Yoga and Your Body Type

Jay, the Russian fitness trainer strapped me into a leg machine then stopped and said, “I didn’t realize you were so tall. Are you over six feet?” Why do you ask, said I?  He told me that the length of my legs were equal to a body over six feet tall.  It was then I had a revelation about my body type and subsequent excuses for why I couldn’t perform certain fitness or yoga exercises.

Stand me next to the shortest person in the room then have us sit down side by side. Whilst I tower over the short person standing, they suddenly become taller than me when we sit next to each other. With these super long legs comes a short torso. I sometimes wonder how all my organs fit into such a small space and another reason why my rib cage is so large. Point being, my structural uniqueness carries with it some challenges and some advantages.

Structurally speaking leg lifts or boat pose “Navasana” are the most traumatic exercise experiences for me while bike riding is the most structurally easy exercise. In leg lifts my torso has to nearly be on the floor to counterbalance my legs. In bicycle riding, my long legs provide great muscle mass for peddling while the short torso keeps my center of gravity lower.

Many of you practicing yoga might get frustrated by why some postures are such a challenge when others can master such postural moves. It is really all about your physiology.

I had a friend who mastered a head stand from a wide leg position and other arm balances easy.  Like olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, he had a long torso and short legs. He is 6’4″ and our legs are the same length. His extra length is in the torso. He could put his head to the floor easy because of his structure. It was almost as if his legs would naturally come off the ground to accommodate his torso. With such mass in the upper body, inversions are easier. Many think inversions are the end-all to mastering yoga when in fact inversion postures are simply another direction to test the body. Some find it easy some do not.

Here is a visual of the differences between torso body types, the weight and mass of the legs  in comparison to the torso.

Structural differencesDaily movements of our body requires finding our center of gravity. Gravity is what we work with to move ourselves.  When we begin a practice of yoga we become aware of our structural design and integrity.

Early on in yoga practice people use structural design as an excuse as to why they can’t do certain postures. I tried it, but my teacher wouldn’t buy into my excuses and called me lazy. Over time I simply became more aware of myself, dropped the ego expectation and humbly worked within my framework.

We all have structural differences which make certain activities easy and others more difficult. If you’ve ever played an auto racing video game, before the game starts you get to design your car. The design of the car will provide the parameters from which you get to experience the race.

Select your car

Whatever our structural design we all benefit from the yoga practice and can eventually perform all the poses in the class. I see students struggle with expectation and humiliation but the humbling effect brings one further into the benefits of the practice.   Remember yoga is simply a process of understanding.

Whatever your belief or excuse about your body it’s the starting point to becoming aware of who you are. All the poses I had excuses for have now become easy.  This is true with any perceived limitation of health or ability. When we release the expectation and ego, we can begin to discover the magic of who we are.

Blessings on your journey. I’ll see you in class.

 

~Douglas

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