With the NY Times writing an article (January 23, 2011) about a 29-year-old ex-dancer model who now teaches yoga and has penned a booked called “Slim, Calm, Sexy,” you might think yoga is the answer to all your weight loss goals. However, the operative words here are 29, dancer, and model. Having been in the modeling world myself, although it was way back in the (yikes!) 80’s and dabbled with a food disorder in college (one does not dabble actually, it is an emotional nightmare and a true call for help while others may be envying your thin-ness), I would suggest that yoga is a great way to stay physically and mentally fit and avoid the stereotypes of the ultra thin model who was either blessed to be born with thin genes or starves herself. The teacher featured in the article is undoubtedly a lovely young woman who is herself slim, calm, and sexy.
In the twenty-six years that I have been teaching tens of thousands of classes to women of all ages and shapes in various environments, I would say that the most important thing yoga can give us is self acceptance. The climate of yoga has become varied, which gives women a choice in why and how they practice yoga. At first women may attend a class as a great workout (A beautiful young woman said to me in class last week – “which yoga will help me lose this?” as she pulled up her yoga top to show a beautiful little tummy, no fat hanging over it, just a beautiful soft woman with, if I would label it, a slim build.) but then decide to add meditation and other helpful aspects.
If we take our yoga practice seriously, not too seriously (it should be fun too!), like any workout that will show results, we need to do it at least two to three times a week. It is important to find a type of yoga that you like, a teacher you like and someone you trust. Some people prefer to go to class where there is no inspiring talk; they want to do the physical poses only. Others like the encouragement and tidbits of yoga lifestyle / philosophy that may be woven into a class. It is all individual taste. Once you decide which type of practice you like – though Vinyasa, Ashtanga and Power yoga (and of course the hot yoga Bikram) can break a great sweat, Iyengar, Restorative and Kundalini can also give you a good sustainable workout – then you can see where the practice takes you.
Often a yoga practice will take you deep into one type of yoga or maybe it will cause you to explore, experimenting with other types and teachers, mixing it up. From there you might become aware of other aspects of your health, like what you are eating and how it affects your mood, your yoga practice, and your weight. Some yoga devotees eat only raw food, on the one extreme, to vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian (includes dairy) or pescatarian, eating mostly vegetarian but including fish. Others still include meat in their diet. As food habits become more conscious and change in these directions, weight will change, if it’s meant to, or you will stay in your own healthy weight but feel better for the changes, which is the real goal.
“Can yoga help you lose weight?” Yes, if you are overweight, no, if you are at your healthy weight. I have seen big women do amazing yoga practice and thin ones not so strong and flexible. Yoga will help you feel more strong and flexible, no matter what your body type. And when you feel that way, you radiate health and beauty at any age and weight.
Donna Amrita Davidge / www.sewallhouse.com Yoga Retreat Island Falls, Maine/NYC