Tons of articles are spread all over the web about “yoga for weight loss”. Almost all of them approach this topic through how Asanas “work” in order to lose weight doing Yoga. But is this the point?
I frequently practice Ashtanga yoga. Sometimes I manage to attend the pranayama and zazen sessions at the shala. When I can’t manage that, I practice zazen at home. I would like to do that more often but haven’t managed so far due to family & business obligations and priorities. Things need balance in life. You know… like Utthita Hasta Padangushtasana does.
The thing is that in the shala, there are no open discussions about weight management or any kind of focus on “how to use yoga for weight loss”, but rather to “practice and all is coming”.
Yet, I know, that is a topic that concerns many people. If you practice for an amount of time you may also find that there are many Asanas that seem more interesting when there is no “extra flesh” in the way.
Some things to reflect upon
However at the same time it seems that the very existence of this “extra flesh” is what adds an interesting point on observing what happens with your body.
So, what happens with the extra pounds one has? Is it an issue with practice or just something to encounter and decide what to do? And where indeed the opinion about the Self comes in? Is it a matter of social conditioning on what is “good or bad” or what is good for you?
The Media “terror”?
There are photos with Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, teaching Ashtanga some quite obese students of India upper class. Additionally, there are videos all over Social Media, showing how quite big men or women “perform” some tricky Asanas.
Check this video of T.K. teaching, at 4:00 onward.
Yet, is “performance” the key element? And moreover what is the role of extra weight in relation to performance? Is it “doing the Asanas correctly” the element to consider? How is this evaluated, since there are indeed a quite big number of body types, all made by nature itself?
Mainstream media like to “push” photos of lean, skinny Yogis and Yoginis.
Many of them may come with natural flexibility, along with low fat percentage in their body. My daughter for example is thin and amazingly flexible. I found she is doing various Asanas without even knowing they are Asanas at all. She just twists her body to play or stands in some vertical ones (that I struggle to do), just to relax.
Yet, is extra weight an issue in yoga practice? Or, perhaps, the key element here is the deeper meaning of the “Extra” word in its many aspects?
The Media focus mainly in the external aspect of this topic. For example, they promote that a body that looks thin (or lean) doing yoga is a healthy one, and that is the only way. But what is the truth?
By the way, if you attend a yoga class where students pour in their effort in their practice, breathing properly, you will definitely not see the “sharp, processed by photoshop” photos, but lots of sweaty, struggling, twisting bodies and mats. Just saying…
Approaching the “raw” Body factor
Even if “extra pounds” is not the issue, many are with less -than wanted- flexibility , when they start Yoga.
For example Ashtanga seems like a demanding form of Yoga, yet Ashtanga also seems to quickly hold a mirror in front of you showing you what you are (made from). So, if you approach Ashtanga solely from the point of “exercise” then it seems to bring up some info in the can/cannot do area, like:
- You have much more weight than “needed” in order to perform the exercise. For example try to perform any Asana that requires a binding or bringing your feet/hand around or under you, or even fold them. You will see that there are “things” at your body that stop you from “getting closer” to it.
- Your body is not flexible to perform more complex Asanas and needs to open up, bend, twist, stretch, break,… whatever… (OK, kidding about the break thing). So, something happens with your “muscular” system, at least.
But what makes bodies to lack in flexibility?
Some people tend to believe that this happens due to:
- Not having any kind of workout in their life before starting yoga
- Working out at sports that contract the muscles instead of growing them strong but flexible, i.e. weight lifting
- Incorrect performance of exercises in any sport (i.e. lack of stretching or rehab exercises before and after any sport)
- Not knowing the effect food has in their body
Yet, is the body of each one of us, just a “body to exercise” with? And how this relates to yoga?
Going deeper into the rabbit hole
Let’s assume you have extra weight. Whatever you think as “extra”.
Mind affects brain, which affects psychology, which affects body elements, which affects body parts. Have you ever noticed that when you are happy you are more relaxed and flexible? How easily you flow from Asana to Asana?
Where is your weight then?
It is there.
It affects your circulation and how your heart pumps. If you carry a bigger stomach you see it very close to you in any “folding” Asana as i.e. Karnapidasana or Halasana.
But what do you find out then?
Many people say that the mere practice of actually confronting their present physical status, acts like an epiphany.
You can actually see what you are made from and if you like what you have/carry/think of you.
Maybe you see the “more”. Yet, isn’t Yoga and zazen a “destructive” process? I mean don’t you see through practice the “extras” in your mind and whateveryou can get rid off and be more happy in life?
Yoga seems to do this thing to you as any other activity that requires your attention, being present and enjoying it. You know… like… everything in life does.
It immediately shows you (or gradually depending on how you approach it), what are the mental, physical and psychological elements that consist what you think of “You”. They show it to you right there on the spot/mat.
You see the extras.
Practice for a good number of times and this gradually becomes more obvious. An urge arises to get rid of any extras. As you practice this seems to go deeper.
Practice Zazen even for a few times per week, just for 10-20 minutes per time and you will enhance that largely.
You see You!
Do you like what you work with? Do you accept what you are right now or do you deny that? Actually do you accept yourself as it is now at that point? That seems fine.
Do you want to change what you find out? Well, that seems fine too.
Actually, accepting what you are is many times the first step to overcome denial. Then naturally changing what you don’t like is the next step. This as people change when they realize that they “suffer”. Of course, they change to any direction they believe as the “right one”.
If you don’t like your weight and want to explore what happens with having control over your body, then you win.
If you can’t do the Asana you also win, as you see the obstacles. Maybe it is your extra flesh or your mind, or the combination of these 2. Do you eat with your mouth or do you eat with your mind first? Personally, I find the latter to be more valid.
So, is yoga for weight loss, only? Is it just about losing the extra pounds?
I think it is more. I think that the element of “destruction of extras” gradually arises.
As our “monkey” mind starts dumping out the garbage about what you think of yourself and your current reality, you will start accepting that reality in order to change it.
What do you think? Is it like that?