As a yoga teacher, I am often asked this question. Here's my take on it.
Ok so all the experts tell us that in order to lose weight, we need to exercise more and eat less (and healthier foods of course). That's it right? Well if it were that simple, the western world wouldn't be faced with such a growing obesity epidemic. Of course there are many factors that are contributing to the fact that our world is getting bigger and sicker, and these can include the fast food industry, education, broken homes, parenting etc. Here's what I think the biggest reason is though: our world is getting unhappier and more disconnected than ever.
Let me explain what I mean by this.
When we put on weight, there are very high chances that we are eating more than what our body truly needs. And don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about the occasional overindulgence, which in my opinion is healthy, I'm talking about consistent overeating and eating past the body's signals to stop. Now that begs the question: when we overeat, are we trying to feed the body, or is it the heart that we are desperately trying to feed?
In this digital world, we are getting more and more disconnected from our bodies that we can't seem to tell the difference between the two. We have become numb. We make decisions based on what others tell us is best; the best foods to eat and the latest workout craze that can help us burn 2000 calories. How many times have you gone on a strict diet and tried that latest workout, just to find yourself in the same place (and probably heavier) a few months later?
I have learnt that in order to heal our bodies for the long term (key word), we must start by healing our hearts.
Start by giving your heart the nutrition that fills it up. That nutrition can be yoga, meditation, walking, running, being in nature, listening to or making music, painting, playing with a pet, fixing food for someone you love, or just sitting and being present with people.
At the same time, we must start with the uncomfortable journey of looking deep within, making peace with any past trauma or experience, and beginning to feel... well all of it, the good, and the not so good.
Here is what has worked for me; therapy, Forrest Yoga and acceptance.
Therapy helped me get to the root of a lot of my behaviours. The opinion of a third party was gold for me. She just said it like it was, which was intriguing and comforting all at the same time. It helped me question myself, my life, my relationships, my career and identify what was and what wasn't working for me. I then was able to take these insights and explore them further on my yoga mat.
Forrest Yoga is a very intelligent practice that is intensely physical, and teaches you to breathe deeply and connect with the body. Very simply, it teaches us how to feel. Will you lose 5 kilos in a week? No, and trust me you don't want to. There are no quick fixes in life. If you want to create a healthier and happier you, it takes time. When we connect and feel our bodies again, we can then start to make the right decisions to honour its needs. You will want to eat the cleaner foods, and you will become more sensitive to hunger signals. The physicality of the practice will release all those good chemicals in your brain making you feel really good. And when you feel good over a longer period of time, and learn the tools to manage the more stressful and sadder times, the weight just falls right off.
Lastly, acceptance... It's only until I started to love the hell out of my body that everything started to fall into place.
"Thank you body for all you have done and do for me. You loved and supported me even when I didn't love you back. I promise to love you back as best I can" Dana Falsetti
It was my therapist that had reminded me that our bodies are not permanent. They are constantly changing. And the more we try to control it, the more miserable we will be. Learning to accept and love the change will only bring joy and peace of mind. Lastly, knowing that I (and my body) am exactly where I am meant to be right now is a huge relief. In the words of a wonderful student and friend of mine: "Cut your amazing body some slack!"
So going back to my initial question: Can yoga help me lose weight? My answer is a resounding YES, but ONLY if you are truly open, committed and willing to do the work.
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