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Can Yoga Help Me Lose Weight?
I'm often asked if yoga will help someone lose weight and I always say that it can, but not in the way we think. We've been so programmed to think of weight loss as a 'calories in and calories out' equation. We're told we just need to burn more than we use and we'll become our svelte selves. While it can be that simple for some, most of us find the relationship between eating, exercise, and weight management is a bit more complicated than that.
And the value of yoga is really for those of us whose relationship to eating and food is more complex: we eat, and overeat, for many emotional and social reasons. How often have you noticed that you eat because you're sad, happy, bored, or stressed out regardless of hunger? Some of us eat to celebrate something good and eat to comfort ourselves when life is not so good. If we simply try to control this eating response, it's a losing battle; we still have the feelings but no familiar way of coping with them. And if we eat anyway we just create more lousy feelings to cope with.
That's where yoga comes in. We know that the physical yoga poses help strengthen and lengthen our bodies while burning calories, but when it comes to weight loss yoga helps in much more subtle but powerful ways.
I'm more conscious and aware of my body
Yoga helps us learn to be more comfortable in our own skin. Often we spend our days living 'from the neck up' and ignore the effects of stress, lack of sleep, unhealthy food or alcohol we're putting into our bodies. Through yoga we learn to notice how our body feels in many different poses. After the session we feel calm, energized and satisfied with what our bodies have accomplished. We automatically want to do better things for ourselves, not because we should but because of the way they make us feel.
I'm less judgemental
Yoga teaches us to accept ourselves and our bodies as we are today. If we're accepting of our body, we're less in conflict about eating. And removing that conflict can help you be more at peace about the whole issue. Being more at peace helps you look at the 'big picture' and let go of individual events. In other words, one bag of chips won't bring the world crashing down around you. You simply make a point of deciding differently next time and get on with life.
I want to be good to myself
Over time, yoga helps us be more aware of the effects of our choices on ourselves. We realize that we makes choices all the time that can affect how we feel and when it comes down to it, being good to ourselves sustains us and makes us feel healthy and good. We stop dumping on ourselves and become our own allies. And yes, that means that over time you may find yourself craving a salad :-)
I'm calm and strong
Nothing beats the 'all is right with the world' calm that comes after a good yoga practice. With time we start to find the tools to feel more calm and connected anytime. Take yoga breathing for example. Yoga teaches us that we can breathe through anything - even a desperate jonesing for chocolate. Sometimes our eating can be traced to deep-down issues like fears of not having enough, or problems taking care of ourselves. Being more grounded, thanks to a regular yoga practice, we can start to shift some of these deep-set beliefs that don't serve us.
We're so programmed to look for the quick fix in our culture: the speedy diet, the pill, the drug that will make the problem go away. Yoga is a longer term solution. We're not 'fixed' in a week or a month, but incremental changes happen over time and eventually you realize things have really shifted for you. And that kind of behavior change won't be easily undone.