Do you ever wonder if you can lose weight by doing Yoga?
It seems that more weight loss programs insist on starving yourself and focusing on intense high-calorie burning workouts while assuming that yoga is just for stretching.
Typical weight-loss programs address the symptom (excess fat) and ignore the cause, which is an imbalance of a range of emotional issues that include bad habits and poor nutrition.
So, with these 3 Tips you can love your body and reach your ideal weight through yoga:
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.
Essentially, in yoga you learn your body is not your enemy, and it is through conscious awareness of your alignment, foundation, and breath in your body in that translates into better appetite control.
Practicing yoga helps to increase your sensitivity to your inner signals such as hunger and cravings. There are physical components to both of these sensations, but true hunger to feed our body’s basic needs is a totally different experience than craving foods that do not nourish us.
Yoga helps to slow you down mentally so you can learn to distinguish between the urge to eat and the emotional impulses that sometimes drive us to eat to quell our feelings.
For example, Yoga increases your susceptibility for change as you work on constant adjustments to fully represent each pose. So if you are thinking you want to change your lifestyle and you want to change the way you think about food or you want to get over destructive eating patterns, yoga will help give you this deeper connection to your body that can help you make those changes.
I notice that if I eat too much or unhealthy food like ice cream and french fries, before a yoga class, I feel tired and gross. If I make healthy snack decisions then I feel notably energized and excited as I start to move.
Further, after every class, my desire to eat has lowered considerably as I’m feeling peaceful and content. If it does happen to be mealtime, I’ll make healthier decisions and consume smaller portions after practicing yoga.
Be very aware that your thought patterns (consciousness) aren’t just in your mind, they are permeating every cell in your body. However, YOU have the power to change them through continuous effort and awareness to create new, positive, self-affirming thought patterns, it just takes repeated practice, like yoga.
Combine your yoga session with positive self-talk. Appreciate your efforts and praise your inner goodness.
For example, instead of thinking, “I’m so fat, why can’t I look and feel like them? You can say, “I love my body. I want to give it balance through healthy nourishment as well as strengthening and stretching opportunities."
2) Breathe Deeply
Don’t be fooled by yoga’s deep breathing and sometimes-slow poses. Doctors and personal training experts say it can seriously trim and tone your body
Gentle and restorative yoga can help with weight loss by kicking on the parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates breathing, digestion and hormones.
Through this breathing process, blood flow is redirected to the digestive and reproductive organs, and the endocrine and lymphatic system the body is better able to extract nutrients from the food you eat and more effectively eliminate toxins because of the increased blood circulation.
By relaxing, bringing attention to the body, and withdrawing attention from stress-inducing thoughts the Parasympathetic nervous system elevates mood, strengthens the immune system and increases physical and psychological well-being.
The definition of yoga, according to Patanjali’s yoga sutras states: “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” Yoga uses postures (asanas), ujjayi breath (pranayama), and a gazing point (dristi) to train the mind to be still, so union (yoga) can occur between your mind, body and spirit.
So, to continue this self-love and rewarding feeling of slow awareness, and go to class faithfully.
If you work out at home, set a specific day and time for your yoga session and stick to it nurturing an attitude adjustment that paves the way for long-term change.
So the metaphor for yogic breathing can be summed up as follows: Inhale – drawing in new life force, healthy habits, new life experiences, new career opportunities, new relationships, improved self-esteem, a deeper connection to Spirit and the courage to live out your heart’s desires.
Exhale- releasing and WILLING to let go of: fear, negative self-talk, draining relationships, careers without passion and purpose, stress, unhealthy habits and addictions such as, overeating, not eating enough, drinking alcohol, obsessive exercise, compulsive shopping, smoking and drugs, just to name a few.
3) Power Yoga
Power Yoga can offer all the fat-burning potential and heart benefits of an aerobic workout with faster, more active movements than other forms of yoga.
Vinyasa and Ashtanga are forms of power yoga that can burn up to 360 calories per hour.
However, while you’re striking fast-moving poses, it’s crucial that you pay attention to your alignment, to avoid injuries.
Certain poses, or asanas, are killer for weight loss, with benefits that far exceed mere calorie burning and muscle strengthening.
A. Shoulder stand and fish pose stimulate the thyroid, helping to give your body a metabolism boost.
B. Spinal twists massage the abdomen, target internal organs and aid with optimal digestion.
C. The dogs: Downward-facing dog and upward-facing dog poses are particularly helpful in toning hips, arms, and thighs.
I hope to see you lose the weight that you desire as you love yourself though:
What does silence mean to you?
Is it peaceful?
Are you afraid of it?
When's the last time you just sat in silence?
Last weekend I experimented with these thoughts as I decided to join my boyfriend on a silent mediation weekend retreat in Idyllwild, CA.
I've been wanting to deepen my meditation practice, as it relates to the yoga philosophy petals of Pratyahara (to withdraw) and Dhyana (total absorption).
We both had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We had heard that these retreats help people with stress and anxiety or to deal with difficult situations. We also thought it would be nice to escape and try something different.
If you ever plan to attend a silent meditation retreat than the following is a SPOILER ALERT!
We were greeted kindly at the check-in office, given our rooms assignments and told that we were allowed to talk until the procedures meeting at 6:30. This was a relief that we had a chance to get to know some of the other participants. There were about 8 of us newbies and about 10 that were part of the team as residents or monks. Two of the participants were not aware that this was meant to be an entirely silent retreat. This came as quite a surprise to them at dinner. We started dinner with a chant about knowing where our food came from and only eating if were deserving in our practice. What are the criteria for being deserving? I'm not sure, but regardless, it was a delicious salad, soup and warm, soft sourdough bread.
The procedures were about what to do when each bell rang, how and when to bow, our hand positions, and our three sitting options: sukasana (easy sitting pose), virasana (sitting on your heels with your knees in front of you) and lotus (both feet tucked on top of each other). Luckily, we could also practice those positions on a firm cylindrical pillow. We were supposed to lengthen our spine, look 3 feet in front of us and soften our gaze. We were all dressed in black to keep from distracting others. We were also expected not to move for the Zazen period of time, which is unknown.
Then, all of a sudden, silence began.
And the silence continued...
Wait! I thought they were going to tell us more!
What are we supposed to meditate on?
Isn't this a beginners mind retreat?
How long are we going to sit here?
Up until this point, I have only experienced guided meditations, in which a voice, usually from another yoga instructor, meditation workshop leader, or meditation app voice would discuss a topic such as focusing on your breath, feeling the weight of your body press into the earth then rise up to the sky, spinning chakra points, a mandala artwork, a burning candle, a mantra (positive phrase), or a concept. There is also usually background music.
I quickly realized that there would be no guidance. Even though I was seated in a room of 18 people in a square formation, I felt so alone. Just me and my thoughts now.
What should I think about?
I guess I'll try to remember some of my past meditations. I can think about the weight of my body. So, I breathe into any achy parts. Then I start reciting positive mantras: I am happy, healthy, and calm. I am happy, healthy, and calm. I am happy healthy and calm...
Finally, one of the leaders suggested that if you are not practicing mantras or chants in your head, than an easy place to start is by counting your breaths. The goal is to get to 10. This seems easy enough, but somehow my thoughts kept creeping up after I get go about 3. "I wonder how long I have to sit still. I wonder what tomorrow will be like. What are my goals for next week? I probably should have apologized for that snappy statement that I made to my boyfriend today. Shoot! Now I have to wait until Sunday. I hope I don't forget. Oh, I'm supposed to be counting. What number am I on? Okay, I'll start over. Inhale 1...exhale 1... Inhale 2, exhale 2... I bet I can do more than just 10. I made it to 114, but now I'm bored.
Ding, the bell rings. We bow, gently stand up and begin our slow-as-a-snail walking meditation. Our foot moves in the length of half of a foot-step with each breath. This goes on for a few minutes until wooden blocks are clicked together and we walk briskly around the room for about 5 minutes. This is thrilling. I'm so grateful to be moving my body again. The wooden blocks are clicked again and we find our way back to our seat for more sitting! AAAGGGGHHH! How long this time?
Okay, I'll practice the Chakra meditation, but I can't remember what each one is called. Oh well, I remember the colors and where they are located, so I'll just imagine spheres of color, one at a time, with my breath, swirling inside of me. This is pleasant, but now I'm bored again. I'm supposed to be counting, so maybe I can just make counting a bit more exciting.
Oh yeah, that's probably where people got the idea to count sheep. Goats are really cute too! Kind of like the goats from the Lonely Goatherd, Lady-odle-lady-odle-lay-hee-hoo. Inhale, there's one cute goat, exhale. Inhale, there's two cute kissing goats, exhale. Inhale, now they had a cute baby goat, exhale. Inhale, now mama goat comes along, exhale. Okay that was sweet, but I'm running out of a story line, so I'm going to switch to monkeys and especially revisit my Monkey Forest experience in Bali.
The bell rings! Yay! Time for walking again! Then we get to go to bed at 8:30pm. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that there is no cell phone service up here and we are not supposed to read or write for the entire weekend. We are simply to remain aware in our own mind.
The next morning we arose at 5:30am, just enough time to squeeze in a few Sun Salutations before meeting for some more Zazen. This time, in between counts, I started singing in my head, remembering lyrics from some of my favorite feel-good songs. This is actually really calming.
After breakfast we went to work doing dishes and chopping food for lunch and dinner. I had the pleasure of peeling beets, chopping croutons, and slicing cabbage. I've never been so excited to perform these tasks in silence. At this point, anything is better than sitting still. I have a new appreciation now for chores. They make me feel alive and accomplished. There's nothing else that I need to be doing at this moment, except putting my entire attention on this task.
Finally after the next Zazen, one of the leaders spoke for about an hour about finding intimacy in the unknown. This is quite a complex topic. There is much unknown in silence. How can we approach the unknown in conversation without the attitude of" I already know that?"
After lunch, there's a break for about an hour and a half, so I sneak off to climb the mountain. I was thrilled to see a squirrel and hear the sound of wind rustle through the burnt branches of Manzanita Trees. The air was thin, but I felt every breath as I explored the moment of this unknown place.
Then I was able to do 45 minutes of power yoga before the long Zazen afternoon session, which was the longest and hardest one! This time my mind wondered quite a bit. Thinking of my favorite past memories and planning/dreaming for the future. But then, I would remember that I'm not in the present, so I would go back to counting my breath. The carpet in front of me is starting to come alive! I'm seeing bunnies, skulls, dragons, and other strange creatures pop out of it as my gaze softens. This is a strange and interesting moment.
In the evening we have another Dharma talk about thoughts and trying to free our present mind from our identity.
The next morning, there is a service with a lot of chanting and bowing to Buddha. I didn't subscribe for this part. I am surprised that we are allowed to start talking during breakfast, right after the closing circle.
We were able to exchange our shared surprises and learnings.
People are asking me now if I would be interested in doing it again or a longer silent retreat.
My answer is "No, thank you." I compare this experience to climbing Mt. Whitney. It was extremely difficult. I'm really glad I experienced it. It felt rewarding at the top. However, I have not desire to ever go through that again. Another new, unknown mountain, yes. Just as I would like to explore other types of silent retreats or meditation practices, especially ones that involve yoga.
Have you ever experienced something similar?
What did you take away from it?
Please share your comments below :)
“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” -Lao Tzu
Yoga asks us to dip below the surface of the imperfect world created by our imaginations and connect to the divinity that underlies our existence.
Through this statement, I’m reminded of my favorite lines from The Sound of Music, “I have confidence the world can all be mine!” In the 1960s, the movie The Sound of Music used some locations in and around Salzburg and the state of Salzburg. The movie was based on the true story of Maria von Trapp who took up with an aristocratic family and fled the German Anschluss.
Santosha is about contentment. Contentment is not complacency, it is reverence. It comes from the yoga philosophy Niyama, the second pedal or limb, that explores our self-discipline and relationship with our inner mind.
It means being happy with what we have rather than being unhappy about what we don't have. Santosa requires our willingness to enjoy exactly what each day brings, whether that is a lot or a little.
Only when we can be content in the midst of difficulty can we be truly free. Like Julie Andrews proclaims during the scary storm, “When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad, I simple remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad!...Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens...cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels…wild geese that fly with a moon on their wings…silver white winters that melt into spring, these are a few of my favorite things!”
Santosha is awareness of how we evaluate ourselves and our surroundings. Judgement and distraction are like the rain, and you are like the earth. The rain comes and goes, but the earth remains. We cannot practice contentment and continue to identify with our darkness.
This goes along with an acceptance that there is a purpose for everything. When we accept that life is a process for growth, all of the circumstances and experiences we create for ourselves become valid teachers and vehicles for expressing our highest nature. Through accepting that there is a purpose for everything (yoga calls it karma) we can cultivate contentment and compassion, for ourselves and for others. When we view all events as opportunities to grow, to encounter our own magnificence. When we view things in this light, there are not good events or bad events, only moments in which to shine.
After my recent trip to Salzburg, regardless of my struggles with money budget, aches of travel, and inconveniences of weather, I consider this part of the world to be a complete fantasy land full of prosperity with dreaming spires, green hills and romantic gardens. I was in a state of total bliss for my 3 days here as I was truly grateful for this experience.
Everywhere you go, the scenery, the skyline, the music and the history send your spirits soaring higher than Julie Andrews' octave-leaping vocals. Admittedly, it is difficult not to spontaneously burst into song when you're walking along the Salzach River, or climbing up to the Hohensalzburg fortress which looms over the city.
In our physical daily yoga practice we have to opportunity to practice Santosha by being still, with an open heart and mind, in yoga poses that we like and in poses that we don’t like.
How do you find contentment? Please share your comments below!
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Hannah seeks to find relationships between nature, cultures, yoga, and art through her writing.
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Fun Yoga in the Park
Travel the world with me through yoga!
These themed lessons are fun for all ages and levels at Mission Bay Park.
See the page, Park Yoga, for more information!
Lessons from Abroad