Stress can sneak up on us–and we might even be too stressed out to realize it! Demanding jobs, health issues, personal relationships and even your Facebook Newsfeed can be little daily sources of stress that build up over time. Meera Kerr, the author of the book Big Yoga for Less Stress, helps you tackle those daily stressors with her book–written for everyone, of any body shape or size–to learn how to reduce everyday anxiety through yoga stretches, practicing mindfulness and breathing techniques. Pick up a copy of Big Yoga for Less Stress and read our Q+A with the author herself.
1. When did you start practicing yoga?
I started experimenting with yoga in my 20s, around 1969, at a studio in Chicago owned by Swami Kriyananda, a devotee of The famous Paramahansa Yogananda, author of the classic "Autobiography of a Yogi."
2. What inspired you to focus on yoga specifically for plus size women?
I was always a little chubby, and most of the other yogis were slender. As I got older, my body got bigger. I began adapting my own poses for more comfort, and I realized there must be others like me who might be uncomfortable going to a regular yoga class, but would like to try yoga.
3. What is your number 1 piece of advice for someone who has never practiced yoga before, or who might be scared to try something new?
Try doing a yoga video first. It will give you a chance to learn some of the basics, in the privacy of your own home. Your local library has yoga videos, so look for one that's for beginners. Or get my Big Yoga Flex-Ability video! It will help you get in shape for a more strenuous practice.
4. How has yoga changed your life?
Yoga hasn't just changed my life--it IS my life. Everything I do is based on the teachings of Yoga--not just the physical postures, but the ethical standards that it encompasses--the ideas of non-violence, compassion, equanimity etc.
5. What is your favorite yoga pose?
Sukhasana, simple sitting pose is my favorite. It's just a simple cross-legged position that I use for meditation, contemplation, even watching TV. It aligns the spine for good energy flow, and opens the hips for flexibility.
6. When did you decide to write your first book, Big Yoga, and why did you write it?
I began the Big Yoga project in 2001, when I was teaching yoga in California. I had the idea to offer adapted poses for larger bodies, and suggested it to my boss at the Santa Monica Parks department where I was teaching. She added Big Yoga to the schedule, and I wasn't even sure what it was going to be! Folks who carry extra weight don't all carry it in the same place! I had some people with most of their weight in the upper body, and others who were thick in the belly. So we experimented together, and from that, I created the Big Yoga Hatha 1 DVD in 2002. When that didn't set the world on fire I started working on my first book, to spread the idea that you don't have to be thin to enjoy the benefits of yoga.
7. What inspired you to write Big Yoga for Less Stress?
It seems that everyone is stretching themselves pretty thin these days, working 2--even 3 jobs-- to make ends meet. Plus, we are sitting so much of the time. I wanted to offer something that could be done by anyone, regardless of age, fitness level, or physical challenges. And I wanted to also offer more than just stretching exercises. I wanted to incorporate some of the other stress busting techniques that Yoga offers--breathing practices, guided relaxation, and meditation.
8. How can someone expect to feel after their first ever yoga class?
If you're lucky enough to find a teacher who understands how to adapt yoga for the larger body (or whatever your issue is), you will feel fantastic--relaxed in a way you may have forgotten is possible.
9. What type of class would you recommend for beginners?
Look for a class that offers more than just asanas (poses). Find someone who also teaches the guided relaxation and even better, some pranayama, the breath work. This is the perfect combination for a great result.
10. Describe yoga in 3 words.
Peace, Self-love, Joy.
11. What else would you like people to know about yoga?
We all have to start somewhere, even if we're out of shape. I remember after I had a couple kids and hadn't done yoga for a few years, getting back to it was a slow process. But start with simple poses, ease into your yoga practice with great self-love. If all you want is a fitness program, yoga is there for you. If you want more than that, yoga can take you deep into your self where you will discover an inner world of freedom, contentment, inspiration and unbounded joy!
Pick up a copy of Meera's book Big Yoga for Less Stress here.