The Link Between Yoga, Mindfulness, and Weight Loss

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The Link Between Yoga, Mindfulness, and Weight Loss

yoga warm upsBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Across the Globe, nutritional and fitness experts are baffled at the results of a study, conducted by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Dr. Alan R. Kristal, the lead researcher of this study, remarked, “I was very surprised with the results. Considering that people gain about a pound a year during this time, this is pretty substantial.”

Shortly afterward, from nutritional and fitness experts in New England, the first question I heard right away was, “How can Yoga burn that many calories?” Soon to be followed by comments from many fitness experts, across the United States, were remarks like, “Most Yoga students don’t practice vigorous styles of Yoga.”

While this is debatable, my questions to them were as follows, “How many of you practice Yoga?” Have you ever heard of Kundalini Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Hot Yoga, Power Yoga, Bikram Yoga, and more vigorous Hatha Yoga styles?

To make a small comparison, I can’t really comment on the game of Cricket, just because I am familiar with baseball. I can appreciate the similarity and skill, but never had the experience of playing the game. Also, just like Yoga, Cricket requires time, practice, and patience, in order to acquire skill.

Now, instead of jumping to conclusions about Yoga from the sidelines, my first suggestion is to join a Yoga class. This would allow the top nutrition and fitness experts to experience the many benefits that Yoga has to offer.

However, this will not be the case with all the experts. The lack of male presence in a typical American Yoga class is visibly apparent and worthy of a study in male insecurity. This is a subject that I promise to address in a future article, but let’s get back to the point.

yoga classSo, female fitness, nutrition, and medical experts will confirm what most of them already know. Yoga is a complete health maintenance system and has been for around 5,000 years.

When a Yoga student becomes serious about practicing on a regular basis, this is a lifestyle change. Burning over 200 calories per hour in a gentle or Restorative Yoga class is not the foundation of weight control. Most Yoga students engage in some form of cross training.

Many of them walk, take other fitness classes, and are conscious of what they eat. Being mindful of what you eat is a point that the masses have lost. Eating nutritionally dense food, in moderation, and being mindful at the dinner table is a recipe for a lifetime of weight control.

Some of you may still do this, but remember when most people gave thanks, prayed, or said grace at the table? We can still be thankful to our family members for their company, the cook for his or her skill, to those who brought the food home, and to God, or your concept of a higher being, for your existence.

Meals should be for nutrition, bonding, and thanks. Meals should not be “wolfed down,” while watching television or while driving in the car.

One of the aspects of Yoga, which is covered in a typical Yoga class, is that of mindfulness in every part of life. You become more conscious of your breathing, posture, speech, what you eat, and much more. Through steady Yoga practice, you learn to live life in the present moment and to appreciate what you have.

Some of us are rich in love, but have little money. Some of us are rich with money and have no one who really loves us. When you look at love or money both can be turned into good or bad situations. It is really up to us, whether we want to make the most of what we have.

Making the most out of simple pleasures is living life to its fullest potential. So, instead of “shoveling” your food away, Yoga students should take the time to enjoy the finer things in life. This is not to say that we should engage in gluttony, but instead to connect with your inner being at mealtime and be mindful of everything. Eat with your family, when possible, and make it a pleasant experience, together, at the kitchen table.

Your inner self or self is sometimes called “atman” or “jiva.” This is the “creature” imprisoned within all of us. We all enjoy eating and want to savor every earthly pleasure to its fullest, but mindfulness makes us aware of much more than consumption of food and earthly pleasures. Therefore, mindfulness can be a natural dieting tool at mealtime.

How is this possible? When you see food – give thanks and tune into your senses. You do not have to give thanks verbally, if it makes you feel uncomfortable, but you should make it a mental exercise, before every meal. This will help your spiritual health and slow the pace of eating down.

practicing triangle from pyramidThe senses of sight, and smell, come into play long before your first bite, so take the time to be mindful of them after you have given thanks. Eat for the right reasons. Those reasons should be: your health and your life.

Eating should be nutritionally dense, in moderation, and in the best possible frame of mind. Be mindful of every bite, your digestive process, and all your senses. This pace will slow you down.

Thoroughly chew each bite and sip water during your meal. Yogis, and Yoginis, learn to pace their breath in Pranayama practice. Therefore, you should pace yourself in regard to eating and breathing at mealtime. You should not be short of breath while eating. If you are, you make eating into a stressful situation. You learn to breathe in Yoga class, and you should continue proper breath control at every possible moment.

If you work in a company that doesn’t allow time for eating, eat small nutritionally dense snacks, and look for another job. Companies that function, in this way, are killing their employees with stress. This is not a harmonious atmosphere, and the stress will get you too.

Lastly, remember that weight control is not a mathematical formula. There are many intangibles that “fly under the radar.” Science cannot yet accurately measure the power of your mind, commitment, and spiritual health.

Yoga is much more than an exercise class. At present, Yoga is the most complete health system known to humankind. Yoga encompasses mental, physical and spiritual health.

There are some Chinese internal martial arts systems that come close, but Yoga is the Mother of most Asian martial arts systems. How is this possible?

Bodidharma, an Indian Buddhist monk, taught a form of Yoga to the monks at the Shaolin temple for health maintenance. Due to his visit, the Shaolin temple became the birthplace of Ch’an Buddhism. From this encounter, Chinese Kung Fu was born, and many styles of martial arts have continued to evolve to this day.

There is so much to learn about Yoga that none of us will be able to learn everything in one lifetime. The results of regular Yoga practice, and the lessons in mindfulness taught by a competent Yoga teacher, will help you control your weight and so much more.

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© Copyright 2005 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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