SparkPeople Blogs  •  fitness  •  DVD

DVD Review: You Don't Have to be Stick Thin to do 'HeavyWeight Yoga'

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I don't know what it's like to be obese. I've never been inside the body of a very overweight or obese person. Although I know a lot about fitness and do my best to lead workouts that are suitable for people of many levels of fitness and mobility, I can truly never know how it really feels to do that workout while carrying excessive weight. But like many of you, Abby Lentz (that's her in the photo to the left) knows what it's like. A certified yoga instructor, who also happens to be obese, she's been sharing her knowledge for the past four years by leading overweight and obese exercisers in Austin, Texas through classes just for them: HeavyWeight Yoga. Recently, she released a DVD by the same name so that overweight men and women can enjoy the many benefits of yoga at home. She doesn't think you need to lose weight or tone up before you try yoga. In fact, she says that everyone can—and should—practice yoga starting with the body you have today.

I first learned about Abby Lentz in Fitness magazine's "Fit 50" list of tips, trends and trendsetters, and thought, "How refreshing!" I personally contacted Abby to request a DVD to review for our readers, and finally had a chance to test it out over the past week…and I was blown away!

To learn more about HeavyWeight Yoga, check out this video. If you have trouble viewing the video below, click here to see it on YouTube.

The amount and quality of content and detail she provided in this DVD, which boasts over 2 hours of instruction, was truly amazing! The DVD menu provides several special feature segments, including a 6-minute interview with Abby that was so motivational and inspiring. I really applaud the message that she's trying to send to people about awareness, acceptance and affection of their bodies. Other segments that would appeal specifically to obese individuals and people with limited mobility include:
  • An overview of yoga props and why they're needed, especially to help increase comfort while doing yoga. She even shows you how to use household items—towels, books and men's ties—if you don't have access to yoga props.
  • Special instructions for people who are unable to come to the floor. Abby explains how you can sit in a chair, stand using two chairs for balance, and lie on a bed to do yoga your own way. Even for bed-bound people, she says, "There is still yoga out there for you."
  • A detailed demonstration of how to use a chair to come down to the mat from a standing position safely and carefully for seated and lying yoga poses.

Now for the yoga workouts themselves. Overall, I thought they moved at a slow, gentle pace—great for beginners or people who simply need to move a little slower for whatever reason.

She also offers several great instructions, sprinkled throughout the workouts, that pertain specifically to full-bodied individuals—great tips that you would otherwise never know about if you were following a traditional yoga DVD. For example, in the 24-minute "warm-up" segment (which takes place seated and lying on the mat), she mentions that you can use the space between your legs, which she calls the "belly well" to make room for your belly. She shows you how to physically move your belly out of the way to stretch and twist more deeply, too. In the first of two posture series (about 18 minutes each), she mentions useful tidbits about body position, such as what a hip-width distance really means. "It's not the hip of your flesh," she gently explains while pointing to the widest part of her body, "it's the hip of your frame," she shows, pointing to her actual hip bones and walking her feet closer together.

All the while, Abby is always encouraging and helpful—never demoralizing or condescending. She really wants you to succeed and do whatever YOU can do successfully.

The DVD menu allows you to choose a single segment at a time: warm-up, postures one, postures two, and cool down (savasana). It also offers four pre-set "class" options that edit together parts of each of the main segments, including a "My Way" workout (55 minutes), "Second Time Around" series (53 minutes), "Nice 'n Easy" (36 minutes of gentle floor exercises), and "All the Way" (which puts it all together for a total of 72 minutes of yoga).

Abby's instruction style is very free flowing. This DVD isn't made on an expensive set and sometimes it's not edited perfectly either. It's real—and I like that. A real workout for real people featuring the real body of a woman who might look very much like some of you or many other people you know. It's not intimidating. It doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself or like a failure if you can't do it. To me, there is a very true need for MORE fitness products just like this one.

The only downside I find to this DVD is that Abby often stops or slows down to explain certain concepts in greater detail. That's great for people who need the added tips and instructions, but it does interrupt the workouts a little bit and could be bothersome if you are doing the DVD for the tenth time and just want to get on with your workout. However, there are so many benefits to this DVD that I'd say it's a small complaint to make.

If you're overweight, obese or struggle with limited mobility, this DVD is an excellent introduction to yoga for you. Abby's voice is soothing and I think she's a true inspiration. She believes that you don't have to wait until you lose weight to do anything—from trying yoga to reaching for your biggest dreams. By following this DVD, I think you'll experience a greater joy from the body you have right now and feel more confident and fit. If you're eager to try yoga, but intimidated about taking a class or have yet to find a DVD that caters to your specific needs, this could be the one.

You can purchase HeavyWeight Yoga: Yoga for the Body You Have Today from ($22.49) or directly from Abby's website, To see more video previews and appearances that Abby has made to promote HeavyWeight yoga, check out her YouTube channel.

What do you think about the idea of HeavyWeight Yoga? Do you prefer workouts when the instructor has a body like yours and knows what you're going through?

Photo of Abby courtesy of her blog,

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


Yoga is a good time waster, but got better fat burning results weight training and walking.. I don't need to be more flexiable- this is a inherited problem in my family.. I have human snake people among family on my mothers side of the family.. My son and I suffer, strength training has been more giving in the combat against aches and pains.. Report
The library doesn't have this to try it, so I asked for it for Valentine's Day. I think its a great idea! Report
Thank you for bringing this review. It helps to see a woman my size deal with the positions and stretching and all that is involved in yoga. Report
Thank God. Even when I was young & thin, no way could I do even "beginner" yoga. Just didn't have the flexibility or the knees for some of the poses. Yoga is so beneficial for so many things! It's wonderful to see someone make it accessible for more body types & fitness levels! Report
I think I want to try this! Report
This video sounds interesting, especially for those who's always terrified doing yoga and pilates (like me and I don't even overweight, haha). And I like videos where the trainers show the alternative positions and equipments. Report
In the mid-1970's when yoga had peaked - just as it is now (except it was not "mainstream" and it was overwhelmingly one style—hatha—AND it had been mellow, I had been merely 20 or 25 pounds overweight (temporarily, that amount was soon to rise, anyway), some nondescript, non-pretty, skinny hippie-ish girl I told I would be taking a class, answered, "YOU?!?"

Now, I am not overweight anymore. I left a studio (as a not-overweight person), due to finding too many smarmy "power yoga" types who take one look at my less than concave core and less than rubber-bandy body (but strong, home-practicing will) and by turns disparage, or "experiment" on me.

Oh, I gave them more than one college try ... The conclusion is, it's no more "YOU?!?" ... and it's now NEVER AGAIN!!

They still, now and forever (!!) will have competition from yoga teachers who DO know the true meaning of life ...

And now it's finally, "YOU GO!!!!!"

There is a yoga style for every body ... just have to look hard and not buy into today's hype and circus sideshows ... ! Report
This is great. I once attended a yoga class where the instructor told me I must NOT open my legs to accommodate my belly in forward bend, even when I explained that was the only way I could feel any stretch. When I asked her for a modification of another pose which I found too difficult, she responded w/ something like "It's not my fault you weigh so much." Fortunately, it was not my first experience w/ yoga -- though my last w/ that instructor! Report
Will be checking this out... always wanted to try yoga; but found it a bit intimidating. For me it does make it easier to try things when you see others who are at your at your level doing things. Report
I have been overweight and been doing yoga for years ..... Gee nobody told me I needed a different workout ? I use it for pain reduction. I can even do a bridge pose . Report
I've been looking at these DVD's on Amazon, but wasn't sure about them. Now I'm off to go add them to my wish list! :-) Report
Good review on a product many of us can relate to. I did have to force myself to continue reading after the first four sentences assuring us that the reviewer has never carried excessive weight, and never will - was this necessary? Report
JIBBIE- you are very rude. for some who is on spark yourself , you should'nt be making remarks like that.
yes shes heavy so what.
I think its GREAT that she is heavy and is making yoga for those of us who are heavy its great you go!!
Why doesn't she lose those pounds? She needs Sparks. YOGA is all about health and fitness. Report
What a great idea! Thanks for the info!
I am very pleased to see this! I used to do yoga and loved it. But, now, after two kids and my "extra" belly, and lack of exercise after teh last couple of years, I KNOW I'm in no position to go back. But I would LOVE to see and use this DVD. I loved yoga for the physical, mental, and emotional changes I experienced and look forward to my next payday so I can buy it! Report
I miss yoga, having stopped from not being able to get my belly where it needed. It is one of my goals to loose enough weight to begin again. I am going to order this DVD now - Report
This is something to keep on my radar. Report
I have a wonderful Yoga and Pilates teacher who encourages me to go on with all the moves on the principle that the more supple I am - and the more core strength I have - the better I will do strength and cardio exercises. I will definitely pass the details of this on to her for her interest. Report
When I started working out I decided to try a pilates class and loved it! Do you believe someone at the gym tried to discourage me from going, saying I needed to focus on weight loss first. I'm glad I didn't listen to them and its great to see this DVD promoting yoga no matter what your size. Report
Great! I can't wait to try this. I have been into yoga for 3 years now (all home based DVDs no classes yet) and several questions based on my size. Like in Child Pose, is it more important to have my head on the floor or my butt on my heels, because I just can't do both yet. I already have to spread my knees wide to accommodate my big belly. I am hopeful that this DVD will help explain some of these issues. I had tried Megan Garcia's Just My Size Yoga, and it is okay, but I still had some questions. Report
Awesome!! Report
Nice DVD, am going to try it.

I have to say I am fed up with hearing people say things like 'using it as an excuse', 'need to take it up a notch', hey people, when you say stuff like that you are saying 2 things. One, you are a BIGOT against large people and two, you judge based on looks and nothing else. Shallow, I have stepped in deeper puddles. Report
I am looking forward to trying out this video. It will be nice to watch some one who looks a little bit more like me and not a movie star. Report
Just got home from a 10-day family reunion/vacation -- was thrilled to see the review and your comments. To answer some of your questions, no this isn't a way to get people to fool themselves into thinking being obese is okay (Carli_Mae). It is a way to help people think that they are okay, regardless of their size. It's my hope that through yoga people will find awareness, acceptance and affection. We often try to loose weight through hating ourselves (how many times have you thought that you hate your arms, belly or some other part of you?) I want people to change because they love themselves and through that affection make different choices -- which could be to make no change at all other than stopping the war they have going on with their bodies. Whatever decision you make, I believe yoga can help support your efforts off the mat. Many of my students here in Austin go to support groups for their eating or to nutritional counselors -- in fact, I have a class where everyone is in some part of the Weight Loss Surgery process. It's using yoga as a tool for self awareness and supporting your goal.

Trytryagain50: Have not done the WiiFit yoga, so I'm unsure how it works. Will let you know if I get to practice with it sometime soon.

If you ordered the DVD while I was gone, please know they'll be shipped on Monday the 6th. Please keep in touch and let me know how it goes or if you have any other questions.
I have an stretching exercise CD that helps motivate people that need to exercise from a chair (like myself). Gives several examples on what each exercise will allow you to do easier (example: some of the hand movements help us open doors easier, some of the leg exercises help aid us in getting into and out of a vehicle, etc). Report
I am sooo glad to see a yoga dvd with a body I can relate too. I applaud Nicole for her honesty about not knowing how it feels to exercise obese. I will definately be getting this DVD, thank you Nicole and thank you Abby Report
I began this whole journey to health through attending classes offered by a woman who had an average sized body who taught yoga classes for large women. I doubt I'd be where I am today (eating healthy, constantly trying to be more active, a gym member who has lost 85 lbs). I gained confidence, and ultimately learned tons of modifications and adaptations of the poses. Just recently I was in a "mainstreamed" yoga class and a teacher thanked me for teaching her something she'd never seen before in terms of a modification. Report
This was an absolutely amazing find for someone who is not only larger but also wheelchair bound. Amazon made some excellent recommendations for other DVDs including yoga which can be done sitting or in bed. Report
Thank you for this. I ordered and am having Abby's DVD sent to my parents. They are both overweight and can do this together. Abby even looks like my mom. Kissmet as they say. Report
Yay! A video with people who look like me! Report
wow i really need to try this Report
Wow I would totally love to try this. Report
I loved yoga but kind of got away from it after it became difficult in my several post-op periods over the past six years. Now I am in the worst shape of my 51 years. I preach "accomodation" to patients who are differently abled so maybe I should take a page from that book! Great blog, I am inspired! Report
I used to do Yoga for Round Bodies from Kripalua Yoga. Iwill definitely try this DVD. I definitely enjoy workouts in which the leader is not typical. Report
This is great! I'm so glad to see yoga teachers who do not fit the body stereotype! My yoga teacher is not a thin woman - she is QUITE voluptuous! But she is so encouraging and positive that EVERYONE who takes her class loves it, from bare beginners to advanced students, the very thin to the very large. She teaches four classes a week, and two are called "Yoga for the Buddha Body." I don't have a typical "Buddha body," but I still love her class. She truly believes that yoga is for EVERY body, and she shows it! Report
All I have to say is KUDOS! I have so many of the bigger women I work with say, "I heard Yoga is for thin people." WHAT? Are you kidding? I find that a lot of heavier people (who don't have significant health problems) are just as agile and flexible as "thin" people! I encourage women of all shapes to try our Yoga classes. I'm very fortunate that my instructors are amazing and able to help them modify as needed. Yoga is amazing and I love that this women has helped make it more accessible for all people! Report

Tuesday night I went with my daughter to a yoga class.
I had some times I could not do everything, like the bringing the leg and bending knee under you while the other leg extended back. But I feel excellent. I am on my third day of feeling great and greating things done
I am continueing yoga at home right now , I have a cd and Tv also has classes!
Try it. You will be surprised.
Linda Report
Years ago I purchased a VHS exercise tape with women who were was such a relief to be taught by women who were fit but looked like me...I lost more weight and had more motivation with them than I had ever experienced withe "regular" exercise tapes...I still own those tapes and have actually thought about re-using them... Report
This is something I am very interested in getting. I had knee surgery at the begining of last year (and am having surgery on the other knee on Wed.), and have had great difficulty getting down on my knees. I will order this to have ready after my physical therapy ends. I had been doing the yoga on the Wii Fit, but there are many poses that I couldn't even attempt to do due to my knees and weight, hopefully I will be able to manage them after this. Report
I am excited to try this. I had knee surgery a couple years ago and have been hesitant to get back to yoga because I have trouble kneeling. It sounds like this video can help me work around that. When I went to yoga previously my instructor was really good about helping work 'around' my heaviness. She also had many elderly people in the class and would work with their limitations too. She was stick thin of course! Report
I agree with most every other commenter that this video series is a great idea. It's not about being obese, but just being real. Everybody can't be a size negative 3 model, so even if you are just 15 or 20 pounds overweight beginning a healthier lifestyle can seem daunting.

That being said, I agree with WALLOWA that some of the comments about you not knowing what it feels like to be obese come across as a little brash. Report
If this is helping convince obese and overweight people that there's no excuse for postponing exercise, I'm all for it.
Having taught yoga on the side way back in the 70's and 80's, I have to wonder what is so "new" about the concept, as the Guru or Master Teachers I worked with always emphasized that in yoga, you take the student from where they are at the moment. Back then, some of the instructors (myself included) were very thin, but others were a little "chunky" -- no where near obese, but also not anything like the photos you see today. So I guess I'm just disappointed that here in the Western world, we've lost sight of the original teachings of the ancients who started the practice.
Another unfortunate example of the distorted and extreme way we look at ourselves and others today. I'm also thinking ... is this yet another way of getting people to "fool" themselves into thinking "well, I'm limber & do yoga -- so my obesity is not so dangerous to my health; and I don't need to bump it up a notch to get more weight off?" Is this what is in the back of Abby's mind, herself? Abby looks like she's ready to take it up to the next level to me. Will she? Or is she content with the status quo?

Ms "Taking a Hard Look/Tough Love" today :-o
I found from experience, that it does help in the fact they can give more 'precise' instructions. I'd almost forgot how hard it was to do some Exercises until I tried to Coach my Husband. It can truly be frustrating to try to instruct unless you've walked in their shoes! I believe its the number one reason most give up on Exercise. Report
This for sure sounds like a DVD I need to check out Report
What a great option! I had a similar experience with a personal trainer who wanted me to do floor exercises, without understanding that it wasn't lack of flexibility, it was the rolls of fat getting in the way. She, too, had never been overweight and didn't "get it". I guess it was a poor relationship anyway, because I never felt comfortable explaining it to her. Report
I am thrilled to see this. I've always heard that yoga is so good for you with lengthening and stretching the body, but never felt I could keep up with some of the difficult poses. I am going to treat myself to this as my first "gift" to myself when I reach one of my goals at the end of this month. Thank you so much, Nicole, for letting us know this is out there. Report
i believe that the more options people have to getting and staying fit the better. Report
Thank you for the info. This makes me want to try yoga. Perhaps this video will be my next splurge. I will alternate it with some of Leslie Sansone's, for a well-rounded program of fitness. Report
I have recently started taking the relaxing yoga class here at work and i love it. I am very excited about this dvd cause i myself find it hard to manuver around my belly. I get very depressed cause i have the flexability to do these moves, but my tummy keeps me from reaching the full stretch. I think that i may splurge on this one if not for anything but to learn how to get around the belly bulge. Report
Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a weekly summary of our diet and fitness advice We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.