Should an Obese Person Become a Yoga Teacher? - Yoga Practice Blog

Should an Obese Person Become a Yoga Teacher?

Should an obese person become a Yoga teacherBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP

Although it might be old-fashioned to think or say, some people will ask: Should an obese person become a Yoga teacher? There seems to be a stereotypical view of what a Yoga teacher should look like. Worse yet, there seems to be a preconceived notion about what a teacher should weigh. There are many reasons for this –  Athletes, doctors, and exercise instructors are expected to be slim and trim. Hatha teachers are also expected to be role models of ideal health. This type of thinking will not change, but we can make the public aware that stereotypes are often wrong. Most of the adult population in the West is overweight. Some Yoga teachers also fall into this category. To be honest, I have also battled weight at points in my life.


The Daily Struggle

Many adults can identify with the daily struggle at the plate and on the scales. Does this mean a person should go through a weigh-in before deciding to become a Yoga instructor? No, not at all. Consider this: Any Yogic style causes lifestyle changes. Students and teachers make gradual changes that result in weight control. These are not the changes of instant gratification that we are so familiar with. We are not talking about, Losing 30 pounds in 30 days. The many Yo-Yo diets and weight loss pills can make those promises, but at what cost to your overall health? Life-endangering weight loss products are a waste of money and an insult to your intelligence.


Holistic Lifestyle

Then again, teaching most people to drink more water and eat more fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and whole grains is not as easy as showing them the new ultimate diet pill. The Yogic diet has been around for thousands of years, so it’s old news. Remember the saying, “Out with the old, and in with the new?” People fall for the new and improved methods more than old and proven ones until the hard data comes in. This is why people, who said Hatha Yoga was just another fitness fad, were misinformed.



Yoga training and practices were around long before the Shaolin temple, and Yoga influenced the health maintenance of the Shaolin priests. Kung Fu was then created within the Shaolin temple, but the relationship to Yoga is still apparent. The worldwide exposure of Yogic methodology is only centuries old, but the Pilates method is one more example of a Yogic spin off. This is not meant with disrespect toward any health maintenance system, but most of them have origins in Yoga.


Role Models

Whether we like it or not, Hatha Yoga intructors have a responsibility to be role models for physical health. As teachers, we are pressured into thinking, “Should an obese person become a Yoga teacher?”  Therefore, if an obese teacher lost weight at a safe rate, that is looked at as a good thing by the court of public opinion. A teacher who takes positive action is a good role model; especially, since Yogic dieting methods are sensible, safe, and proven, in comparison to the many fad diets that come and go. Over the years, I have seen people, including myself, lose weight from a Yogic lifestyle change, but it is a very gradual process. Lifestyle changes, like Yoga, also result in weight loss that stays off.


Life and Reality

Getting back to an obese person becoming a Yoga teacher; does the public feel that he or she should go on a diet first? We are all guilty of classifying and itemizing, until it affects our perception of reality. Tolerance is a daily challenge for all of us. There are many good teachers who carry a few extra pounds due to any number of different reasons. The idea that a Yoga teacher should only be a young, thin, very flexible, super model, with a background in gymnastics, is a pure myth. Additionally, people go through many events in life, such as: Anxiety, PTSD, pregnancy, cancer, and many more situations that can make controlling one’s weight a major challenge. Always remember, the court of public opinion conducted witchcraft trials. Therefore, we should learn to think carefully and avoid making negative statements about anyone. Judging others tends to be a pitfall.

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