We know it, yoga is for every body. Tall, short, female, male, thick, thin, everyone. But sometimes it can feel like it's only for a specific group of people, the ones already flexible and sporty, and the ones without significant physical limitations.
Our bodies are different, inside and out. Bones are built differently, and this affects the way we can be in a pose. The ratio of legs, hands and torso is slightly different for everyone, again influencing what we can do on our mat.
And then there's the outer layer and the weight we carry, and it depends on the body type where the weight concentrates. If you happen to have more bodyweight in the belly, here are some examples and tips on how you can easily modify yoga poses for your body.
Balasana – Child's pose
The popular Child's pose comes back in every yoga class, and usually this is meant to be a restorative and easy pose. But it can get less easy if you have a belly blocking your fold.
How to modify: Open the knees wider, enough so that you can fold forward leaning your belly between the legs.
Move your ankles wider also, so you are not ending up in a hip-opening pose. Instead of trying to place the head on the floor, you can fold your hands and rest your forehead on your hands.
Or take a block or a pillow to support your head. If your legs are feeling uncomfortable, or your hips are too far from your heels, you can place a pillow or bolster between your hips and legs. This will make it more comfortable on the legs as well.
Uttanasana – Standing Forward Bend
Another pose that often comes back several times during a yoga class is the Standing forward bend. When we fold forward, the stomach gets pressed and might make the pose uncomfortable.
How to modify: With forward bends, whether standing or seated, it can already be very helpful to have your legs wider to accommodate the belly. So instead of standing with feet together or hip width apart, start with a stance slightly wider than the hips. Have two blocks ready in front, placing them first to the highest stance.
Start with inhaling your arms up, and while exhaling fold forward from the hips. Place your hands on the blocks so you create also more room for the torso. Keep the back straight, and modify the length of the blocks depending on how deep you can fold.
Ardha Matsyasana – Half Lord of the Fishes pose
This seated twist can become too daunting and uncomfortable without moderation. When the belly is pressed, the back tends to round to give more space to breathe, and the alignment can be lost.
How to modify: Start with sitting in Dandasana, legs straight. You can keep your right leg straight, and place your left foot on the ground, bending the knee as much as it is possible and comfortable.
Your left foot is likely going to be closer to your ankle than to your hips. Instead of placing the left foot over the right knee, you can keep it on its own side. Make sure to keep your spine and neck straight so that you are not leaning too much backwards.
With an inhale, take your left hand up, and with an exhale place it on the floor behind you. Take the right hand on the left knee, and twist from your navel, rib cage and shoulders, finally turning the head back. Keep the knee as far as you need to twist while being comfortable.
Remember, anything you do on your yoga mat is for you, and you alone. Not for the teacher nor for the student next to you. Get to know your body, and modify the poses when it's necessary. There is no right magical physical formula that we need to aspire to, we're just using our beautiful bodies as tools for meditation and stilling the mind.
Leg raised here or block placed there has very little meaning when you look at the bigger picture. Always do what works for you!