Although yoga practice was never intended as a tool for weight loss, nor is its purpose to obsess over physical appearance and body weight, being diligent in your practice and taking it in the most holistic way will assist in the goal of reaching and maintaining your ideal weight. Throughout my life as a former dancer, dance teacher and today as a yoga teacher, I have encountered many dancers and other performing artists who have been struggling with the pressure to have the ideal body weight. From fad diets, to falling into vicious cycles of starving/binging and then experiencing fluctuations in weight, mood and overall self –esteem. Needless to say, these patterns can lead to very difficult health problems such as obesity, anorexia and bulimia. I have found that even though certain professions such as dancing, gymnastics or modeling provide more of fertile ground for the development of eating disorders, the root cause of any type, whether it’s being overweight or anorexic , stems from a lack of proper inner connection. Of course, life will often impose external factors and challenges causing “disconnection” but we can overcome these obstacles by establishing a healthy relationship with the Self based on Ahimsa – the concept of non-violence and feeling of love, respect and well intention towards oneself and others.
This is where yoga practice comes as an answer to one’s prayers in terms of developing a healthy bond with oneself, a positive attitude towards the body and intuition that helps us make wiser life choices. (No wonder so many dancers and gymnasts became yoga teachers!) From personal experience, I found that the yoga practice has helped me sharpen my intuition in terms of choosing the right foods, the quantity of consumption and distinguishing between real physiological need and craving. Also, if the practice is taken in the right way, the focus will be within and not on the superficial physical body which is another symptom of not only the professions above mentioned, but also the social pressure of modern society to be thin, especially women. By developing an inner focus and learning acceptance of everything just as it is, and ourselves just as we are, we open the gateway to amazing transformation and strength.
Having said that, asana practice does do wonders for our life instrument -the body, as it will tone the muscles, improve our posture, build our core and improve our overall physical shape. In addition, practicing regularly and correctly shifts the patterns of the mind and soothes the nervous system. Therefore emotional eating as a result of stress, depression or any other disorder on mental level, which seems to be one of the greatest causes of obesity, will certainly diminish and bring one into a state of inner balance , strength and wellbeing. So although maintaining healthy weight understands eating wisely and choosing vegetables over refined sugars as well as regular exercising, by practicing yoga you will gain more intuitive understanding of what your body and mind really need to be healthy and happy.