Diabetes Forecast

Curvy Yoga Aims to Benefit Every Body Shape

By Lindsey Wahowiak

4 Gentle Poses From Curvy Yoga

Anna Guest-Jelley had been practicing yoga for more than a decade, but she felt as if she hadn't really "gotten" it yet. She thought it might click if or when she lost weight: Maybe then she'd be able to achieve the same poses as the svelte Spandex-clad stretchers in her class. But something dawned on her: "Maybe the problem isn't my body. Maybe the problem is my teachers just haven't been trained."

Guest-Jelley, 32, of Nashville, Tenn., decided to change the landscape of yoga: She became a certified yoga instructor and trademarked Curvy Yoga (curvyyoga.com), a style of yoga that's geared toward people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities.

Guest-Jelley and other Curvy Yoga teachers across the country encourage working with your body to achieve all the benefits of yoga. Exercise, including yoga, can be a health benefit for people with diabetes by improving fasting blood glucose and reducing stress, according to a study in the February 2013 Journal of Physical Activity and Health.

Often, teachers of traditional yoga classes demonstrate the full expression, or toughest version, of a pose. Guest-Jelley's classes start with the most basic version of each pose. Those who might not be able to stand can do poses while seated. Others might use a block, blanket, or strap as supportive props.

Adjustments are especially useful in twisting poses, where fuller-figured yogis might find the most trouble (this writer certainly does). Curvy Yoga instructors urge students to shift aside stomach flesh with their hands, for example, so they can get deeper into a pose. You don't have to hook a knee behind an elbow to get a side-angle twist, Guest-Jelley says. Just doing the motion to the best of your ability will activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which aids in relaxation and digestion.

Guest-Jelley has modified moves for people who have diabetes complications, checking as needed with health care providers to make sure poses can be done safely. For people with neuropathy (nerve damage), she may suggest more seated poses, breaks between poses, and frequent foot movements, to keep feet, hands, and wrists from getting tired or feeling pain.

Likewise, students with eye issues such as glaucoma or severe retinopathy might want to avoid lowering their heads in inversions (poses where your head is lower than your heart) to prevent increased pressure that can further damage vision. That's no problem: People can stay seated or rest their heads on blocks.

Making such small adjustments can make all the difference in people finding an exercise routine they enjoy—and can stick to, Guest-Jelley says. "Instead of going to a class and trying to force your body into shapes that are not possible—which is the opposite of relaxing—Curvy Yoga can help people learn to work with and appreciate the body that they have, today," she says. "It's making ways for people to participate fully, and not feel like they're the odd one out."



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