by Laurel Dierking, MEd, NFPT
Disclaimer: To develop an exercise program that best suits your needs, please consult with your physician.
When considering yoga, have you ever had the thought, “When I lose more weight I will try yoga,” or even, “I am not flexible enough to do yoga?” Do these thoughts prohibit you from trying a yoga class? Stop yourself right there!
Before you completely dismiss your own potential and deny yourself a rewarding opportunity, know that the true purpose of yoga stems far beyond the physicality of exercise or the way you look in a pose. Only you are in control of what you think you can or cannot do. Social norms and stigmas that display yoga as a “skinny person’s practice” often deter individuals from trying a class, because they do not “look the part.” The beauty of yoga is not in the accomplishments of the most challenging poses, but rather the process of developing a nurturing relationship with thy self.
Yoga is a powerful activity that connects mind, body and a sense of self to achieve endless health benefits, including maintaining weight-loss. The philosophy of yoga fosters a healing practice that brings peace and acceptance to the self no matter where you are in your life.
There are no prerequisites for yoga. You are not required to look a certain way, fold yourself into a tricky asana (pose), or even be at a certain level of flexibility.
Yoga has many benefits regardless of your body shape, such as:
All of these are symptoms commonly associated with any excess weight or lack of current flexibility. Some yoga may also be a light form of cardiovascular exercise which can help with weight maintenance. For individuals looking to lose weight and eventually maintain a healthy weight, yoga can be the hidden gem of aerobic exercise you might have never considered before.
The term yoga is derived from the Sanskrit name which means to “join or yoke together.” As we develop our own yoga practice, become more aware of ourselves, and learn to feel compassion for our bodies, we are better able to share that same compassion to those around us, thereby uniting the human species in an uplifting way.
Yoga is a well-rounded, holistic approach to physical activity with endless physical, mental, psychological, and emotional benefits.
Amongst the endless benefits of yoga, there are a few that are particularly helpful to individuals who are affected by excess weight or obesity, beyond the physical plane. Flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, strength and mental health are invaluable aspects of a regular yoga practice that may foster weight-loss. However, there are more advantages to be had. Benefits of yoga include:
No matter what your goals, success and progress in exercise is greatly affected by three factors: frequency, intensity, and duration. If your goals are weight-loss, frequent low intensity and long duration of exercise is key to weight-loss. A consistent, ongoing yoga practice can reshape your body through low impact aerobic exercise. When deciding which type of yoga to begin with, choose a gentle beginner level class like Hatha yoga or a restorative class to ease your way into your new practice.
The very first place to start is within you. WE ARE OUR OWN ANSWER. You must mentally open yourself up to new experiences. Begin to prepare your body by stretching daily. This is beneficial to reducing soreness, relieving strain on your joints, lengthening muscles, and relaxing your body. Use this time spent stretching to connect with your breath.
In yoga, you will learn breath-focus as THE most important aspect. Observe your breath and practice “stillness” within your mind. Our minds have been conditioned to think constantly without rest. Meditation and breath awareness takes practice. Release your thoughts as frequently as they arise, and allow yourself to refocus your attention on your breath. Be patient with yourself. This too is part of the beautiful journey to peace.
TIPS FOR STARTING YOGA
The benefits of practice are endless. As a light form of aerobic exercise, yoga can help to alleviate common symptoms of being affected by obesity, such as:
Yoga is not defined by how deep you come into a pose, but rather the relationship that is developed with the breath and your body.
Yoga offers a learning environment free of judgment and expectations, with you as your most influential teacher. Although there are some individuals that make even the trickiest asana seem simple, all levels of expertise are significant and even the most well-known yogis worked up to where they are. As in life and nature, everything and everyone is important in their existing role. Step onto a mat and honor yourself and your space in the present moment.
Open your heart to a beautiful practice and learn to love yourself. Give yourself the opportunity to surprise you. Social conditioning and norms, the ego, and self-doubt are discouraging mind frames that yoga can help to diminish. Break free of what stops you and see for yourself that you can only benefit. The practice of yoga teaches us to let go of what we think we know, expand our hearts and open our minds to endless possibilities and all the success you could ever imagine for yourself. Acceptance of yourself for where you are in this moment allows you to move forward with your weight-loss goals. Compassion for the self generates compassion for all. Your life and the world would be a better place for it. Flexibility, strength, ethnicity, shape, age, weight, height, and limitations make no matter in yoga. Yoga is for all bodies.
About the Author:
Working within the health field for three years, Laurel Dierking MEd, NFPT, is passionate about cultivating body, mind and spirit awareness through holistic health practices. As a Health and Fitness Professional and yoga instructor at JKFITNESS, Laurel strives to guide individuals on a path to self-awareness, long-term functional fitness, and weight-loss management.
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