Monday, October 31, 2011

Yoga for Weight Loss? No thanks.

I receive all kinds of generic emails on a daily basis (i.e."Redeem your free Ipad now"; "You're invited to dinner with John McCain"; "I'd like to give you a million dollars from my overseas account.").  But when I glanced down the subject headings in my Inbox this morning and saw "Yoga for Weight Loss" listed among my spam-tastic collection of items just wating to be deleted, I couldn't help but double click and open it. 

And this is what I found:

Yoga for Weight Loss – Bring awareness to our eating habits and learn how to eat healthy and feel good from the inside out. Through work with body, mind and spirit; acknowledge the healthy, beautiful person you are meant to be. You will work with a yoga instructor and nutritionist in this four week workshop. Personal instruction and direction will be given to each participant. Please check class schedule (under workshops) for workshop date and time.

Lately, I've been struggling to accept that most things are neither "all bad" nor "all good" (And, in fact, I probably shouldn't use judgement words like "bad" or "good" at all,  but they work toward making my larger point here, so let's give my Zen a break on this one.) That being said, I am making a concerted effort to imagine that everything and everyone I encounter is a unique amalgamation of qualities I would like to invite into my life, and qualities that do nothing to serve me and are best avoided. 

Using this logic, there are a couple things about this Yoga for Weight Loss situation that I can actually appreciate.  Words like "awareness" and "healthy" and "body, mind, and spirit" appeal to me.  I also believe that working with a nutritionist is as key to developing healthy eating habits as is working with a yoga instructor to enhance mindfulness.  So, on its surface, this class not only makes sense, but is actually structured in a way that would seem to promote success and achievement as long as participants follow the "personal instruction and direction" provided.

And therein lies my problem with the whole thing: I am a yoga snob.  I actually have conditions under which I will and will not "practice"  - and goal setting, weight loss, and measures of success simply do not factor in to my yogic path.  I'm not thrilled with this part of myself, especially as I work toward a life of acceptance, detachment, and open-heartedness.  But there it is anyway.  I don't think yoga as a weight loss method is "real yoga," and I wish I could dedicate my life (or at least an afternoon) to coming up with another, more suitable name for this class.  Peaceful Dieting? Zenrobics?  Ohm Pump? 

It took me a long time to really feel the point of yoga - which is, really, that there is no "point" beyond the present experience.  For me, yoga is a goal-free space to honor the body and connect with the mind, wherever that may be at a given moment.  So how do you set this as a goal or measure it in terms of achievement?  In fact, the pressure of "haves" and "shoulds" and "need to's" is one of the things that led me to yoga in the first place - with my only goal being: To have no goals.  For at least an hour.  And with my mat as my anchor, I have finally, officially managed to declare my practice a goal-free zone. 

There's no arguing that a healthier body and a calmer mind will naturally lead to an optimum self.  There's also no arguing that most regularly practicing yogis and yoginis do have a "look" - that long, lean build.  That strong, balanced posture.  I guess it's possible that some of them set "the look" as their primary goal. But my guess (and my experience) has been that "the look" naturally emerges, over time, and is more an outward reflection of an internal presence. 

Don't get me wrong - in this world of nonstop moving and working and planning and worrying, I probably would take advantage of the ability to spot reduce my psyche by banishing my emotional love handles or firming up my psychological cellulite in 10 minutes or less.  If it were possible. Which is why I am grateful that such corner cutting isn't an option in yoga. Because sometimes the only thing that gets me to my mat and propels me through my practice is this single reality: The moment is not something I can truly appreciate unless I stay in it.  And if I leave it for even a second, it will be lost to me forever.

With all the stressors in my day, the bathroom scale has always been a particularly challenging, inconsistent, often sadistic opponent.   Throughout my life, I have existed at a relatively happy 155 pounds and a miserably sick and unhappy 85 pounds - and everything in between.  And I have learned that if you are seeking happiness in a number, you will probably be busy searching for something you cannot find when happiness actually passes you by. 

So sign up for that yoga class.  Enlist the help of that nutritionist.  Do what's right and healthy and enjoyable for your body, mind and spirit.  But do so with the awareness that living in the future will rob you of all you really need: the beauty of this unique, irreplacable, fleeting moment.

And I leave you with this - a picture of the most peaceful, most enlightened being I "know."  I wonder how he would feel about Yoga for Weight Loss. I suspect he might say lose the pain, lose the anger, lose the emotional and physical toxins, lose the self-imposed limitations and the negative self talk, lose the hatred, lose the numbness ... those are the things that truly weigh us down.

Or, he might just say "Namaste, my friend. And welcome to this moment."
10" Sitting Hotei Happy Buddha Statue

1 comment:

  1. Another excellent blog on a worthwhile subject. Thank you for these helpful thoughts because we often forget that accepting oneself is the true key to not only happiness but weight control :-)


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