Body Positive Yoga and PCOS

Body positive yoga

All bodies are yoga bodies. Photo courtesy of Lydia Mann, Flickr Creative Commons.

Why Body Positive Yoga Matters

I wish I could write that all yoga programs are welcoming to all body shapes and sizes. The reality is, though, that many yoga programs cater to a thin body standard and narrow view of what constitutes health and wellness. And sometimes they do not offer the modifications or recommendations that help make all yoga poses comfortably accessible to larger bodies. Or they over-emphasize poses and, however well-intentioned, single out larger students for special assistance or treatment even if none is needed or desired. In short, not everyone feels comfortable in a conventional yoga class. If these words resonate with you, please read on:

Body Positive Yoga: recommended event and resources

As a body positive naturopathic physician, I want all my patients have access to yoga instructors whose teaching caters to their mind, body and spirit as they are, not as they should be. And when it comes to instruction and personal practice, nothing quite compares to being able to see a body that looks like your body do yoga.

This is why I am delighted to tell you about an upcoming event with body positive yoga instructor and author Jessamyn Stanley at the Seattle Central Library on April 21 from 7 – 8:30 pm. She will be discussing her body positive approach to yoga and her new book “Every Body Yoga”

“Jessamyn Stanley is known for combining a deep understanding of yoga with a willingness to share her personal struggles. Now she brings her body-positive, emotionally uplifting approach in a book that will help every reader discover the power of yoga. Jessamyn will appear in conversation with local writer and yoga instructor Nicole Tsong.

As an internationally recognized yoga teacher and Instagram star, Jessamyn Stanley conducts yoga workshops across the country, teaching students of all shapes, sizes, and colors how to make yoga a permanent part of their lives.”

If you have ever wondered whether yoga is for you, or if you have ever wanted to try a yoga class but were worried that you wouldn’t fit in or feel comfortable participating, please check out Jessamyn’s website and go see her speak in Seattle.

Where to find in-person or online body positive yoga instruction:

A benefit of living in or near Seattle is that we have some great body positive yoga studios for in-person classes and instruction. A benefit of the internet age is that it is increasingly easy to start a home yoga practice. Yoga instructors from around the world offer online videos and tutorials, many of them free or available by monthly subscription.

Here are several resources to get you started:

  • Whole Life Yoga: a Seattle-based body positive yoga studio located in the Greenwood neighborhood. They have drop in classes 7 days a week and regularly offers a Yoga for Round Bodies series of 4-6 classes.
  • Tiger Lily Yoga: a Seattle-based yoga body positive yoga studio located in the Columbia City neighborhood. They offer in-person classes 7 days a week, including pay-what-you-can donation based classes.
  • Curvy Yoga: online yoga videos that are searchable by length, energy level, pose type and body part. Free and paid memberships are available.
  • Body Positive Yoga: online yoga classes, tutorials for pose modifications. She also offers helpful advice for other yoga instructors on how to incorporate body positive language into their instruction and how to present pose modifications that keep students safe and prevent injury.

For writing on body positive yoga, I highly recommend Vancouver, BC-based Lisa Papez’s blog and manifesto. I took a workshop from her at the 2013 Realize Your Radiance conference in Seattle and was so inspired by her approach and instruction.

If you are a body positive yoga instructor or know of body positive yoga resources in Seattle or the Eastside, I would love to know about them!

Yoga, Body Positivity and PCOS:

80% of women with PCOS experience hormonal and metabolic dysregulation that leads to insulin resistance and weight gain, which can be closely tied to experiences of body dysmorphia, a challenging relationship with body image and anxiety.

A 2012 study of adolescents with PCOS showed that a 12 week holistic yoga program was better for reducing anxiety than a traditional physical exercise program. The teenage girls recruited for this study practiced yoga and meditation for 1 hour per day for 12 weeks, while their study counterparts in the control group participated in a 1 hour daily of traditional exercise (e.g. leg lifts and crunches) and group lectures on healthy diet and lifestyle. Researchers believe that the benefit that yoga had for reducing symptoms of anxiety was both neurological, by reducing activity of the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous system, as well as psychological by enhancing mindfulness and stress resilience.

This same group of teenage girls with PCOS was also seen to have better glucose metabolism, measured by fasting insulin and fasting glucose, and lower cholesterol levels than their counterparts in traditional exercise programs.

About the author:

Hello, I’m Miranda Marti, ND, LAc, a body positive naturopathic physician and acupuncturist specializing in the holistic treatment of PCOS. I started doing yoga to support my stress resilience and stabilize my neck and back muscles to help alleviate my migraine headaches. What began as a very goal-oriented experiment (wildly successful, btw) with yoga has blossomed into a regular, self-sustaining practice.

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