I was asked to write about yoga and weight loss. I must first confess that I have never had a problem with being overweight, so I can’t talk about a personal experience of losing weight. Rather, I have been struggling to gain weight and I had several other body image issues that I carried with me for a long time. But I think the ideas I’m presenting here apply to many different issues.
It is not only about calories or diet
Some yoga teachers say that more dynamic types of yoga can help burn calories, but in my opinion, there are better ways to burn calories than yoga. Yoga can be a gentle form of exercise, it’s true, but I would say that even a regular brisk walking would be more useful if burning calories is the goal.
I’m also not advocating a specific diet. Yes, it does matter what you put in your mouth, and how much – it’s obvious. But we are different and we live in different environments and all kinds of food intolerances are so common nowadays that it would be very difficult to recommend anything. And to live by strict restrictions can be a stressor, too.
Instead of treating the symptoms, we can start to see ourselves as a whole. Eating habits can be connected to our emotions. How? A baby does not know what hunger is, but when they need food, they feel uncomfortable. Their hunger is connected directly to their emotions.
Could it be that by eating we’re compensating for something that we don’t even recognize? Are we protecting ourselves from something? Are we repressing some emotions that want to surface?
If we are not able to meet and welcome the emotions, eating can be used to control them, to stuff them back down, to protect us. The tantric way to deal with the emotions would be to let them arise, meet them and feel them with curiosity and acceptance. To listen to what they want to say. Honesty helps here too.
I’m not saying it’s that simple, but perhaps it’s a place to start if you have been struggling with such issues. And if we can see our body as a whole, we can see how the function of the nervous system affects everything else. More on this a bit later.
Yoga sees our bodies and the entire universe as a self-regulating and cohesive system, from the cells all the way to the Absolute. We have good feedback mechanisms in our bodies, but we may not be able to hear them. Our life is fundamentally seeking to return to harmony, if only we let it do so.
As I wrote in another article, our unconscious mind is expressing itself through our bodies. Thus all tantric yoga exercises aim to have an effect on the unconscious mind, rather than directly affecting body.
The tantric yoga system takes care of our problem. We do not need to understand the underlying cause, and it can be a big relief just to do the asanas and not try to figure out things mentally. When we get into touch with our Real Self and Dharma, many problems seem to vanish just by themselves.
I would like to remind you here that I’m not only talking about the physical aspect of yoga. In tantric yoga, we work with the prana system and through the exercises we bring the prana system back to balance.
Of course this approach is not a miracle pill. To see any results, you need to persist and trust in what you do. Repetition is a good and tested yogic method. From the many things I have personally tried to work through the sharpest edges of my being, tantric yoga has been the most effective tool for self-trańsformation.
When I actively started doing tantric yoga some years ago, I immediately noticed certain changes: less cravings, better mood, a sense of respecting my body. This respect for my body started to show me clearly what is good and what is not. So for example, I’m not a fanatic advocate of veganism or vegetarianism, but somehow I did not feel like eating meat any longer. I eat meat rarely, but even then I try to avoid the industrial produce. The same happened with alcohol: I can occasionally enjoy a glass of wine with food, but getting drunk really seems too violent. It’s not that I have to be disciplined with these things, they just came to me naturally. With discipline, restrictions or dieting, the problem can easily swing from one extreme to another.
An important part of the practice that I recommend is calming down your nervous system. We live in a world where our sympathetic nervous system is bombarded with all kinds of ads and alerts, and our life has become 24/7, without enough time to rest and recover. I touched this topic in my article about Yoga Nidra.
The nervous system has an influence on the function of the various glands in our body, and the glands secrete hormones. They in turn regulate the function of the organs and have an effect on everything that is happening in our bodies. So the ability to balance our nervous system in both weight loss and life in general is essential.
But like I mentioned before, we do not need to know or understand what happens and why. It’s just that we need to trust that the time tested yoga system works and that it can help us to gain balance, make better choices naturally and live a healthier life.
Here are three things that you can start doing today:
I’m in the process of preparing an audio guide for tantric yoga practice, and it’s expected to be ready this autumn. If you would like to become a “beta-tester”, you can sign up to our mailing list right here:
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What is your best advice for losing weight? Leave your comment below!