We began the Yoga for the Larger Woman class in 2005, convinced that yoga can be for every body. This was not exactly a common message at the time to judge by the look of most fitness or yoga magazines. No wonder that many women “of size” could not imagine that yoga could be for them. As one of our students has put it: “As a larger woman I thought for many years I could never do anything like yoga.” We were not surprised that, to begin with, classes had few takers. But as the few continued to attend and began to appreciate how yoga could benefit each in her own way – look at the comments in Class Reviews – they began to talk to others. And as friends brought friends, neighbors invited neighbors, colleagues spoke with colleagues, the numbers grew. And with this the sense of community also grew: women supporting women in something new. Eventually we needed to add a second class . . . and then a third . . . and now we have this website, for and by larger women doing yoga.
Once while back visiting Lithuania, now more than a decade ago, my father asked me if I would teach a yoga class for “worn out [susidevejusiems] old folks like me and your mom.” We cleared out the living room; my father rounded up a couple of village neighbors; and I taught my first class of yoga for seniors. In retrospect, I see this as the beginning of Yoga for the Larger Woman.
On returning home, I initiated classes at two nearby retirement centers. “Yoga Mat” was for those who could get down to the floor and up again. “Yoga Chair” was for those who could not. See photos of seniors here. The classes continued for two years, and I consider them one of my best “teacher training” experiences ever. I wanted my students to avoid slouching while watching TV; they taught me how to respect the body’s abilities without asking too much. I encouraged them to challenge themselves in a pose; they taught me to laugh if the “challenge” part didn’t go so well. I asked them to breathe “properly”; they reminded me that any breath is better than none at all. Their calm presence slowed me down, and through it all we laughed a lot. Plus, being presented with a variety of bodies and a wide range of capabilities encouraged creativity on my part. I very much wanted to offer yoga that was accessible and enjoyable to every one of them.
“Motion is lotion,” one of my senior students would repeat every class. I heard her. And I want everyone in our Larger Woman classes to have plenty of it.
Vilma is director of The Yoga Projectand the founder of Yoga for the Larger Woman Program, now in its ninth year. She is a certified yoga instructor (RTY 500) with twelve years experience teaching special needs classes. These have included yoga for seniors in a retirement home setting, teaching in a women’s prison, and working individually with cancer patients and physically challenged teenagers. Her teaching style is appropriately challenging for any fitness level. And her distinctive imagery and humor make the challenge welcome and inviting.
Read more about Vilma
See on yogaforthelargerwoman.com