Here at Bear World Magazine, we are firm believers in self-love, body positivity and inclusion. We know that bigger bodies don’t necessarily indicate unhealthy bodies, but we are also very much aware of society’s prejudice against bodies like ours.
When the New Year comes around, we are inevitably going to be bombarded with negative messaging about big bodies and we’re going to hear about the latest and greatest diets and fitness regiments. I’m sure you’ve seen the ads already, all designed to make us feel bad about ourselves with attempts to have us pursue unrealistic goals and body standards.
Well, not this year bears. Let’s have compassion for ourselves and meet our bodies where they are. It is never too late to take steps toward a healthier lifestyle and a healthy lifestyle does not mean you have to give up all the foods and activities you love.
From personal experience I have found monumental benefits from simple low impact exercise. With a half hour walk per day I was able to get my bloodwork numbers back in order and found more energy and endurance. If walking’s not your thing or you are not able to then there are definitely other options available for you!
Take NYC’s own bear personal trainer Jeff Manrique. A trained and certified yoga and Pilates instructor, Jeff has taken the time and effort to modify these types of stretches and movements for people of all body sizes and fitness abilities to great success. So, if you’ve been thinking about starting a new fitness regimen, but have been reluctant because of your ability or size, here’s your chance! Jeff offers online and in-person classes that can get you started on your fitness journey with his signature enthusiasm and compassion.
Get to know about him and his practice below.
John Hernandez (JH): Hi Jeff, thanks for joining me. What made you develop a yoga program for bears and chubs?
Jeff Manrique (JM): In the past I’ve had partners who suffered pain and tension throughout their body. I was inspired to share a gentle movement and breathing practice to help release tension & restore their body in a rehabilitative way.
Through my practice, I have taught men of various body types in the bear & chub community. I specialize in bigger bodies, assisting them to achieve better movement on a conscious level.
JH: And what type of yoga do you teach? How can yoga poses and stretches be modified for people with limited range of motion and bigger bodies?
JM: I teach Hatha Yoga – (this balances the sun and moon energies in the body), Gentle Vinyasa -(flow through movement), Restorative – (using props to create body support), Chair Yoga (supporting the knees & ankles) & Yoga Nidra – (a guided meditation for deep Relaxation & Rest, a little bit of R&R).
Yoga poses can be modified by learning more about the way our bodies move and how the breath can guide you into a deeper stretch. For example, when doing a lunge, there are modifications to make room for bigger bellies such as bringing your knees outside of the arms.
JH: What is Yoga Nidra, I am not familiar and what are the benefits?
JM: Yoga Nidra (Yoga Sleep) is a guided meditation. It’s actually the easiest form of meditation.
It helps the body get into a deeper sleep state for Rest and Relaxation. This is great for those who suffer from sleep apnea and other sleeping disorders, as well as improving mental, emotional and muscular tension in the body.
JH: I could use some of that! Haha! What would you say to bigger people who want to start an exercise regimen but are afraid to because of self-consciousness or being out of shape?
JM: Take it at your own pace, don’t force it, be gentle with yourself.
It’s not about doing every movement “perfectly”. It’s about doing it in a way that is comfortable in your own body. If you aren’t comfortable while doing the movements, then you aren’t doing them correctly for you!
You are the expert of your own body and making small changes now can lead to impactful and bigger changes later.
JH: Great advice. Do you work with bears on other types of exercise routines besides yoga?
JM: Yes! I work on all levels of fitness, teaching Pilates and personally training people, specializing in strength & conditioning and making fitness accessible to all bodies.
In private sessions, I assess the body from the ground up and cater our session to fit your personal needs.
JH: How has yoga benefited you personally?
JM: When I was younger, I didn’t have much of a direction in life due to a hard upbringing dealing with homelessness throughout my childhood and most of my teenage years.
I was having muscular pains throughout my body and difficulties breathing as a result of trauma I had faced. Yoga gave me the strength to come into my own personal power by opening and releasing stored tension I didn’t know was there. Learning how to move and breathe helped me to become more attuned with my body.
Yoga gave me the courage to be strong and confident in myself to overcome the challenges that have come my way. This inspired me to become the greatest version of myself so that I may help others become the best versions of themselves.
JH: Where were you trained?
JM: I received my 200 Hour YTT (yoga teacher training) certification at Sweet Water Dance & Yoga. At ISHTA Yoga I received both my 300 Hour YTT and my ISHTA Masters Certification. I have studied inner engineering for deep breathing meditation under Shad Guru, along with being certified in Pilates (Core Strength & Conditioning) with Power Pilates.
JH: And now tell us about Bear Sense of Wellness.
JM: Bear Sense of Wellness (A Sense of Wellness For Bigger Bodies) is a body positive outlet for us to discover, play, and explore health & wellness practices that I’ve made accessible to bigger bodies.
We offer online classes twice per month for people around the world which alternates between a Bear Bed/Chair with Yoga Nidra and a Strength & Conditioning class for bigger bodies. Both classes are specially designed to modify postures, giving options to move within the comfort of your own bed or mat on the ground.
Our mission is not to make people lose weight (unless that’s what they are looking for), it is to empower them to feel freedom in their bodies; to make them feel strong, confident and to love their bodies, building them up to a place where they can celebrate their bodies with a strong sense of self.
Exercise can be an intimidating practice for those with limited mobility. Bear Sense of Wellness is a program that takes bigger-bodied individuals at all mobility levels and gives them tools and a safe space to move their bodies. At Bear Sense of Wellness, we work under the slogan “Believe, Achieve, Succeed”.
JH: That’s wonderful. I love that. How can our readers join your online class or reach you for in person training in NY?
If you would like to inquire about private sessions either online or in person, please email Manriquewellness@gmail.com.
Look out for our next online event “Bear Bed/Chair with Yoga Nidra” on Sunday, January 21st , 2024 at 6PM EST.
From now until March 1st Jeff is offering Bear World readers a 10% discount on personal training sessions which you can take advantage of by emailing “BeartifulBody24” to Manriquewellness@gmail.com.