My Journey to Plus Size (Full Bodied) Yoga

My Journey to Plus Size Yoga


I’ve never taken a plus sized yoga class. I never felt the need to. I started practicing yoga on a regular basis in 2010, after I finally found a studio where I felt like I could be myself. They seemed happy to have me, and that made me feel great! Before this, I had tried yoga at a few gyms and also at a well-known yoga studio. The gyms were okay, but it wasn’t the most relaxing experience to hear treadmills whirring in the background while trying to focus. I also felt a bit intimidated by all the incredibly fit people leaping (it’s possible they were just walking) from one machine to the next. 

I decided to commit to the yoga studio and started to develop a deeper appreciation for the practice. There was also something about the style (a hot yoga practice) that was working for me. The teachers were strict and I loved it. I had the primary goal of weight loss and I loved sweating and pushing myself. It was almost punishing. And I think on some level I felt like I deserved to be punished. Society doesn’t tend to look too kindly at heavy people, and I wanted so badly to blend in. It’s hard to blend in when you are the biggest person in the room. 

I might have stayed at that studio for the long haul, if it weren’t for this one particular employee. This person took it upon herself to make me feel the opposite of welcome. Every time I would come in, she would look me up and down with such distaste, I would feel immediately embarrassed. The look on her face and the way she treated me personified all that I felt about myself. Eventually, I couldn’t deal with it any more, I stopped going to class and yoga fell out of my life. 

A couple of years later, I found myself without a job and I needed some sense of schedule while I was considering my next steps. There was a yoga studio nearby and I decided to try again, signing up for a trial month.

The staff were so kind and the teachers offered a variety of styles and perspectives. I started to feel like the classes were a lifeline during a difficult time and I soon signed up for (and successfully completed…yeah!) a 40 day challenge. The regular practice had me feeling strong physically, and one day I realized that something magical was happening. That mean little voice inside my head that would constantly tell me awful things about myself was finally quieting down. This was a bit of a revelation, as that voice had been a mainstay for as long as I could remember. I began to realize that yoga had the power to do so much more than stretch and strengthen my body. I became curious. So curious in fact, that a hop, skip and two years later, I completed my yoga teacher training. Woot!

Now I teach classes in and around Vancouver and a few years ago I started teaching a series called Full Bodied Yoga. These classes focus on students working in bigger bodies and offer a space for them to be comfortable while exploring what can often be a very uncomfortable practice. 

In an ideal world, any person in any body could make their way in to a yoga class with the comfort of knowing that they would be welcomed and accommodated. In the real world, this doesn’t always happen. Many of my students had tried yoga in the past and had negative experiences with either the teachers or fellow students. Some of them had been to class and had a good experience, but still felt somewhat vulnerable being the only person of size in the space. And then there are the students that are brand new to yoga, and were specifically looking for a class tailored to their bodies. This is the only way they would try yoga. 

I must admit that I had never really considered teaching this type of class. Having spent many occasions feeling separated because of my size, I didn’t want to participate in something that might make others feel that way. I also hopped into yoga without needing a class tailored to my specific body, so I felt like others would as well. That said, I wanted the opportunity to teach more and I knew that I could relate to the challenges of practicing in a bigger body, so I committed to creating one beginners series. I honestly assumed that if anyone came, I would teach them how to modify and then they would go to any public class they wanted and I would never see them again. Six weeks, nice and neat. That was three years ago.

Since then, I have added additional Full Bodied classes (Beginners, All Levels, Yin and Yin Flow) to my weekly schedule and started a private online group for my students past and present. I have taught over one hundred individuals, and I feel grateful for each and every one. Some of those from the first class are still with me now. While I have been teaching them yoga, I have learned so much in return. I love it! 

For the reasons above and so many more, I am so happy to offer these classes. Full Bodied (Plus Sized Yoga, Fat Yoga, Body Positive Yoga) Yoga is something that needs to exist so that we can be sure that yoga becomes a more inclusive practice. Do all big-bodied people need this? No. I didn’t. But I am so glad it exists as a place for others and I am thrilled to offer it. It is my hope that it becomes a jumping off point for these students so they can go to any yoga class with the confidence they need to modify for themselves. My classes are a place of empowerment, not restriction. It is my belief that full bodied folks can, and should, go to any class they feel good about and I am there to support them along the way. 

Having my classes on DYWM allows everyone access to this amazing practice (in whatever style they choose) and removing a potential financial barrier can be an incredibly helpful first step. When David and I discussed what to call the classes, Plus Size Yoga seemed immediately recognizable (Full Bodied Yoga isn't always clear to people). It also happens to be one of the top searches for people looking for this type of yoga. And if people are looking, we want them to find us! 

Yoga has been a life changing experience for me. I am no longer at war with my body and if I can make that a possibility for even one other person, I will share this practice in any way I can. I hope that these classes bring as much joy to the practitioner as they do to me as a teacher.

Classes with Helen will be coming soon!!!


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Denise 2 months ago

I found one of your video's this weekend and it changed the way that I think about yoga (and possibly me)! I have been wanting to do yoga for so long but found that it was often difficult and hurt my knees (the same knees that have not come close to my chest since elementary school)...although I would feel pretty good when I was done I also was so cognizant of my limitations which would in turn make me feel horrible about the weight I carry. I went to a class this weekend that had a teacher who gave me some tips on how to use a chair as a prop and I felt great. Rather than try to 'recreate' this at home I googled 'plus sized yoga' hoping to find something I could connect to....that is where you came in!! Thank you so much for helping me to see that mindset if over half the battle as you gave tips for making this practice one of 'ease'. Three days in and I will never do yoga the same again.....and I will do it so much more!! Thank you so very much <3

Helen Camisa 2 months ago

Denise!!! This is music to my eyes (if there is such a thing ;). I can't tell you what it means to me to know that you are changing the way you think about yourself and your body. We all deserve to feel good, exactly as we are. You do you, and enjoy all that wonderful yoga you can get. Thank you for taking the time to comment and keep me posted on how it's all going. Yay you!!! :D

Helen Camisa 1 year ago

Thank you! I'm excited too!! I hope you enjoy the classes and feel free to reach out if you have any questions. :)

TaylaElson 1 year ago

I tried yoga way back in School - and a few years later joined a small, local class. I absolutely loved it! I have since gained weight and very much stopped doing yoga - I would love to find a new local group but I'm a little hesitant to go out of my comfort zone!

Helen Camisa 1 year ago

Thank you for your comment! I totally understand where you are coming from, and I'd be happy to look in to teachers in your neck of the woods if you let me know where you are. I'm sure we can find a class that you'll be happy in. And just because you've gained weight, it doesn't mean that your body won't remember yoga. You may have to modify a little differently at first, but you'll get back in to it an be on your way in no time! The comfort zone thing is definitely a challenge. I recently posted about my own struggles in that area on my Facebook page. But I believe that once you take that step, you'll be so glad you did! I'm here to help if you need it. :)

AmberMoon 1 year ago

I come from a large family. We are always trying to find new ways of shedding our fat ghosts. Being heavy is what kept me from getting serious about yoga for over 20 years! I am now pushing 50 and I don't care. I went keto a couple of years ago and have dropped apx 100lb and gained a ton of energy. I have now committed to a new chapter and want to be able to teach yoga to full bodied, injured, elderly, pregnant, - do what you can where you are- down the road. Thank you for sharing your story. I too am at that start point and hoping to help those in hiding in the future.

Helen Camisa 1 year ago

Thank you for this! I'm so excited to hear about your journey and that you are now planning to become a teacher yourself. It's such a wonderful thing to do, and all of those things you have experienced will mean so much to the people you share them with. All the best with your training! Things are about to get very exciting. :)

Irishlove 1 year ago

The treatment you got from that one employee was there own toxic waste. I'm really sorry that you experienced that. I have experienced it as well, and it's really tough to work through. Society has this image it thrusts upon women, and I personally, have always not felt that all the makeup, chat ups and obsession with clothes were not me. I was an "in the dirt" kind of kid, and now, adult. I started yoga when I was about 6, on my own, after glimpsing a yogi (BSK Iyengar) doing lotus. I wasn't coordinated for "girl focused" athletics, but I thought, "I can do that!" So I taught myself yoga by the pictures in a book initially. Although I am not plus sized, I am not thin either. Projection is a horrible thing and I've experienced that same projection as you. Especially when I have always embraced my inner yogini (before it was fashionable to do so). I want to say, that plus sized students have always been some of my most flexible and capable students. I'm really happy to see you coming here and will definitely check out your classes. I believe that all classes lead to my inner awakening. Thank you so much for your story. Namaste from Ireland.

Helen Camisa 1 year ago

Thank you for this! I was always hanging out of a tree as a kid, and I'm still that way at heart. I think that yoga helps us to get back to that place a little bit too. I so appreciate your acknowledgement of your plus sized students, as yes, some of my students blow me away with their strength, flexibility and focus. It's nice to know that you are out there, supporting and teaching to all bodies. I hope you enjoy my classes, and I'll have to make my way to Ireland and come to your class too. :)

Ladylobo76 1 year ago

Thank you for sharing your story. I have recently found yoga again to try to loose some weight but mostly for me to feel comfortable with my body. Yoga has help to decrease the number of migraines attacks. It has also improved my ability to deal with work related stress since I work in healthcare. I am excited to take your classes.

Helen Camisa 1 year ago

Thank you for sharing! I'm so glad that you are looking forward to the classes, and that you are exploring the practice in order to feel comfortable in your body and manage stress. A lot of my students work in healthcare and I'm such a fan of anyone in that field, so it gives me great pleasure to care for the caregivers. If you need any support along the way, don't hesitate to reach out! :)

SmileMore 1 year ago

I teared up reading this post. Thanks very much for sharing your story. I admire your determination -- you could have been so easily swallowed up by the negative experiences, and never returned to a yoga mat again. And what a profound shame that would have been! As someone who battled an eating disorder in my teens and early 20s, I too had a mean little voice in my head. I came to yoga for the physical results, but more than 20 years later, it's the emotional, mental and spiritual benefits that keep me coming back to the mat. I now have a deep love and respect for my body and all that it can do. (Never thought I'd get here back then!) All this to say, thank you for putting your compassionate teaching out into the world, to help others connect and begin to love their bodies, no matter what their size. Be well!

Helen Camisa 1 year ago

Thanks so much for this lovely comment! I'm so happy that this spoke to you. It's such a revolution to not be constantly trying to change ourselves. To just sit and be and love. You don't have to like every little thing, but you can love the whole. I never thought I'd be here either, but it's so wonderful to know that it's possible and that it's happening for others as well :) Thanks again!