IF YOU GO
What: Safe Yoga for Round Bodies.
When: 7 p.m. Mondays.
Where: ClearSpring Yoga, 17 N. Market St.
Cost: $14 drop-in fee.
Attention, inflexible people. Amy Bockmon has something to say to you: "Who cares if you can't put your foot behind your head? I can't put my foot behind my head. I don't care. It doesn't bother me. It won't stop me from doing anything."
In fact, she said, there's really no reason to ever need to bend into a pretzel.
Bockmon, 33, teaches a course called Safe Yoga for Round Bodies. The class, held at ClearSpring Yoga on North Market Street, is designed for people who are overweight or who have negative body images.
"My own story begins in this way, which is why I feel compelled to teach this particular class," Bockmon wrote in an email.
Lifelong weight struggles -- she peaked at 245 pounds -- and a family history of diabetes began to weigh heavily on her mind after trying to ignore her health for years.
"I was one of those people who was really in denial. I'd go to the doctor, and he'd be like 'your blood pressure is really high' and I'm in my mid-20s at the time thinking, 'not me, that's crazy.' "
Eventually, she said, she accepted that she needed to take better care of herself and took up yoga six years ago. She's lost 70 pounds and found a love for the practice.
"When I started practicing, I was really frustrated," she said. "There was too much me, and it was hard to move. Once I got past that initial frustration, I started to notice 'I can do this' and 'I can do that,' so that was really encouraging. Everything wasn't limited."
When she decided to become a teacher, Bockmon said, she couldn't get the thought out of her head that there was a need for yoga classes that, in her words, "are not restricted just to the super-skinny, ultra-bendy people."
"I want people to see that even if they're overweight or they don't feel like they're worthy, there's lots of things that they can do."
So she created Safe Yoga for Round Bodies.
The word 'safe,' Bockmon said, has both a physical and emotional context. Her new class -- it has only been in effect about eight weeks -- Bockmon's student body is small. On a Monday night in June, she has only one student.
Liza Mercado, 45, is an acupuncturist who began taking the class to increase her flexibility and lose weight. Mercado said she has tried yoga videos and she took a few classes while in accupuncture school, but she never felt comfortable.
"It kind of scared me to do a tape because I felt like I wasn't quite doing it right," she said. "I didn't really feel comfortable trying other classes. I felt like I was going to hurt myself."
In a small, dim room with soft music playing, Bockman and Mercado face one another on their mats.
"Any requests?" Bockmon asks her.
"No," she replies, "I'm good. I think."
They discuss continuing with a lesson from last week -- an exploration of the pelvis in relation to movement. Then, they begin to move through a series of basic yoga poses.
Sometimes Bockmon performs the poses along with Mercado. Other times she paces or moves to help ease her student into a position.
When Mercado achieves a difficult pose, Bockmon cheers her on.
"This is not friendly," Mercado says when a position is uncomfortable, and Bockmon cheerfully offers her an adjustment.
Adjustments and adaptations are made as needed. Both women lie on their bellies. Bockmon reaches behind herself, holding her feet in her hands and pulling up into a bow position.
"Let's see if I can do that," Mercado says. She reaches back, gets one ankle and tries for the other. "Oops, no."
Bockman gets up, retrieves a strap and helps wrap it around Mercado's legs.
In the short time they have been practicing together, Mercado says, she has seen some improvements.
"This is the first time I've made any progress with things like touching my toes," she notes.
She no longer needs to use a block for lunges but still opts to use one for triangle pose. Her biggest challenge, she said, is remembering to breathe properly. It used to be motivating herself to show up at all. Now, she said, showing up is easier.
"I really wanted to start taking baby steps and accomplish small things at a time," she said.
Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...