“You don’t want to be the only person who says, ‘I don’t like child’s pose,’ or the only person using props,” explains Goodstein, a Dupont Circle resident who researches extensively to find “body-affirming” yoga environments. It’s tougher than it should be to find classes that don’t feel competitive and instructors who don’t use weight-loss-focused language, she adds.
And it’s even more of a challenge to find a class that fits her criteria that’s actually challenging. “I’m not new to yoga. I know what I’m doing,” Goodstein says.
Carlin plans to build each week through the series so students really get the chance to see what their bodies can do.
“I feel like I haven’t moved in two years. So I like a class that can ease me back into it,” said Michelle Weiner, 31, who was attending the workshop after a lengthy hiatus from yoga.
Armed with her techniques and advice, Carlin hopes the women she’s teaching show up at every yoga studio in the city, and end up teaching them a thing or two.
“The more we’re out there,” Carlin says, “the more people will learn I’m not a unicorn.”
@postmisfits on Twitter
Hallett edits the Fit section of Express.
On the plus side
When the topic of plus-size classes recently came up online in a Washington area yoga instructor discussion group, Annie Carlin was surprised to read so many comments from people who dismissed the idea. “I think it’s easy to say something isn’t needed if you don’t need it,” she says.
One stat supporting her position? The number of programs for yogis who don’t fit the stick-figure mold. Beyond Carlin’s approach, which she calls Supportive Yoga (supportiveyoga.com), there’s Body Positive Yoga (bodypositiveyoga.com) out of Norfolk, HeavyWeight Yoga (heartfeltyoga.com) in Texas and New York’s Mega Yoga (megayoga.com). Big Yoga (bigyoga.net) founder Meera Kerr, who’s based in Michigan, offered a workshop in the District last summer. And Fat Yoga (fatyoga.org), a studio in Portland, Ore., has been making national headlines since it opened in January.
Probably no one has done a better job spreading the message than Nashville’s Anna Guest-Jelley, creator of Curvy Yoga (curvyyoga.com). The social media maven’s blog, which has featured an interview with Carlin, discusses such issues as avoiding “death-by-boob-smush.”
Her program has certified instructors all over, including the Washington area: Dena Kahn offers Curvy Yoga at Lil Omm in Tenleytown and a similar class at the National Center for Weight and Wellness. (She doesn’t use the “Curvy” name for those sessions to avoid scaring away male students.) Kahn, who isn’t plus-size herself, was drawn to Guest-Jelley’s approach as a more inclusive style of teaching.
“We don’t use bony landmarks. We don’t talk about the hip points and setting the feet a certain distance apart,” says Kahn, who’s been amazed at how far her students will travel to take a class that’s more welcoming.
Students in Virginia won’t need to go far once Hilary Mughloo, another certified local teacher, starts up Curvy Yoga classes in Alexandria in July. (Get details on wiselightwellness.com.) Although she’s nearly 6 feet tall, Mughloo’s not exactly a bigger yogi. “But the language and modifications,” she says, “can go across a spectrum of size and shape.”
— Vicky Hallett