If you want a simple answer, yes you do. But if you’re looking for a long winded but more truthful answer, then no. One doesn’t lose weight by consecutively striking social media-worthy poses that you see professionals do quite effortlessly. The root of the problem here is that yoga is widely misunderstood for just one aspect that it represents: The poses or asanas, as we know them.
Take it from someone who’s attended Vinyasa yoga classes rigorously for years and hadn’t seen any difference. I huffed and puffed in between strenuous workouts, yet my t-shirts only got tighter. The reason being? I was working my body to the ground without giving it proper nourishment or the rest that it required. A good diet and exercise go hand-in-hand. That’s something most of us are familiar with. But a healthy mind is of paramount importance in striking a balance between the two. This is a crucial aspect that comprehensive yoga endorses, but more often than not it’s ignored in environments where losing weight equals doing everything in one’s capacity to fit into that little black dress!
Yoga is a science: a science of keeping the mind and body supple and healthy. One can go on as many crash diets as one likes or hit the gym every single day in the pursuit of one’s ideal size, but long-lasting results happen only when one stops punishing one’s body. It is important to let go of feverishness to achieve one’s weight loss goals (please don’t confuse being determined with being feverish). If one doesn’t, the latter somehow converts to desperation, which in turn leads to extreme measures and in the end, a lot of disappointment. I would like to share a part of my story here. I remember attending a yoga course that was all about conquering the mind and vain little me was initially worried I’d pack on the pounds. We were served two huge meals during the day, apart from mid-meal snacking. As the course went on, I paid less and less attention to how many carbs and fats I consumed and focused more on how good it felt to eat those sumptuous meals. Our days were also filled with plenty of activities and yogi duties. And I’ll even admit I polished off several bags of nuts and bars of chocolate during this time. After completion of the month long course, I weighed 6 pounds less. What is my point of telling you this, you might ask? My point is that weight loss was a by product of being healthy and happy!
In all these years I have learnt a few pointers from yoga:
- Don’t abuse your body – Listen to your stomach when you’re semi-full. You don’t need to wolf down both pieces of brownies because you had a bad day. You will survive without over indulging.
- Eat fresh food – Yoga means living life in the simplest form and eating fresh, unprocessed food.
- Make time for yourself – This does not necessarily mean exercising. An underrated yet powerful tool of yoga is spending time with oneself, meditating.
- Eat during the day, sleep during the night – In today’s day and age we tend to confuse the two and end up feeling bloated, nauseous and ill the next day (and if done over a long period of time, we end up with more serious issues).
- Don’t obsess – The more you concentrate on losing weight, the more you stress your body and mind. And a continued period of stress sends signals to your body to lower your metabolic rate. End result: more weight gain!
- Listen to your body – We tend to overwork ourselves, push ourselves physically and mentally, causing us wear and tear not just in our joints and muscles, but fatigue in our mind as well.
- Yoga isn’t punishment – In this mad rush to lose weight we tax our bodies in the hope that we’ll drop a few sizes. But the premise of yogic exercise can be best summed up in three words from the scriptures: Sthira sukham asanam. Roughly translated, it means the goal is not the final product of a chiselled body. But rather, it’s in the process of finding a state of steady comfort in a pose.
Finally, yoga is about the long term. It may not have immediate results, but in the long run, I guarantee it’ll make you either win your battle with the bulge for good, or if not that (and even better) it’ll make you win the battle in your mind about letting go of those few extra pounds that didn’t even matter in the first place.