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Helping Overweight Students

I do my best to encourage overweight students to keep up with their yoga practice. More often than not, however, they stop coming after a few classes. Recently, I've had a regular student who is approximately 100 pounds overweight. Shoulderstand is proving to be a challenge, as her legs won't go past her big belly. I am a little nervous about her straining her neck with all her weight. However, while the class is doing Shoulderstand and Headstand, she courageously tries to join in. How can I tactfully make class safer for her?

When the student has tight hamstrings or lower back issues, it is difficult to bring the feet over the head into Halasana. The pose is more accessible if we use a chair or the wall.

For the student that you are describing, teach Halasana on at least two blankets, with feet against the wall. Place the blankets far enough away from the wall so that, when coming into Halasana, the feet are supported against the wall. If you have a Halasana bench, all the better. With the feet on the wall, it will be easier to get up onto the shoulders and set up the foundation of the pose, because you will have taken some of the work away from the hamstrings and lower back. It will become much more possible to create the lift needed out of the shoulders to be safe in the pose.

Maty Ezraty is co-creator of the first two Yoga Works yoga studios in Santa Monica, California. A former YJ Asana columnist, she travels around the world leading teacher trainings, workshops, and yoga retreats.

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