OK, we know, QG WD writers are kinda’ hooked yoga (we promise to post this month on running, cycling and other fitness stuff) but it’s so darn amazing for toning and stretching, and the statistics for stress reduction, blood pressure reduction, calming the mind and basically getting you a much happier zone, yoga is a great health alternative for curvy, and fuller figured gals who want to stay in shape but are not interested in beating up their bodies with more aggressive forms of exercise. Some plus size gals have injuries or health-related reasons a more high impact fitness choice is not good for them… in comes the Curvy Yoga! Co-founder Anna Guest-Jelley has taken the concept and practice of yoga and is sharing it in a brilliant way for all the women who want the benefits but not the pressure of the traditional yoga studio environment. Anna is based in Nashville, Tennessee and QG discovered her recently doing what she does best – empowering women to get on the mat and feel amazing about themselves. As quoted from Anna’s website, “Curvy Yoga is for those of us who are looking for a body lovin’ yoga practice, regardless of our shape, size or ability. It was born out of my personal practice but has spread far beyond.”
Queen Grace Weekly Dish is so pleased to share our exclusive Q&A with Anna – you can read all her insights and enjoy through the month of March, special incentives for all our QG fans and readers courtesy of Curvy Yoga (details at the close of the interview). Let’s begin…
QG) What is “plus size” or “curvy” yoga?
AGJ) Curvy Yoga is body positive yoga for people of all shapes and sizes.
QG) How is curvy yoga different from traditional yoga styles?
AGJ) Curvy Yoga utilizes many of the same poses from Hatha yoga (a common style you’re likely to run into at any local yoga class). The difference is that the poses and sequences are adapted specifically for people with bigger bodies. Unfortunately, yoga gets the reputation that only young, thin, highly flexible people can do it. Curvy Yoga is out to set the record straight about that – that yoga is actually accessible, enjoyable and beneficial for every body.
QG) What inspired you to start yoga and open Curvy Yoga?
AGJ) I started practicing yoga 13 years ago on my own at home. There was plenty I couldn’t do in the VHS tapes I’d gotten from the library, but there was something about yoga – connecting my breath and my movement – that I really loved. As I slowly ventured out to class, I kept having this feeling that I could never quite “get” yoga because I hadn’t yet lost x amount of weight. I figured that, when that happened, I would finally be able to enjoy yoga.
This was all happening concurrently to me beginning to recover from disordered eating. So as these two processes unfolded, it finally occurred to me that my yoga problem wasn’t my body – it was just that my teachers hadn’t been trained how to teach me. That’s when I developed a passion for learning everything I could about how to create yoga that worked for me. From there, I became a yoga teacher and have been learning ever since how to do the same for my students.
QG) Have you always been a “curvy girl?” Have you always been into fitness?
AGJ) I have always been a curvy girl, but I have not always been into fitness. Well, I wouldn’t say I wasn’t into it necessarily. Instead, I just hadn’t really found a form of movement that I really enjoyed, and to me, that’s what fitness is all about – moving your body in a way that feels good to you. It doesn’t all have to be about the treadmill (unless you love that, then more power to you!).
QG) In regard to health, how is curvy yoga good for plus size women?
AGJ) Curvy Yoga, and yoga in general, is healthy for many reasons – reduced stress, better mind/body connection, lower blood pressure, etc. There are more and more studies coming out detailing all the many ways that yoga benefits you, so I encourage anyone who is interested to learn more about that (I could never list all the benefits here; there are too many!). Particularly for curvy women, Curvy Yoga is an accessible way to move your body and develop both strength and flexibility. It’s been designed with the health and joy of curvy women in mind.
QG) Are there any things that curvy women should avoid when starting yoga?
AGJ) My advice is to listen to your own body as best you’re able. I think many of us have a temptation to really just go for it and do all the poses on the very first day, even if our body is telling us that’s probably not a good idea. Then the next day, when we’re in pain, we think “Oh, yoga’s not for me,” and we stop. If you listen to your body, though, you will be able to find your personal edge – that balance between effort and ease. And that’s really what yoga is all about.
If folks are starting in a class in their local area, I recommend calling ahead and/or talking with the teacher before class to get a sense of their expertise in teaching curvy people. If you find a teacher who isn’t a good fit for you, keep trying. Sometimes it just takes a little while to find a teacher who you like.
If you’re wanting to get started on your own at home, you can check out some of my videos and podcasts. I also offer private sessions via Skype for people who want individualized instruction (which is often a good idea when you’re first getting started so that you can build a practice that is safe for your unique body).
QG) We live incredibly stressful lives these days, can you tell our QG readers how yoga eliminates stress?
AGJ) I wouldn’t say that yoga eliminates stress; stress shows up in all of our lives. But I would say that yoga helps you cope with your stress more effectively. It does that in a variety of ways, primarily through activating your parasympathetic nervous system. That’s the one that deals with recovery and healing.
Yoga also helps you connect with your breath and body and begin listening to both. As you develop the skills to do that, you create more awareness of your own body so that, when you’re stressed, you might realize it sooner and be able to take even just a few minutes to do some slow breathing. It sounds simple, but the effects are profound.
AGJ) I tell them I’m right there with them! I know that’s true for many people in general, especially curvy people. This is why getting started at home can be so beautiful; you can become more comfortable with yoga before venturing out to class. Ultimately, though, it’s good to work with a teacher in some capacity so you can make sure you’re practicing safely. When going to a new class, I recommend doing what I said above – talking with the teacher to make sure they’re welcoming. If you can get a friend to come along, that’s also great!
QG) Do you have a favorite pose?
AGJ) It’s hard to say! But I do love the restorative yoga poses, like reclining bound angle pose. Pop into this for a few minutes, and you come out feeling very refreshed!
QG) What are your plans for 2012?
AGJ) This year is all about making more and more options available for people to try Curvy Yoga. Here are some things people might be interested in checking out:
• My online videos on YogaVibes; I have two 45-minute practices here. If your readers use the code “Curvy20,” they can save 20% on their purchase!
• Free podcasts; I have three 60-minute practices available, as well as a variety of shorter tips for various poses.
• If there are any yoga teachers reading, I also just started offering Curvy Yoga Certification. I have a vision for Curvy Yoga all over the world so that more and more people can try and fall in love with yoga!
• I also co-teach a class with the wonderful Marianne Elliott called 30 Days of Curvy Yoga. This course is designed for people who want to create a home yoga practice that works for them. We just finished a course, and we’re not sure yet when we’ll be offering it again. But if you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll be in the loop.
• People can also always catch up with me on my website (where I have a blog about yoga, body positivity and everything in between), Facebook and Twitter.
QG) If you could tell someone one thing that would leave them with the best impression about yoga what would that be?
AGJ) That yoga really is for every body, including yours! Give it a try in a welcoming environment and see what it can do for you!
QGED found this one particularly inspirational, “The 30 days of Curvy Yoga has been an amazing and life changing event in my life. I was at a place in my life where I needed to do something different and risky for me, this was my risk. I am a six foot tall woman who is over 200 lbs. I don’t feel very comfortable in my body most days, but when doing the Curvy Yoga with Anna and Marianne, I was blown away at what my body can do, and what I can when I allow myself to enjoy the peace and love of my body and what it is capable of, I am so grateful and humbled by this class and I have continued to practice and hold my poses longer and with more stillness. Thank you!” – Gabriella Moonlight
So great, right? QG WD knew you’d enjoy this Q&A and to make it ever sweeter, Curvy Yoga is sharing with our Queen Grace fans and readers a special incentive; enter here on the Queen Grace Weekly Dish to win 3 FREE MONTHS of Anna’s Curvy Yoga classes on YogaVibes! That’s so right, QG is truly excited to share this amazing curvy fitness option to our fans that we are giving you 3 MONTHS OF YOGA FREE!
Here’s what you do; in the comment section BELOW, answer the question, “what inspires me to start my own curvy yoga practice at home?” You’ll be prompted to “like” Curvy Yoga on Anna’s Facebook page and to “@tag” and post “Queen Grace Weekly Dish sent me” to be in the contest. This QG event will run for two weeks only, so get your comments and your posts in – 3 months of yoga FREE – now that’s something you can down dog to! QD WD is so grateful for Anna’s time and we will look for all the amazing news and developments coming to Curvy Yoga in 2012.
Note; at the close of the “3 Months of Curvy Yoga Free” giveaway, Queen Grace Weekly Dish Content Manager will select ONE winner and contact them directly with redemption details and instructions.