One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is how to find a curvy friendly yoga class. Most of these questions start off with “I really wish you lived in fill in the blank town so I could come to your class.”
Well; me, too! That would be awesome!
But since my cloning experiment hasn’t really gotten off the ground yet, I usually respond with one of two things.
The first is to check out the list of Curvy Yoga certified teachers on my website (as well as other size positive teachers I know of around the world). There may just be someone in your area!
And the second (until we get a certified Curvy Yoga teacher in every town, which is definitely my goal) is how to find a teacher you like.
So let’s begin, shall we?
Do a Need Inventory
A great place to start is to figure out what your needs are. Take some time to do a thorough assessment; needs you weren’t expecting may emerge if you give it some time. I’ll assume that you’re looking for someone who is welcoming of curvy folks, so there’s one need. Depending on your unique circumstances, others may include ability to work with beginners, someone who can help you accommodate a particular injury/illness, friendliness and/or whatever other things you’re looking for.
With your need list in hand, you can begin researching. Of course, Google is a helpful friend for this task. Spend some time searching things like “yoga” and the name of your town. Scan the websites and read reviews, but hold it all lightly enough for your gut instinct to emerge. Just because a teacher is beloved by some people doesn’t mean she’s right for you. And vice versa, just because some people don’t like a particular teacher doesn’t mean you won’t.
In addition, be creative about where you look. Of course, yoga studios are a natural place to find yoga teachers. But yoga teachers abound these days, so you can also look at community centers, libraries, parks, schools, gyms, churches and any other place you think may offer yoga. If is often (although not always; there’s no way to generalize) the case that welcoming teachers are in these less obvious settings.
While the number of curvy friendly yoga teachers continues to grow, there is still a dearth of us in most areas. So instead of looking for a Curvy Yoga class, here are some other possible key words to look for if you are new to yoga: yoga for every body, gentle, accessible, welcoming, hatha, slow flow, beginners, etc. If you prefer a faster-paced class, you’re likely to find words like vinyasa or flow. Any paced class can be a good fit for a curvy practitioner, depending on the needs list you determined earlier (although if you’re brand new I usually recommend a slower pace at first just so you can get a hang of the poses and have more opportunities to ask questions).
Talk with Friends
Odds are fairly good that you know someone who practices yoga — even if indirectly. Word of mouth is a great way to find a yoga teacher. So begin asking around for recommendations. Again, just because someone comes recommended doesn’t mean you’ll connect with them (because the person you ask may have a really different need list than you). But a review from someone you trust is often more relevant than one you find online. In addition, you can ask them questions about the style of the teacher and class to get a better sense of what might be a good fit for you.
Connect with Teachers
I encourage you to gather a list of at least 3 potential teachers whose classes you’d like to try. Once you have their name and contact info, connect with them by phone or email. I love hearing from new students before they come to class; it is a great way to get to know them better and assuage any potential fears. So when you get in touch, be sure to let them know any questions/concerns you have. Here are a few you might consider (feel free to just copy/paste these into your email if you’d like):
- What props are available in your class, and when/how do you incorporate them? (If a teacher uses props in her class, it gives me a clue that she is at least somewhat knowledgeable about adapting poses to her students’ needs.)
- Should I be prepared to come up with my own modifications in class, or do you offer some? (This gives the teacher a clue that you will want/need modifications and will also give you a chance to hear more about the teacher’s thoughts on it.)
- What is your experience teaching curvy-bodied students? (It’s useful to hear that a teacher has taught curvy-bodied students in the past. If they say they don’t have much experience but do have experience modifying poses for a number of different injuries, abilities, ages, etc. then that is a good sign that they can help you come up with creative solutions. Although experience with curvy bodies is obviously ideal, I think the most important thing is that the teacher has a spirit of willingness to help you find what works for you in a non-judgmental atmosphere).
How they respond (hopefully helpfully and promptly) will give you more insight into whether or not you connect with them. And when you show up in class, they will already know of you (just be sure to remind them — “I’m Anna. We emailed the other day about class.”), which makes things more comfortable for both of you.
Snag a Buddy
It’s always less stressful to try something new with a friend in tow, isn’t it? As you’re deciding some classes to try, chat up the possibility with your friends. People are often game to try things like this — especially since they can go with you (and you’ve already done the legwork!). So if having a friend with you would make you feel more comfortable, by all means make it a date!
Begin Your Yogaxperiment
Just like finding a new hair stylist or massage therapist, you don’t always (or even often) find the right teacher/class on the first try. So grab an attitude of curiosity and go try out three classes. Aim to try ones at times that fit your schedule so you could go back if you like the class. And so long as you don’t hate the class, consider trying it 2-3 times before making a final decision. Yoga teachers are like the rest of us; some days are more “on” than others, so it’s good to give them a fair shake.
It often happens in a new class that there is at least one thing you didn’t “get” or wanted more information about. It can feel scary sometimes to ask about this, but I definitely encourage you to try anyway. Teachers usually love helping you figure out what is right for you, so if you have a follow-up question, ask! This is also a wonderful way to continue connecting and building a relationship with the teacher.
If you have lots of questions and/or need some in-depth help, ask the teacher if she offers private sessions. This is a great way to get what you need in a concentrated dose as well as respect the teacher’s time after class. You’ll pay more than you would for a group class, but often just a few private sessions can move you further along in your individual practice than months of group classes because you’re getting exactly the information that you need to be empowered in moving forward.
Do a Gut Check
As your foray into classes continues, don’t forget the most important step: checking in to see what your intuition is telling you. It won’t lead you astray. So if you get a weird vibe but aren’t convinced what it was about (as often happens because many of us doubt our first instinct), by all means double check it and try the class again. But if it persists, trust your feeling. You want to find a yoga class where you feel as comfortable and accepted as possible; it’s worth the time to find a class where that li’l inner voice isn’t telling you something isn’t right.
Hopefully these steps have found you a class you love! If not, though, it’s time to reassess. There are several options here. If you like the teacher but the class wasn’t quite right, get in touch with him/her and let them know what you’re looking for. Many teachers offer several different styles of classes, so you may just have not found the right class yet. If the teachers aren’t a good fit, go back through the research steps above and find a few more to try out.
Happy practicing! And if you have any other tips, please do leave them below!