Kaleigh Mancha is a Las Vegas yogi on a mission to prove that big girls can bend. Sure, she’s not a caucasian woman with blonde hair sporting a pair of size 0 Lululemon pants. “My body is non-threatening. I want to make yoga acceptable and inclusive,” says the body positive advocate. It doesn’t matter if you have a mat, a block, or a strap. “To do yoga, you only need an open mind,” she said. “It’s about being present in yourself.”
Mancha and her mother — who found her inner yogi for the first time, thanks to Beyond Words — have laid out 10 poses with modifications for plus-size yogis. Whether you’re giggling in Happy Baby Pose or attempting not to fall asleep in Corpse Pose, this 20-minute workout will bend a better you.
Easy Seated Pose (Sukhasana)
“I start my classes in Easy Seated Pose,” Mancha said. “It’s a great way to warm the body up.” You’ll want to start in Staff Pose. Then cross your legs in front of you at the shin. Keep your knees wide and stick your foot under the opposite knee.
Modifications: Yoga shouldn’t be painful. “It’s uncomfortable,” Mancha said. “However, there’s a difference between discomfort and pain. Once it becomes pain, it isn’t yoga anymore. It’s ego.” Modifications are about “being your better self on the mat.” Lower body injury? Stay in Staff Pose.
Tree Pose (Vrikshasana)
Start in Mountain Pose. Slide your right foot up your left leg until it’s at a 90-degree angle. Press your chest forward, and keep your shoulders down. Take it to the next level: slowly bring your palms together into prayer position in front of your heart.
Modifications: Tweak your tree by placing your toes right above your ankle, a.k.a kick standing.
Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)
Start in Table Pose. Place your palms shoulder width apart and your feet hips width apart. Then spread your fingers and tuck your toes under while lifting your tailbone towards the ceiling. Keep your arms and legs straight.
Modifications: “I encourage people to see what it feels like to be folded over first,” Mancha said. She recommends holding the seat of a chair. “Downward Dog is really difficult, even for people who can bend down and touch their toes. People are essentially trying to become triangles while sucking in their navels, tilting their butts upward, and putting their shoulder blades down.”
Cat/Cow (Marjaryasana Bitilasana)
Start on your hands and knees. Your hands should be directly below your shoulders, and your knees should be directly below your hips. To get into Cow Pose, drop your belly toward the mat and lift your chin and chest. Then go into cat pose. Arch your back towards the ceiling, keeping your chin away from your chest and the crown of your head pointed towards the floor.
Extended Tabletop (Ardha Purvottanasana)
Start in Table Pose. Lift and straighten your right leg. Point your toes towards the back wall. Then lift and straighten your left arm. Your fingers should point towards the front wall. Switch sides and repeat.
Modifications: Balance challenged? Put both palms down on the mat. Need a little extra support? Place the top of your foot on the floor.
Cobra & Baby Cobra (Bhujangasana)
Place your hands, palms down, beneath your shoulders. Point your feet behind you. Then straighten your arms to lift your chest up off of the ground. Gaze upwards while pulling in your abs.
Modifications: Low back pain? Go into Sphinx Pose by lying on your stomach and putting your arms down on the mat.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Begin on your hands and knees. Spread your knees wide apart and touch your toes together. Rest your buttocks on your heels. When you inhale, sit up straight, lengthening your spine through the crown of your head. As you exhale, bow forward placing your torso on your thighs and your forehead on the floor. Stretch your arms forward, palms facing down.
Modifications: If you’re pregnant or have acid reflux, press your palms and big toes together while keeping your knees at least hips distance apart.
Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)
Lie on your back. Pull your knees to your chest, keeping your knees and feet wide. Stack your ankles over your knees. Your shins will be perpendicular to the floor. Then pull your legs towards your armpits. Optional: rock side to side.
Lion’s Breath (Simhasana Pranayama)
Take a deep breath through your nose while opening your mouth widely and stretching out your tongue. Curl its tip down towards your chin. Open your eyes as wide as you can and exhale slowly through your mouth.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
On your back, let your arms and legs drop open. Your arms should be 45 degrees from your body. Take slow deep breaths. Scan your body from toes to crown. “I encourage you to avoid itching and to breathe regularly,” Mancha said. “Corpse Pose is a great metaphor for life…not all things deserve our attention and our feelings are fleeting, just like that itch on your nose.”
Modifications: Bend your knees. It’ll press your lower back into the floor, reducing tension and pain.
Mancha’s mantra is, “Be kind to yourself. Everything that is going on in your world will show up on the mat. It’s easy to judge ourselves.” Looking for inspiration? Whether there’s a yoga studio next door or it’s two towns away, the Instagram yoga community is really amazing. “There’s always a community waiting for you,” Mancha said. Follow her on Instagram @kaym86.