This is probably the second most common question I’m asked by beginners starting Yoga in January!
(See my previous blogs for the other questions). And it is a question that makes my heart sink….partly because Yoga is supposed to be a spiritual practice and partly because this question is often asked by people who are much thinner than me! Which really makes me think about the pressure in today’s society to look thin. It is causing people to feel awful about themselves, and encouraging low self esteem. Women especially can feel as if their happiness is directly related to how thin they are, which really is sad. This can then have knock on effects like depression. Now, Yoga is great for helping the mind, so if we practise enough Yoga can help with issues like low self esteem. Then we realise there are a lot more important things in life than how much we weigh!
The rise of ‘fitness yoga’ where students go through the motions to sweat and burn calories, is not, in my opinion, an authentic Yoga paractice. It does not effect the mind in the same way. But the way we use our muscles in our practice does create an elongated shape, which visually can gives the body an elegant, slimming effect, whether we lose weight or not.
But a healthy body needs some fat! Fat helps lubricate the joints which is very useful for a healthy yoga practice.
Being too thin is unhealthy, which is an issue I actually see more often in my students than obesity. It is especially important for women at certain stages of life to be a healthy bodyweight. The sort of life-long, long-term dieting that some women torment themselves with, will cause problems with bone density in their 40’s and 50’s, not just in ‘old age’.
The way that Yoga balances the body’s many systems is one of the things that makes it different from other forms of exercise. Practising Yoga balances our thyroid gland and hormones levels, so if you are underweight you may even find that practising Yoga helps you put weight on!
So I think, if you are “worried” about your weight then maybe Yoga is right for you after all, as the physical and mental health benefits from regular practice can really help us realise that ultimately our happiness lies within.