My interview with Meera Patricia Kerr is the first of a series of interviews with influential teachers who are committed to bringing the benefits of yoga to larger students. I personally studied with Meera Patricia Kerr in 2004, at the beautiful Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville in Virginia. Meera is the creator of Big Yoga, and the author of Big Yoga: A Simple Guide for Bigger Bodies. Meera’s insightful teachings, welcoming heart, and celestial voice continue to influence my practice and my teaching.
M.H. – What inspired you to create Big Yoga?
M.P.K. – I was living at the ashram (Yogaville) and was going to the Lotus Temple for noon meditation. I was thinking on my walk to meditation about the name, Integral Yoga… It’s kind of clunky, hard to pronounce, and not everyone knows the meaning of Integral. I was wondering if there was another way to say the same thing. When I settled down for meditation, I heard a voice say “Big Yoga” and I knew it was a message from my teacher (Swami Satchidananda) because of the double entendre. “Big”, as in expansive, and inclusive of the various limbs and techniques of Yoga, and also “BIG” in terms of the body. I thought it was such a great answer to my question!
M.H. – From your perspective, what benefits can a regular yoga practice bring to those of us with larger bodies?
M.P.K. – Above all, a regular yoga practice can give a bigger person some self-love! When we are doing the poses, we get out of our heads, and out of the judgments we are prone to, and really inhabit every cell of the body. From that, a deep acceptance arises. Other benefits include: lowering the heart rate, lowering stress hormones, better sleep, and overall better mood and happiness.
M.H. – You mention in another article that yoga teachers are sometimes not sensitive to the needs of larger students. If you could communicate a few main messages to these teachers about the needs of larger students, what would they be?
M.P.K. – Well, not all Yoga teachers are insensitive. But I would ask Yoga teachers to examine their own stuff about their body, and maybe share their own feelings of inadequacy or self-loathing, or whatever, and how they cope with that. Also, if you are teaching, and you really don’t understand how to adapt something for a bigger person, be honest! Play around with the props, offer options. Encourage the student to be creative and figure it out. We all carry our weight in different areas, so even an experienced teacher might not know all the answers, but when we let our guard down and come from an honest place of inquiry, that helps put the student at ease. Finally, don’t forget Savasana! If things are getting dicey for a student, remind him or her to simply go back to Savasana, and rest. More will be revealed!
M.H. – What goals or objectives do you hope to achieve with Big Yoga and how will you know when you have achieved them?
M.P.K. – Well, I guess I have a goal that more people will be encouraged to try the magical process of Yoga, who may have been feeling out of the loop. But aside from that, which is nearly impossible to quantify, I am very pleased that my book is finished, and that I have my 2 DVDs, with more planned for the future. But as far as goals or objectives, well, I leave that to the universe. I simply want to lead a Yogic life, and be an example of that. Now that these earlier projects are finished, I’d like to focus more on the devotional side of Yoga, and do more with my music. Maybe do some teacher training, and retreats. Oh, and I’d like to be able to pay my bills!
M.H. – Anything else you would like to share?
M.P.K. – Yoga has changed my life. The teachings I learned at the feet of my beloved Guru, Sri Swami Satchidananda, are the template from which I observe my world. I am ever grateful for the blessings of the Guru, and for the incredible possibilities that manifest when living a peaceful life.