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Can Yoga Help You Lose Weight?
Diets are often about limiting your experience. Yoga is about celebrating the experience of life. Which would you find easier to commit to? This excerpt from the book Yoga Conditioning for Weight Loss explains why, by teaching you to turn your focus inward, yoga works on an emotional level to strengthen a nurturing relationship with yourself and with food — and identify your overeating triggers. Can yoga help you lose weight? Yes!
It may surprise you to learn that weight loss is not entirely the point of this book. Yoga is certainly a means to that end, but not exactly in the way one would expect. Yoga helps you to develop a leaner, more supple body not by emphasizing a restricted food intake and targeted muscle-building, but by nurturing an attitude adjustment that paves the way for long-term change. Yoga establishes physical and mental poise in a natural, gradual, lasting and organic way. Typical weight-loss programs address the symptom (excess fat) and ignore the cause, which is essentially an imbalance caused by or manifested as any range of emotional problems, bad habits and poor nutrition. Through a sustained yoga practice, your body will change, your health and metabolism will improve, and your peace of mind and self-discipline will return.
The first reason to turn to yoga is simple: Diets — at least the type of diets most people follow — don't work. Diets in our society are usually defined as food-deprivation regimens that promote temporary thinness. In fact, the derivation of the word diet means "manner of living," and that's how you should think of your "diet." You can't separate your behavior with food from your relationship with the rest of the world. If you are starving yourself, or cheating or being dishonest with yourself in terms of food, chances are you are doing it elsewhere. On the other hand, if you have an exciting, nurturing and enthusiastically healthy way with food, that openness and generosity of spirit will extend to the rest of your life.
We all know the formula for losing weight: Burn more calories than you consume. If it's so easy, why are 60 percent of Americans overweight? The reason is that, although weight gain has something to do with how much and what we eat, it often has more to do with why we eat, which varies considerably from person to person.
If you're eating to compensate for grief, dieting won't help you deal with your loss. If you snack to calm your nerves, cutting calories won't help you release stress. If you crave the wrong foods because of chemical imbalances, an appetite suppressant won't recalibrate your system. If you indulge in bad habits with the excuse that your job is too demanding and you simply don't have time to maintain a more balanced lifestyle, a frozen low-fat meal won't help you take responsibility for your health and well being.
Many bad habits are emotionally driven; their catalyst may be a single act of self-neglect that spirals into a breakdown in the system. By teaching you to turn your focus inward, yoga works on an emotional level to put you in touch with your feelings and to strengthen a nurturing relationship with yourself. By increasing your awareness of your body and the way you move through life, yoga can help you recognize how and why you aren't taking better care of yourself. It can help you identify your overeating triggers and determine whether they are chemical, habitual or emotional.
Yoga also works on a biological level to offset the reactions that are set in motion when you eat unhealthy foods or foods that may be right for others but wrong for you. These foods cause hormonal reactions that can lead not only to obesity and disease but also to depression, a common trigger for bingeing. Eating "wrong" foods triggers a reaction that often simultaneously makes you crave more of the same and drives you deeper into depression.
By tracking how your body and feelings relate to food, you can find the keys to maintaining equilibrium — both emotional and biological. That's something most diets just won't do. Diets are often about limiting your experience. Yoga is about celebrating the experience of life. Which would you find easier to commit to?