How yoga answers a weighty question

5 Apr

A prospective student wanted to know if yoga had anything to do with weight loss. Could doing yoga help her lose weight? Or maybe she meant: Did she have to lose weight first in order to do yoga?

The answer on both counts is no. Well, maybe no.

Yoga is all about going inwards. About shutting out the world and coming into our presence, our breath, our true essence. It has nothing to do with the size of our jeans.

We are so preoccupied with the external world —  our looks, our weight, how we come across to others that we judge ourselves — without mercy — by standards that take into account only the fleeting: Supple skin, firm muscle tone, taut tummies, hard-rock quads. Trees age and wither; our dogs age, slow down and go blind. And yet, we hold ourselves up to impossible standards.

We go to class, get on our mats and the first thing we do is look around the room and compare ourselves to others. Do our hips, thighs and tummies pass muster? Will our jiggly bits jiggle so much more in downward facing dog, forgetting yet again the true gifts of yoga.

Yoga teaches powerful lessons in honor — honoring yourself in everything you do. That includes eating. It teaches patience, kindness and moderation — not only in the postures, but in our lives. So when you step off the mat and walk into the kitchen, you can tap into those lessons. You reach for food that will nourish you; and you consume just enough to nourish and sustain — not insult with greed.

Yoga meets you where you are. That could be in a wheelchair — or in a body that is maybe dragged down by excess — unnecessary — weight. The gift of yoga is that as you come to honor and respect yourself, you come to a place where you want to do no harm to yourself: And that includes eating unhealthy foods and, in unhealthy quantities.

So unlike popular TV series…yoga won’t make you into the biggest loser – only the biggest gainer.

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2 Responses to “How yoga answers a weighty question”

  1. Ryan April 6, 2011 at 1:31 am #

    If the potential yogi hears the answer no, he would most likely walk out and never come back… This is heavy karma for the yoga teacher, because by a simple technicality of language, possibly the ego or a heavy hand on judgment, we are denying access to the knowledge of yoga. In all honesty do you expect enlightenment from a customer? It is obvious by your remarks that you think that being over weight is because the -excessive- lifestyle, and as you mention yoga teaches patience, kindness and moderation which are not exercised by the author. Think about it from the shoes of an -excessive- person whose new year’s resolution was to loose some pounds, the person who has not read the yogas, and the one that has been a victim of advertising and the current situation in this country, that person needs a kind response and not a lesson on what he is doing wrong and how bad are his choices in food and quantities.. The most common mistake from somebody who reads or practice the yogas is moral superiority and a tendency to judge or demonize whoever does not align with the knowledge as we can see from this situation, the same goes with the concept of Himsa (respect all life) and the common interpretation that means convert to vegetarian and condemn the cow killers which is per se violating Himsa as we do not respect the decisions or the life of people who choose not to turn into vegetarians.

    Namaste

    • debraschell May 30, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

      Lovely blog post. Inspires me to look at life in a new way. I hope to get a chance to take your class sometime. Sounds like it would help me in this stressful time of my life. You are a brilliant writer and I am glad I met you the other weekend. Hope we can chat again sometime. – Deb

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