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Yoga And Weight Loss: Where Science Gets It Wrong

Overweight person with fries

Overweight person with fries

People ask me if yoga can help with weigh-loss and the answer is yes of course, but the more pressing question is: can we look at it in an integrative way?

Because nothing happens in 7 days, or in 4 hours, let’s get real.  You and I both know that there is no such thing as get fit in 10′-a-day and in one week…

WHY?

 

Because the emotional body cannot catch up to the physical in an abrupt change like that…
So any plan of that sort will fail.

Nevertheless, I am very human and I have fallen for those fake promise many times in my life, especially when younger, because I was believing what I wanted to believe.

Now that I’m older my b/s detector has gone through the roof, I am questioning everything! [photo above from here]

I released 30 pounds through yoga within 8 months of starting the practice.

That does not mean it will happen like that to you, because we are not the same person, but the principles behind the cycle of events is pretty much what I see work for everyone around me.  So here are my ten integrative ways of weight release for your consideration:

1.- THE ONE THING THAT EVERYONE OVERLOOKS…

Think about this: If you tell yourself that you want to “loose” weight…

What happens in general… In life… when you “loose something“?

You have to… FIND IT!!! Right?

waldo

Where is Waldo?

What would be the point of loosing something that we are pre-programmed to “find” again?

Brutal Aha! Moment -I know!

Instead let’s think of it this way:  I AM READY TO “RELEASE” WEIGHT

See the difference? “Releasing” is for something we are ready to let go of…For good.

You may think it is simple, or silly even, but it’s not. The forces of pre-programming in our mind (which in yoga we call samskaras) are very strong.

When we think of releasing weight we are ready to let it go, thank you very much.

2.- PRACTICING A DAILY ROUTINE INFORMS THE BREATHING AND THE BODY

When you practice yoga intelligently, meaning that the BREATHING is the priority (rather than the showing off, or the “getting somewhere”), then the body begins to work in a more efficient way, because the breathing affects all systems (nervous, cardiovascular, endocrine, muscular, etc)

The breathing and the counter forces that yoga exposes the body to act as a teacher.

The practice teaches the body what is good for it and what is not.  For example: If you know that tomorrow morning (in a few hours) you are gonna be doing a deep twist, you will be less likely to have that ice cream late at night…

Yoga claudia azula altucher

Marichasana C: Deep Beneficial Twist

The body will NOT crave it [heavy fried foods, junk foods, snaks] so much, because it does not want to feel the pain of the upcoming morning practice… It prefers it to go easy.

I am not saying this is always the case, I certainly have had my share of Cherry Garcia binging from time to time, I am saying we begin to learn, and it may take time…

This is why time is a factor.

There is ALWAYS something DEEPER behind the binging late at night…

And we need to find out what it is… And… You guessed it: Release that too!

If the practice happens daily then the body eventually learns to inform the system that perhaps fries, stake, wine and tiramisu is NOT an “optimal” choice of dinner three/five/seven times a week…. It just happens, the body learns

Also, for those of us who practice in the morning, almost magically we get less hungry after, say, 6 or 7 PM, because we would LOVE a really empty stomach for practice.

The PORTABLE YOGA practice sequence I’ve designed contains the minimum viable amount of breathing and stretching and going within necessary to release weight here is the video.

It is about 30′ and it works well if practiced daily, and over time, as in months, years… and together with all other components. As we know, there are no shortcuts.

THE BEST SHORTCUT TO RELEASE WEIGHT IS TO

APPROACH IT FROM ALL ANGLES,

PHYSICALLY, EMOTIONALLY, MENTALLY, AND SPIRITUALLY

If the Portable Yoga video feels too long for you then this PRACTICE VIDEO is only 18-minutes long

Getting on the mat daily is the first step.

3.- WHO KNEW THERE WOULD BE MORE?

As the practice continues, someone may mention how it is not all about the poses and how it works better if we do things that are pretty “common sense”.

For example: Not picking up a fight at work is helpful.

I know it sounds obvious but the first two limbs of yoga, abstentions and observances (that come before asana) DO come as a surprise.

Not stealing paper clips, or making photocopies on company money is also part of it. [Comic by Scott Adams of Dilbert]

dilbert

We begin to question: what does it mean, to US in particular, to “not lie”, or to “not harm”?

What does it mean to maintain “contentment”, “cleanliness”, “an attitude of surrender”, to be “grateful”?

There is no easy black and white answer for what constitutes stealing or what is harming, after all the justice system we live by is just a set of rules someone set up but we still, everyone of us have our own beliefs…

Depending on how far out of the central axis of purity we are, how far removed from your own true values, the longer it will take to release the extra weight.

For example:

My own release of weight came together with a dramatic and pretty awkward discovery:  I found out I was addicted to LOVE

I was addicted to following the wrong men (unavailable men) and trying to make them into my boyfriends or husbands…. Addicted to the “idea” I had in my head of what love was. Completely removed from reality. And I would get a “high” out of trying to convert men who were not interested in me into prospects for marriage. Very silly, right?

All these men I pursued run for the heels of course, as they should, but I kept sabotaging myself, I kept on pursuing all the wrong men… And starving myself from real, intimate love.

I wrote about that in The Power Of No.

Once I was ABLE TO SEE MY OWN BLIND SPOT, which happened when I returned from India in 2008 that is when something clicked.

In that trip I tried for the last time to make someone who was not right for me into my “husband”…But when I returned something clicked, I realized I was the one been causing this problem to myself for a very long time…

That is when I realized that maybe I did deserve real love and I started taking actions to heal this particularly awful emotional issue (going to 12-step meetings, talking to others, reading literature, etc.).

And with the emotional side healing, then the weight began to release, and I’ve kept it off since. Not to mention I also found real love.

True story.

Now your emotional issue may be different.  This is why “diets” don’t work, because they do not address the emotions behind, the parts where we are blind, the places where we hurt ourselves.

4.- THINGS WE LET GO

We may start by releasing the Doritos watching TV… We may follow with letting go of old clothes we don’t use and keep for no reason, and on, and on, and on.

And also, at some point, foods come into question. And it happens by itself, without us “trying” or setting any goals.

Because the practice sets the odd in our favor.

No food transformation can happen drastically and immediately, because…

A meat eater cannot just leave meat, it won’t work.  Someone who ate meat all their lives can get sick if they try to go raw or vegetarian just because some teacher said so…

[Image from here]

snail-on-turtle

Change is slow in all of nature

But maybe a person can switch to meat once a week, and the rest of the days go from stakes to just chicken and fish…

That is real. Trying to change it all at once because “someone said so” is not.

There are levels. It begins to happen naturally.

Also, we may realize that heavy processed foods are bad for us, and so we choose alternatives once in a while, and it becomes a habit. One day at the time.

5.- WE GET OUT OF THE “FAT” BLIND SPOT

It took me a LOOONG time to understand that GOOD FATS are good for us, particularly, for ME.

And then there was that Time Magazine issue of June 14, 2014, proclaiming: Eat Butter. Scientists Labeled Fat The Enemy. Why They Were Wrong

I was so grateful for it. Did you know that the “expert” who created a craze around the “fat-free” trend used data that “left certain elements behind”…

By that I mean, he CHOSE what to look at… And millions of people like me went to the border of diabetes from eating a lot of carbohydrates and not enough fat, not even the fat that is good for you, the one that FUELS our brains!

That is one huge OOPS For Science, and a REALLY BAD ONE!

Here is a photo of ghee… (boiled and filtered butter)… One of my favorite things

ghee

The craze of the 90s with the propaganda of “fat free” got to me in a bad way.

I ate all sorts of carbs and very little fats. But the brain NEEDS fats, of the good kind, which are:

  • Olive oil for salads
  • Ghee or regular butter BUT from cows that eat grass (not genetically modified corn)
  • Coconut Oil for frying (of good quality) – And of this, I will admit, I am using less and less

Now that I am aware that the good fats help me my life has changed completely.

At a recent advanced pranayama retreat we were encouraged to take ghee (or butter) in good and abundant quantities… It was served with breakfast in copious amounts.

Good butter and good oils nurture not just the brain but also the skin, the hair, the nails… Oils are necessary.

Any “grass-fed” butter will do

I find also, that when I eat things with more butter (or olive oil) then the portions are reduced.

Because the food is richer and I am satisfied with less. And I also eat slower because I am practicing! And practice has that magic thing… it slows you a bit, just a tiny bit in the beginning, but a bit… Savasana is a blessing.

And finally, let me say it: I love LOVE butter

Maybe you knew this maybe you didn’t. But it is an important point because it is even recommended in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

6.- OUR THINKING BECOMES CLEAR

We become idea machines.

And no, you don’t have to buy my book and I am not doing this to promote it.

I just happened to stumble upon a simple idea that is pretty revolutionary (through James) which is that:

Writing ten ideas has these three specific effects (among others)

  • Keeps the brain sharp
  • Stops the monkey mind (which is, well, you know? the GOAL of YOGA)
  • Transforms your life for the better every six months

These three things happen because there is no evolutionary direction to go into but towards a better life.

maxresdefault

You can list ideas on anything, you don’t need prompts. [photo from this blog]

You simply need to keep your brain sharp, and list things every day on things that interest you.

For example: You could list ten things you can eat today that would be nutritious and you would love… Or ten things you wish you knew how to cook well, or ten ways you can incorporate good fats into your diet.

The point is to keep the idea muscle sharp, toned, in good shape, stretched, flexible…

Magic happens when we play with ideas regularly. We become magnetic, energetic, and we trust the words that come out of our mouths at all times, because we have a sharp mind.

6.- BREATHING LEADS TO WEIGHT RELEASE: TED X TALK SAYS

In his TEDx Talk, Ruben Meerman, who proclaims himself as a “surfer/scientist/speaker” -which I find to be a lovely combo- asks a very simple question:

When you release weigh…  WHERE does it go?

People are stunned! Some are paralyzed by the question and start laughing nervously, some venture: “you… burn it?”

Meerman goes on then to show the science and math behind the weight release…

As a serious pranayama (breathing side of yoga) as was surprised and enamored with the result…

The weight is released by THE EXHALE…

At one point in the talk he talks about the one to two ratio, meaning inhaling for, say three counts and exhaling for double, or six.

A simple exercise like that can be done easily after you prepare yourself, for example, with this three part breathing exercise, the video is here…

Once you are relaxed, simply sit down comfortably and breathe in for 4 counts and exhale for 8.

Don’t worry about all those people that scare aspiring practitioners into thinking that pranayama is too advanced, because it is only advanced when retentions are involved, and that comes later.

For now, JUST BEING AWARE of the breath, doing the three part exercise, and practicing for some time in the day the inhale for 4 and exhale for 8 (consciously) can help

This is science… And it seems to be one of those places where it is getting it “right” – I am not making it up, watch the talk.

7.- DECLUTTER YOUR HOUSE / BAD PEOPLE AROUND YOU = RELEASE WEIGHT

I never thought that emptying my house would lead to such an emotional “dump” as well… But it did.

It all started when I read “The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up

It led me write this article on 10 Ways To Declutter And Live In The Home Of Your Dreams

As we let go of everything externally that no longer serves us, we ALSO let go of what no longer serves us internally, including what we put into our bodies, like  food, and emotions, and people who are no good for us.

We stop wasting time because now we have space… Literally.

I’ve become a lot more focused and efficient, for example I learned WordPress and completely moved my blog (it looks a LOT better now at ClaudiaYoga.com) in one weekend…  You are reading this in the new blog now, how do you like it?

I know you may be tempted to overlook this step thinking it could lead to “too much work” however, in her book she explains that it is not necessary to do it all at once…

And that before doing ANYTHING the FIRST STEP IS TO THROW EVERYTHING OUT…Or donate it or recycle it.

But what do I do with photos?

  • Leave them until the end, start with clothes, books, coats, umbrellas, things that you have not touched in over a year

But what do I do with important papers?

  • Also leave them to the end, start with furniture that is taking a lot of space – You will notice when you donate books to a library that there is a lot of furniture maybe you don’t need

But what do I do about the little jar that has coins, pins, paper clips?

  • Put the money in a place where you will start to make it circulate into your wallet, and throw everything else out – Trust me this works

But should I not send it to my parents house?

  • NO! That is like passing your garbage to them… if you take responsibility for releasing what no longer serves you it will happen at the body level too.

It is all connected. Read the book, you’ll see

8.- RELEASING CRAPPY PEOPLE

I barely mentioned it in the above point, but the people who drag us down, who tell us we are not good enough, or always interrupt us or try to “teach us things” when inappropriate….

They gotta go!

You know it and I know it. And you KNOW who those people are. They borrow money, or a book, or whatever, and “forget”. They always talk about themselves? They never applaud an accomplishment of yours? They downright dismiss any idea you may have?

Having people who drag you down around is like enabling a vampire to suck from your neck, and empty you of vibrant red, life-filled blood, which you need…

Keep your blood. Let the vampires go.

If you HAVE to deal with them (as in co-workers) then stay polite but DO NOT go beyond that. Do not do small talk, do not gossip, EVER…

Document everything you agree by sending an email after you meet with them and copying others. You manage expectations that way, you cover your tracks… You do what you said you were going to do, and it is all in black and white.

Cover your butt, do it intelligently, but do not mix with the sharks… they are after your blood, they feed on your insecurity and your anger… that is why they push buttons.

I have a “one time and you are out policy”… Crappy people are out of my life because life is way too short to be wasting it on petty fights. And because I’d rather elevate the conversation.

9.- WE CHOOSE OURSELVES

This kind of “responsibility taking”, meaning:

  • owning that our garbage goes in the garbage or is recycled or donated – It does not go to storage or our parents,
  • learning to eat what is good for us,
  • showing up for our daily practice in all four areas: spiritual, mental, physical and emotional,
  • listing ideas
  • practicing asana with intention
  • breathing consciously,
  • and releasing bad people from our lives….

This is POTENT.

It is more than that, it is POWERFUL

Because we shift “outer reference” to “inner reference

And by that I mean we stop worrying about what others are thinking and we get busy with how interesting and good our life gets.

We refer to ourselves, we know when we did good work and we know when we missed the mark…

Yes critics or crappy people still can push buttons, but the effect is a lot less, because we are now choosing ourselves.

10.- WE CONTINUE THE DAILY PRACTICE AND WE ARE AT OUR PERFECT WEIGHT

A study done by the National Libary of Medicine ncbi, looked at 21 adults to see if integrating yoga and ayurveda (the medicine system of India) would work in weight loss.

The study would take 3 months and was designed to change participants’ eating and activity habits (not unlike what we are discussing here) and to improve their quality of life and vitality, as well as awareness of food choices.

But, at the start, only 17 people showed up and only 12 completed the three month program.

Those 12 had a follow up check in six and nine months afterwards… At the 3 month mark participants had “lost” (released) an average of 3.5 kilos (5 pounds more or less) and at 9 months 5.9 kilos (about 11 pounds)

The study concluded that there is not enough evidence…

But you could have told me that… There is not much evidence, because the laboratory is now-a-days in our hands…And studies only show what may have worked for other people under certain circumstances but it does not mean it will work for you.

CONCLUSION

One of the things that is taking me a LONG TIME TO UNDERSTAND is that nobody knows anything.

I can read all I want and some people have more experience than me in “certain areas”

But in the end, what works for me can only be discovered by ME.

And what works for YOU can only be a consequence of WHAT YOU FEEL ATTRACTED TO TRYING…

The path is uncertain and we all must make our own.

The suggestions above have worked for me…

Will they work for you? Maybe yes, maybe some, maybe not…

But the only science that is valid when it comes to you is how you feel when you experiment with your own life

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