Al Bingham, one of our recent Tall Guy Spotlights, is a professional yoga instructor who began his tall yoga journey in NYC. Just like us at TallSlim Tees, one of Al's missions is to improve the lives of tall guys, making them feel more confident and comfortable with their height.
Al graciously agreed to share some sage wisdom with us - so don't miss out! Read below:
Tell us a little bit about your story - how did you discover yoga? When did you become a yoga instructor? How did you get to be where you are today?
I began practicing yoga in NYC in 1995 because everyone else in my German language class dropped out and went to yoga instead.
I had been one of the few people getting off the elevator on the 5th floor for the language school; everyone else was heading to the yoga studio on the 12th. Once my class was canceled, I decided to see what the draw was.
Stepping out onto the streets of Manhattan after that first class, I felt a sense of height and of inner contentment that I hadn’t experienced up until then.
In no time, not only was I hooked on yoga, but the studio’s founder, Yogiraj Alan Finger, trained me to teach. I ended up co-authoring two books on yoga with him and teaching yoga on a TV show (Yoga Zone) named after the studio. Since then, I continued my studies with other teachers, including Gary Kraftsow and more recently, Rajmani Tigunait, Ph.D.
From the get-go, it was the meditative aspects of practice that drew me in. Because of my proportions as a tall guy, I didn’t fall in love with the practice of postures in the way that many people do. At least not at first.
And yet, those initial difficulties inspired my deep dive into movement studies which included co-treating with physical therapists at H&D Physical Therapy in NYC and a Fellowship in Applied Functional Science with Drs. Gary Gray and David Tiberio at the Gray Institute.
Thanks to those studies, I’m able to help practitioners of all shapes and sizes find a way to access the full range of benefits that the practice of yoga has to offer.
How has yoga improved your life as a tall guy?
When you’re tall, you stand out. But if you’re tall and insecure - which is what I was - standing out may be the last thing you want.
So for me, the gift of yoga was a quieting of the inner voices that made me want to shrink.
Learning to appreciate the unique attributes of my body has made me more empathetic towards others who are working to accept whatever makes them unique - whether it’s their height, their aches and pains, their age, really whatever.
One of the definitions of yoga is having the capacity to stand in the depth and breadth of who you are – and who wouldn’t want that?
If you could pick one stretch you love as a tall person, what would you pick?
There’s a practice called agni sara which looks like a standing version of the cat/cow sequence. In this, with your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees bent, and your hands resting on your thighs, you’re able to offload into your legs a lot of your torso weight as well as any tension in your back or core tension. This sets you up to be able to mobilize the lower spine: rounding the low back on an exhalation and lengthening across the front of your pelvis and abdomen on the inhalation.
With practice, agni sara creates movements deep in the center of the pelvis and abdomen. Not only does it free up internal tension, aid your digestion, and tone the deep pelvic core muscles, it also clears your mind profoundly. You can’t help but stand taller and feel more grounded with this in your practice.
What is your favorite thing to wear while you do yoga?
My go-to practice wear is cozy pants - with a long inseam! - and any of my TallSlim Tees. I have so many at this point (loving the blues, the purple, the dark green and the olive ones), so I choose whatever color matches my mood that day. Lately, my favorite is the red crew!
If I’m a tall guy and I’m interested in doing more yoga, where should I start?
Welcome to Tall Yoga Nation!
During the pandemic, I closed my brick and mortar yoga studio and built a digital studio at EncourageYoga.com for people just like us. So there’s a place for you to come learn yoga without apologizing for being too tall or too tight or too lanky or anything like that. And you’re arriving at a place where somebody gets you from the outset.
I know that leg length, torso length, arm length, and neck length are factors which impact our ability to practice classic yoga postures in the way that shorter, gymnastic frames can. But the PostureTweak approach I use isn’t JV Yoga or Yoga-lite; it’s simply grounded in the reality that different bodies have different needs. So EncourageYoga.com is a place to learn to stand tall, to breathe long and deep, to see clearly, and to be the beacon you’re called to be.
**For a sample of what one of Al's classes might look like, follow this video:
Any final words of wisdom for your fellow tall guys?
Being tall is a gift, and perhaps because it just sort of happened to us, it’s one of the many things in our life we overlook. Perhaps people naturally look up to us because of our height differential, but our lives give us the chance to embody our stature from the inside out.
That’s our responsibility – to stand up as tall on the inside as we appear to be on the outside.
If you're interested in trying yoga to gain mobility, strength, and confidence as the awesome tall guy you are, make sure to check out Al's practice at EncourageYoga.com!