Yoga for Bigger Bodies a Hit

A class at Fat Yoga in Portland, Oregon.


A new studio in Portland, Oregon, is getting a lot of attention for its bold statement against the accepted belief that yoga is for thin people. Fat Yoga studio owner Anna Ipox says that the name of her business is a social statement, meant to ease the stigma around the word “fat.”

“There’s a responsibility as a fit woman of size to be visible and challenge those stereotypes,” Ipox told KPTV Portland.

She also wants anyone who has felt intimidated to try yoga because of their body size to know that the practice is for them, too. Fat Yoga classes offer the kinds of modifications and adjustments to poses and sequences that Ipox says she wishes she had had earlier on in her yoga practice.

“Child’s Pose is impossible of you have belly fat or thick thighs,” she says. “[Teachers who aren’t trained to work with this population] just have no idea what it is to have a big body. I remember teachers pushing on my hips to make it happen. It’s not a flexibility thing and I couldn’t articulate any of that.”

While the “gotcha” name Fat Yoga may be pushing public awareness to a new level, Ipox’s classes are just the latest in what’s been an steady climb in interest for yoga bigger bodies—and for teacher training programs for working with larger students.

“For years all I’ve wanted to do is change the image of yoga. As you can tell, it’s finally really happening,” said Abby Lentz, who teaches HeavyWeight Yoga in Austin. “Now what I want to do is make yoga more accessible, especially to larger, obese bodies.”

Lentz designed a Heavyweight Yoga teacher training program, which launches later this month, in response to daily emails from people inquiring if there were any classes like hers in other places in the country.

Nashville-based Curvy Yoga has seen a shift in interest recently, too. As more students ask for Curvy Yoga classes, more teachers are asking for additional training, said founder Anna Guest-Jelley. Since she began offering the Curvy Yoga certification for teachers early last year, 50 teachers have gone through the program from the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Iceland.

Yoga for Round Bodies founder Tiina Veer, who teaches in Toronto, said she feels called to train as many teachers as possible. “It’s my dream to see these special classes available in communities everywhere,” she said.