Instead, the woman to my left pipes up. "Ugh, I know, this is awful. But you can do it, Shary, " she says. "Just a little bit longer."
But, then, this wasn't a regular yoga class. If you were in the room, the difference would become instantly clear: We were all fat. (Want to work out more but don't have the time? Then try Fit in 10, the new workout program that only takes 10 minutes a day.)
Not your typical yoga class
I walked to the Buddha Body yoga studio—a studio in New York City that offers yoga classes specifically for fat people—that morning not knowing what to expect. I was there because I like yoga, because I'm fat, and because I thought that doing yoga with a bunch of people who look like me would be so much better than doing yoga in a room full of people half my size. And I was right.
When you're overweight, walking into a typical yoga class can feel daunting. It's like that song—"one of these things is not like the others, " and you're the one who sticks out. But I'd unroll my mat and pretend not to notice—until, of course, I'd stumble on a pose. Every time I had to take a break or modify a pose that everyone else could do, I felt like I was proving that I didn't belong. Here I was, the biggest person in the class, and I was slowing everyone else down.
While it's possible that I was the only one who felt that way, that everyone else in the class either didn't notice what I was doing or didn't think any less of me for not being able to hold plank pose for too long, the feeling that we just don't belong is what drives many fat people to fat yoga classes or, if no class like that is available, out of yoga classes entirely.
"Based on what you see in television commercials or fitness magazines, you'd think yoga was only for people who are already thin and already flexible, " says Abby Lentz, who runs a studio called Heavy Weight Yoga in Austin, Texas.
But yoga instructors like Lentz and Michael Hayes, who runs Buddha Body, flip the image of the typical "yoga body" on its head. They make yoga accessible to anyone, no matter their size, and provide a space where fat people don't feel out of place.
MORE: 11 Ways To Make Yoga Easier At Every Size
At first glance, Buddha Body looks like any other yoga studio, with mats and blocks and bolsters lying about. But take a look at the walls and you'll see ballet bars and long black straps hanging from hooks. Hayes uses these supports to help yogis stretch out their backs, hamstrings, and other muscles while supporting their weight. When I first saw those supports, I was disappointed. It seemed like watered-down yoga where the wall does most of the work. It didn't take long to realize I was completely wrong.
As I slipped my body through one of the straps, pushed my heels back to the wall, and reached forward to grab a chair in front of me, it became painfully clear that this yoga was not watered down. It was actually the best stretch I've ever felt in my back.
Then take a simple spinal twist. In a typical yoga class, you would perform it by lying on the floor with your knees pointed toward one side of the room and your arms spread in a T shape. But in this class, we did a spinal twist sitting between two chairs, grabbing on to the seat back to pull ourselves deeper into the stretch.