Does Yoga Make You Skinny?
Dispelling some of the myths about yoga.
I get emails, phone calls and Tweets constantly from people who want to begin a yoga practice because they want to lose weight. Maybe they see my silly, skinny ass and think that because I practice yoga that’s how I maintain my weight. Well, not exactly. Some of it is because I've never had children. It's also because I hike and paddleboard. But there are also yoga reasons.
Ha! What Yoga Isn’t
Aerobic. What a crock... unless you do laps around your yoga mat, and even then, you’ll probably just look really silly. There are plenty of yoga classes out there – particularly vinyasa classes – that might appear aerobic, but truth be told, it’s a veritable impossibility to get your heart rate high enough during any yoga class for it to be called aerobic. Unless you’re in really bad shape and if that’s the case, yoga could be downright dangerous unless you slow down considerably.
Hot rooms? It doesn’t matter how hot the room is, yoga isn’t an aerobic workout. You might sweat a lot and lose weight, but it’s still not aerobic. And again, if you’re out of shape, you should consult your doctor before entering a hot yoga room. And if you do enter a hot yoga room and you’re out of shape, do not listen to the teacher over your own common sense. Yoga teachers are not necessarily well educated and can't necessarily determine whether you can handle the heat.
What Yoga Is
For those of you who follow my column, you might notice one thing every single article has in common: at the very end, I mention paying attention. This is exactly what yoga does. It helps me learn how to pay attention. Not just to my body, but to my diet and my old thought patterns that can lead my body to eat crappy food. Yoga basically means “union” and it’s more than just a union of body and mind. It’s a union of myself and my surroundings and the ability to discern what is healthful and what isn’t.
Yoga is an Indian philosophy of meditation that incorporates the workings of the mind, body and breath. Yoga is a self-study that – in the west – involves a community of like-minded people who influence each other to focus on things like diet, being kind, and the natural environment.
Yoga as a philosophy looks at all things as being connected, therefore, when I eat a greasy, fast food hamburger I know that later in my yoga practice when I’m doing a forward bend it’s gonna make me feel like crap. Or when I’m doing a seated twist I’m going to want to hurl. Because I’m twisting and bending my digestive system and if I do that regularly I begin to notice when I eat a hamburger versus Pad Thai.
Meditation: Just Do It
Yoga can involve a clicky bunch of self-righteous people who think they’re better than people who eat greasy, fast food hamburgers. It’s not difficult to see that people who think they’re better than others really aren’t. And often these people are the very ones who keep the non-skinny, non-lululemon wearing curious people away from a truly amazing philosophy.
When I took my yoga practice beyond the physical – which is definitely beneficial – and I began to meditate regularly I realized that yoga isn’t magic. It isn’t making or keeping me skinny. It’s simply helping me pay attention.
Those of you out there who want to use yoga to make your butt smaller, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t get smaller. My boobs are the same freaking size no matter how much or little weight I gain. Sometimes that stuff is just genetics. And don’t be surprised if you just plain old feel better about yourself. And your health improves. Mine did. But please make sure you consider either before or after you get on your yoga mat that you just sit. And watch your thoughts. And listen to your body. You know, pay attention?