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Can yoga help with weight loss?

baptiste yoga beginners yoga what is yoga yoga for weight loss Sep 21, 2022

Can Yoga Help With Weight Loss?

Can yoga help with weight loss? This is a question that I’ve been asked many times before and the short answer to this question is ‘yes.’ I lost 150 pounds to be exact. Back in 2015 when I started practicing yoga, I was on a mission to lose weight, and that’s where all of my attention and focus was going at the time. I had weight loss surgery in the form of a lap band back in 2014. All of my effort and energy was going into this weight loss project at the time that I discovered hot power vinyasa yoga. I started out by exercising at the gym, but I didn’t really enjoy that gym atmosphere. When I discovered power yoga, I felt there was something bigger happening, but didn’t quite know what it was at the time.

I wanted to lose weight, and that’s where I put my attention. The type of yoga I was practicing was rigorous and I wanted it that way. The movements were more fast paced, the room was heated to 100 degrees, and I felt like the pounds were literally melting away. In the first year after my weight loss surgery, I lost 100 pounds. Some folks might think that weight loss surgery is the easy way out, but it definitely is not. Losing weight is practically a full time job. It takes a lot of rewiring in the brain, discipline, and learning all new habits and behaviors.

However, after I had that major weight loss, that’s when the rest of the work started. I had this belief that once I lost weight my life would fall right into place. I’d have the relationships, the money, and the right job. It turned out that none of that happened as a result of weight loss. Weight loss only solved one problem, being overweight. It has occurred to me in the time since that there are other layers to shed over time. So, I want to reframe this question in that there are other types of weight to lose.

I think about this as four pillars of weight loss. There is physical weight, emotional weight, mental weight, and spiritual weight. Each of these pillars is the type of weight or baggage that each of us may carry around. While the focus tends to be on physical weight loss, it has occurred to me that it goes much deeper.

Physical weight was the first priority for me at the time. I was 330 pounds and living in a body was physically challenging. My mobility was limited, clothes didn’t fit, and my body physically hurt from carrying the weight around. I wasn’t happy in my body and I felt limited in what I could do. I wanted to lose weight so I could feel better in my body. This has definitely been the case and the inflammation in my body is lessened. I feel better physically, but many of the same emotions, mental, and spiritual problems continued to follow me around.

Yoga helped me process emotional weight. There would be times where I would literally cry in the pose. There were so many sensations in my body as things began to open up that it would provoke emotions. What I learned about myself on the mat is how angry I was. This was an emotion that tended to come to the surface first. Underneath all of the anger though, was hurt, sadness, fear, and a tender being wanting to be loved. As the pounds melted away, I started to become more in touch with this being inside that wanted a more complex relationship with the world. As I stopped stuffing my feelings with food, I noticed there were many more emotions available to me. I learned during those years how to cry. This was something I suppressed for so many years that it took learning how to feel. The physical sensations in the pose taught me how to feel my physical body and learn to ready sensation.

Mental weight is another form of weight loss. Early in my yoga journey I joined a 12 step recovery group. I learned how much mental weight I carried in the form of co-dependency, obsession, and negative self-talk. My thinking was regularly distorted and it didn’t take much for me to spin out. I learned that thinking is powerful. If I’m not present in my thinking, it’s easy to get hijacked and turn to food and other destructive behaviors as a way to control my environment. I learned that my primary addiction was to the illusion of power and control. Recovery helped me to get my thinking straight. I started listening to what I say to myself when I’m in a challenging yoga pose. Now, I notice my thinking when I’m practicing yoga, meditating, or just sitting idle. Thinking is powerful. If we aren’t aware of our mindset, this can hold a huge mental baggage on our way of being.

Finally, spiritual weight showed up as my lack of faith, trust, and belief in something greater than me. I was so used to calling all the shots in my life, that I didn’t realize how deeply hungry I was for a relationship with a God of my understanding. It was less of a spiritual weight and more of a spiritual anemia. I was hungry for spirituality. Through the practice of yoga and recovery, I became more aware of this deep desire and turned to something bigger than myself to fill that void. This is still a relationship in progress, but I now feel the presence of my higher power in my life.

When I step back and look at the last eight years of my life there have been so many huge changes in me. It started with my yoga practice, and the desire to lose weight. Losing weight turned into something so much bigger than just physical pounds. I lost mental, emotional, and spiritual weight that has made my whole experience of being human much lighter. So, the short answer to the question of ‘can yoga help me lose weight?’ is yes, but there are many layers to lose and it may start physically and end much differently than you expected.

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