skinny yogini? the truth about yoga and weight loss

i get irked when yoga is touted as a mechanism for weight loss. sometimes it’s the first thing a yoga website lists as a ‘benefit’. sometimes it’s the first thing new students ask me (as they eye my current physique). i tell them that by practicing yoga asana i lost ~15kgs over 10 months; over my 2-month yoga teacher training i lost a kilogram a week for 5 consecutive weeks, and i’ve kept it off. but before you jump into yoga hoping your kilos will float away on wafts of incense, let me tell you my story.

how does one lose weight?

there’s only one rule: output must exceed input. the bare bones of it is you need to put less in your mouth or move around a helluvalot more. it’s that simple. yoga is perceived as pretty low impact (read: easy) compared to say, boot-camps or gym-ing, so of course someone seeking an ‘easier’ weight loss routine will run (or more likely walk, or probably drive) to a yoga class that claims to help you lose weight. by the way, i have no problem with people who drive to yoga class, i do it every day.

how did I lose weight?

when i chose yoga as my ‘fitness plan’ i definitely had some kilos to lose. i didn’t fit into any of my clothes, i was losing my waistline, i had trouble carrying groceries, climbing up flights of stairs, etc. i complained a lot about everything. i was in a really crappy space mentally and physically. so i decided to get off my ass and do something about it. the key was that i chose something i had always loved to do and that i could see myself doing over time.

this was my simple formula:

ashtanga vinyasa yoga (output) + sattvic vegetarian diet (input) = (net loss) 14kgs over 10 mos (duration)

‘ashtanga vinyasa yoga’ means: practicing ashtanga vinyasa yoga for ~1.5-2 hours a day, almost every day. if you don’t know what ashtanga vinyasa yoga is, come and take one of my classes. as far as i’m concerned it is the purest, most challenging style of yoga asana/pranayama practice you will find. when approached with dedication and a positive attitude the rewards are infinite.

‘sattvic vegetarian diet’ means: No meat (including fish and eggs), salt, pepper, sugar, onions, garlic, yeast, nightshades (eggplants, peppers, tomatoes), things that grow underground (mushrooms, potatoes, peanuts), or anything out of bottle, can or jar (no preservatives or other chemicals). this includes things like jams/nut butters, anything fermented (soy sauce, vinegar), alcohol, canned veggies or fruits, medicines, etc. You are allowed to eat as much as you want of the following: milk products (that don’t contain salt or sugar), honey and molasses, fruits, veggies, grains, legumes, and herbs.

note: a sattvic diet over more than a few months can be pretty devastating to your social life. you start to obsess over your food and you become very boring. remember ‘healthy’ encompasses more than just your eating choices, and yoga seeks to balance your life. i wasn’t sattvic for the entire 10 months, and i’m not entirely vegetarian now, but I will maintain there’s no better way to get lean than a veg diet. and it’s also better for the planet!

so…any takers? c’mon it’s so easy! it’s just yoga, and you can eat as many fruits and veggies and grains and beans as you want!

judging from the number of ashtanga practitioners i know personally, this formula isn’t as wildly popular as you would think. in fact, i can count the number of people I know who follow the above regimen on both hands. ok, maybe only one hand. hmmm…actually, maybe no one, not even myself. wait…there is one.

when it comes down to it, yoga is a lot harder than people think. like any other form of exercise or diet plan discipline is the key ingredient and it’s not a quick or easy fix. i have followed this lifestyle over months, and now years. i have seen very few people during that time who have been able to make the sustained commitment required to adopt a yoga practice that enabled them to lose weight.

but don’t despair!

the coolest thing about yoga is that it never works the way you want it to. my simple decision about a ‘fitness plan’ didn’t just change my body, it changed my entire perspective on life! it turned me into a yoga practitioner and a person passionate enough to take on teaching yoga to others. i created Ekam Yoga because of my commitment to the practice. in addition, because of all the internal changes that took place, and are still happening as i continue to practice, i don’t really mind so much about what my outward appearance may be, which takes a load off!

practicing any form of yoga will make you happier and healthier from the inside out. if you’re seeking to bring yoga into your life consider the real benefits: a more positive outlook, increased happiness, health and longevity, greater awareness and compassion, greater resilience to the ups and downs that we all experience. you receive these whether you lose weight or not. the true benefit of yoga isn’t something as finite or transient as weight loss, it’s the resolution of the schism between body and the mind so that peace can enter and prevail.


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