6 best yoga poses for bigger bodies
When you’re in the zone in a yoga class, you’re completely focused on adjusting the instructor’s directions and transitioning from one pose to the next as smoothly as possible. But often, yoga instructors may not include modifications that fit your specific needs—whether you have very narrow thighs, limited range of motion, or if you live with a larger body. A person with a larger stomach, for example, may find that their midsection gets in the way when trying to do a forward fold, and people with large chests may find it uncomfortable or inaccessible to cross their arms in Eagle pose.
However, smart modifications and some helpful props can make common poses accessible to yogis of all sizes and body shapes, he says. Maria Odogba, a NASM-certified personal trainer, corrective exercise therapist, and stretching and flexibility specialist. “There’s always a way to do something when it comes to yoga,” she says. TL; DR: You belong on your yoga mat, just as you are—and there are plenty of ways to make the practice fit your needs.
Here, learn more about modifying yoga poses for larger bodies, plus the best yoga poses for larger bodies, explained by Odugba.
Benefits of modified yoga poses
While you may feel a creep of self-doubt when adjusting yoga poses (especially if you’re in a class IRL and you’re the only one making the adjustments), tailoring your yoga practice to your unique needs helps you make the most of your time on the mat. Adjusting certain postures or asanas (also known as asanas) allows you to accommodate any injuries, muscular imbalances, or narrow. For example, if you’re dealing with a strained calf, modifying Downward Dog by bending your knees can reduce the severity of the pose and make it more accessible.
Likewise, modifying yoga poses allows you to respect how your body feels that day. With yoga modifications to level up, you can Add some heat to your practice and building muscle strength. Or, if you start a fast-paced vinyasa class and quickly find that you’re not responding to a challenge, you can take your asanas down a notch to keep moving and flowing without overdoing it.
For people with larger bodies specifically, knowing how to modify yoga poses may help you feel more confident and comfortable with a regular yoga practice. Instructors may not know how to make adjustments for larger yogis or understand the unique needs of having a bigger stomach, chest, or butt. By understanding the options available to you, you can feel empowered to take control of your yoga practice—even if it means stepping away from what the instructor is doing. And that sense of independence and ownership is key to making yoga a regular part of your routine if that’s something you’re working towards.
The best tips for modifying yoga poses for larger bodies
First, know this: While these modifications are suggested for people with larger bodies, they’re also available to yogis All Sizes that want to adjust their positions slightly for comfort, accessibility, or versatility. Additionally, no two bodies are the same; A person with larger breasts will benefit from different modifications than someone with a curvier butt. Your practice is entirely yours, and you deserve a yoga routine that feels good.
Odogpa says that people of larger bodies may find common yoga props especially helpful when it comes to adjusting poses. In particular, she recommends using blocks, a belt, and a cushion or bolster. “Blocks allow you to bring the floor to you, versus having to hit the floor,” she explains. “Movement and flexibility aren’t always there, so blocks keep you more comfortable without feeling any stress.” Likewise, a bar can be useful if a large chest or abdomen is preventing you from achieving a certain stretch, and pillows help relieve pressure on your knees and butt.
Also, be aware of your form and stance while adjusting. “For example, a person with larger breasts may be more likely to be bent,” Odogba advises. In those instances, you must remember to arch your shoulder blades back and expand your chest. You may also benefit from physically re-aligning your belly or adjusting your breasts to create more room, so don’t be afraid to make these adjustments.
Finally, understand that even if you are modifying the asana, you will still be getting the essential benefits of the pose. Even if you change your attitude and position [body parts]You’ll generally get the same benefit,” Odogba says.[The pose] It may not look the same or the stretch may not be as deep, but you’ll still get the benefit.”
6 best yoga poses for bigger bodies
While practicing these poses, focus on taking deep, deliberate breaths while relaxing in each pose. You will need 2 yoga blocks and 1 yoga strap (pillow or stand optional).
How to add the best yoga poses for bigger bodies to your workouts: The poses below are all common yoga poses that appear in a variety of yoga practices. Use these modifications throughout your practice as needed.
Are you ready for your yoga practice? Here, Odugba demonstrates the best yoga poses for larger bodies.
The cow cat with hands on the blocks
Why it works: Placing the blocks under your hands allows you to lift the floor up a few inches. “This way, you can focus on rounding the back rather than straining your neck to get relief,” says Odogba. Focus on your upper back while doing this stretch, and open your glutes and chest with the added height of the yoga blocks.
a. Start in a tabletop position with wrists under shoulders, knees under hips, and hands placed flat on top of the yoga blocks.
B. On an inhale, drop belly button toward floor, arching back and extending head and tailbone toward ceiling.
c. On an exhalation, press into the floor with hands and knees and gently roll spine up to ceiling, dropping head and tailbone toward floor.
Downward dog with hands on a chair
Why it works: The chair gives you two level options for raising your hands: resting your hands on the seat of the chair (as shown) or resting your hands on the back of the chair. You can also place your hands on blocks on the floor. “The important thing for me is that this adjustment helps reduce stress on your wrists,” Odogba says. “It’s not always comfortable to put all of your body weight into your wrists, so using a chair relieves a lot of the wrist pain anyone can experience.”
a. Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart and a chair about 3 feet in front of you with the seat closest to you.
B. Hinge forward at the hips and place hands on chair seat, arms long, biceps framing ears, knees under hips. Spread your fingers wide, engage your core, and straighten the legs as far as is comfortable.
c. Hold this position, keeping shoulders away from ears and back flat.
Low lunge with blocks
Why it works: This simple low-impulse mod works in three ways. “If you can’t put your hands on the ground [during a low lunge]There’s a lot of pressure on your back knee, and the heavier you are, the harder it is,” says Odogba. In addition, many people with larger bodies have knee problems, so using blocks as a base can help reduce Pain.Finally, having a larger stomach or chest can get in the way of your knee during a low lunge—so blocks help you lift and create space.
a. Start in a long kneeling position with two yoga blocks in front of you near the outer edge of the mat. Step right foot forward between yoga blocks and keep left leg back, left knee pressing into the mat.
B. Exhale, shift forward, and bend deeper into the right knee, feeling a stretch in the left hip joint. Place each hand on one yoga block at any height, adjusting so that the shoulders are stacked directly over the wrists.
Pigeon with hip support
Why it works: The potty can be a very difficult position for anyone, and people with larger bodies may have difficulty with their stomachs getting in the way of their chest when they lean forward into the position. “Usually my hips are very tight, and using a block alleviates the severe stretching that a shower can cause,” says Odogba. “Using a brace also helps relieve knee pain and relieve pressure on the ankles.”
a. Start in a tabletop position on the floor with the hands directly under the shoulders and the knees under the hips. Walk your hands a few inches forward and spread your fingers wide, palms pressed into the mat.
B. Tuck the toes under and slowly raise the hips toward the ceiling, making the body in an inverted “V” shape, with the shoulders pressed away from the ears. Feet should be hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
c. Bend the left leg on the floor directly behind the hands, while simultaneously dropping the right knee to the floor. Place the left knee behind the left wrist and the toes of the left foot behind the right wrist.
Dr.. Lower butt on the floor, keeping right leg fully extended behind body and resting on top of right foot on floor. Lift your hands off the floor so that only the fingertips are touching the floor, and place a yoga block (the wide side of the block on the floor) under your left hip for support. The right hand, the toes of the left foot, and the right leg should be aligned.
E. Lift the left hand off the ground and rest the palm on the left thigh. Hold the position, staring forward and keeping the spine lengthened and the pelvis centered.
Stretch the hamstrings with the belt
Why it works: This hamstring stretch is often a problem for people with larger bodies, as having a stomach can make it difficult to grip your leg as this position requires. Instead, use a strap around the sole of your foot, suggests Odugba. “Putting your foot into the strap and pulling back makes this position easier,” she explains. You can also alternate a straight leg with a bent knee, which “allows your body to mold around your leg,” she says.
a. Lie on your back with your legs extended. Place a belt or towel around the arch of the left foot.
B. Slowly raise the left foot toward the ceiling keeping the knee straight while the right leg and hip maintain contact with the floor. Keep the upper body relaxed with arms flat on the floor and elbows bent.
c. Instead, wrap the strap around each hand a few more times to get a shorter strap. Pull left knee toward chest, lifting neck and shoulders off the floor if comfortable.
Baby pose with block
Why it works: Using the block under your forehead instead of resting your forehead on the floor takes pressure off your neck, Odogba says. In addition, “when your arms are straight in yoga poses, you may feel tightness in your back and back muscles due to your body weight.” Elevating your forehead relieves tension in your neck and upper back. For extra restoration, add more pillows or bolsters until your head rests comfortably at the same height as your hips; This adjustment is particularly useful for those with limited shoulder or knee flexibility.
a. Start in a tabletop position with the hands directly under the shoulders and the knees under the hips.
B. Keeping your palms on the floor and arms extended, then pull your butt into your heels and bring your forehead to rest on the yoga block.
c. Lower the chest as close to the knees as is comfortable, keeping the butt back and down so that the hips don’t go up in the air.