Inner Light: Yoga for Weight Loss

17902-weightloss_226_01r1I know I know… Yoga for Weight Loss, really? As if we don’t have enough bombardment in our culture to change our bodies to a standard that is unrealistic and frankly unhealthy. The reason I am bringing this to light, is the point of view Yoga Journal expressed about our “American” culture’s approach to dieting, exercising, and weight loss. I am very often focused on my weight and less about the awareness of my inner self and outer self. This mindset puts me in the perfect position to be manipulated by all the billboards, commercials, tv shows, advertisements, and overall attitude people express about weight. It pushes me into a position to consistently feel bad about the way I look even if I am living a healthy lifestyle, which is why I bring up this article. I found this article on Yoga Journal that has a statement under the title of Inner Light, ” For a radically different approach to weight loss, start not with diet and exercise, but with connecting to yourself.” This intrigued me further so I continued reading. What I found was an amazing approach that one can take around this notion of weight loss. Take a look at what this particular woman learned through her journey and how becoming better connected with yourself can be an amazing feeling.

(Re-posted from Yoga Journal)

weightloss_226_03Gina Kornrumpf had struggled with her weight all her life. The results of her on-again, off-again dieting were discouraging, and only served to fuel her preoccupation with the numbers on her scale. She led an active life—traveling, bike riding, and exercising—but that didn’t seem to help her shed the extra pounds or get her higher-than-normal blood pressure under control. By the time she topped 207 pounds in 2008, she realized she needed a new plan. “A friend of mine is passionate about yoga, and encouraged me to at least consider trying it,” Kornrumpf says. So she registered at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health’s Integrative Weight Loss program, a residential immersion program that incorporates multiple aspects of healthy living in an integrative approach to weight management.

Yoga may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re formulating a weight loss plan, but recent studies linking yoga with mindful eating and weight loss suggest that maybe it should be. The combined effects of the self-acceptance, increased body awareness, and inward reflection that are natural byproducts of a regular yoga practice can increase your ability to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, and can have a positive impact, whether you’re significantly overweight, just wanting to lose a few pounds, or struggling with a body-image problem despite being at a healthy weight.

“Yoga may not be a glamorous, quick fix to weight loss, but it creates fundamental shifts that lead to lasting change,” says Ashley Turner, a yoga teacher and psychotherapist in Los Angeles and New York and the creator of the Element DVD Yoga for Weight Loss. Turner says that yoga’s emphasis on self-acceptance is the key to creating such transformation. Unlike traditional methods such as diets and exercise boot camps, yoga philosophy teaches students to approach the body with compassion, understanding, and friendship.

weightloss_226_04r1Turner, whose approach combines asana with nutritional and psychological counseling, notices that her clients and students are bombarded with media messages about what a beautiful body looks like, messages that tell us to look outside ourselves for validation and acceptance. But trying to live up to an ideal that is unrealistic and often unhealthy is likely to backfire, Turner says, especially when used as a motivator for weight loss. John Bagnulo, PhD, nutritionist for Kripalu’s weight loss program agrees, adding that people often develop a false sense of what their body should look like, and yoga can help them work through that. “Western diets encourage people to ask the ‘should’ questions. How long should I work out? How many calories should I eat every day?” he says. Yoga, on the other hand, suggests kinder and ultimately more transformative questions like, How do I feel in my body right now? What choices can I make that are healthier for my whole being?

Liz Dunn, a massage therapist in Cheshire, Connecticut, lost 125 pounds over a year and a half and says that the self-acceptance she learned through yoga was a crucial part of her weight loss journey. “When you’re that size, your thoughts are dominated by things like ‘I can’t sit in that chair,’ and ‘I can’t do this or that.’ But yoga taught me that I’m OK where I am today. Yoga was like a warm, welcoming embrace saying, ‘Let’s find you and take time to just be here, now.'” This, Dunn says, is what enabled her to get past the plateaus that invariably accompany significant weight loss over a long period of time. “I never set weight loss goals; I just integrated yoga into my view of how I was physically in the world,” she says. “That made it OK when I hit those plateaus and wouldn’t lose any weight for weeks, which is when a lot of people give up.”

Turner finds that self-acceptance gives students the courage to inquire within about what is at the root of their struggle with weight, and identify the underlying thoughts or emotional stirrings that cause them discomfort and contribute to actions that aren’t serving their weight loss goals.

When you feel the urge to overeat, Turner suggets asking yourself questions like “What am I really hungry for?” and “What is truly causing me stress, and what do I really need in this moment?” Maybe it’s a walk around the block, or a phone call with a friend. The ability to observe your feelings without judgment becomes a tool that helps you figure out what you need from moment to moment, says Turner. Then, instead of automatically reacting to a stressful situation with established patterns like reaching for comfort food, you can learn to recognize the moment of choice. “We can simply notice that we can choose to eat more or not. Either way, there is no judgment,” she says.

Click here for the rest of the article on Yoga Journal.

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