Every year, millions of Americans (and for that matter, people all over the world) spend billions of dollars in the quest for the perfect body. Fad diets, quick fixes, self hypnosis, and the like entice and motivate us to shed those unwanted pounds. But do these things work? For some yes, but for the majority of people it tends to create a yo-yo affect.
Anne Falkowski, in this recent Elephant Journal post, helps to shed some light on why. Giving credit to the fact that yoga can lead to weight loss, Falkowski, points out that in reality a solid yoga and meditation practice offer a much more profound reason for that weight decrease.
I sell out and give the easy answer, the one we are all looking for, which is “yes”. But the real answer is more complex. Yoga does facilitate weight loss but not in the ways we might expect. When we slow down on our yoga and/or meditation mat to pause and breathe, we naturally reduce stress levels in the body and this response is helpful to encourage our natural weight. Stress can lead to binge-ing and out-of-control eating. A decrease of stress hormones in the body influences how we burn and store our fat. Remarkably stress reduction is only one component of yoga and weight loss.
Unlike the gym, yoga is not a “put your time on the mat and burn the corresponding amount of calories” type of gig. I once heard that a moderate yoga class with standing poses, back bends and twists (not a restorative practice) burns as much calories as driving a car. Not too promising of a fat-melting return.
But the good news is that yoga works in a way that is so much more beautiful and brilliant than that. A yoga practice is an hour or so where we meet our selves on our mat, with all of our strengths and vulnerabilities, where we continuously pay attention to what is happening in the present moment and respond skillfully and without judgment. This could be adjusting a pose on the yoga mat so that it doesn’t hurt anymore (even if this means not being perfect) or off of the yoga mat — noticing cues in our environment and attending to them in a way that supports us without compromising our self or others.
Read more from Falkowski on using meditation and yoga to lose weight here.