain! If it hurts, you need to STOP. In my classes and the ones that I take, we are always reminded that it is ok to stop, rest and breath.
In a world of competition and constantly have to prove ourselves and our skills, Yoga is an oasis; a respite that we can take, leaving our day at the door and taking time to bring our attention inward to find out what we are feeling and be grateful for being alive.