Yoga and Weight-Loss
As a child I found comfort in food when I was having a hard time with my siblings and the dynamic nature of my upbringing. You see, I grow up in a commune with many communal brothers and sisters and scores of adults on a 30 acre “village”. The kids weren't blood related but we sure had the same arguments and fights that siblings do. At times there were a dozen to two dozen children living in the same house so the energy could get overwhelming. The community was always bustling with activity and changes. Food was my anesthetic. I used it to self sooth. It also gave me a nice cushiony layer of fatty protection between me and the unfriendly world. I felt bigger and stronger with more weight on me. I was able to stand up better to the big kids.
The unintended consequence was becoming a “fatty.” The teasing and tormenting by older children about my size just made everything worse. I struggled with my self-esteem for years, and like many of us, still do sometimes.
I am so thankfully that one day when I was about thirteen some members of my community invited me to come to a yoga class at the YMCA with them. I was hooked from the start. It was a calm environment where I could mostly just be with myself. Socializing with the other students, who were all at least twice my age, was pleasant, not challenging. Everyone supported each other in feeling better and becoming healthier. It was just the environment I needed.
I took class twice a week for five years straight. Every day in class was a new exploration of sensations that connected me more and more to myself. This was while I was going through puberty, so there were a lot of changes happening physically, mentally and emotionally and yoga supported them all. Yoga helped me to feel safe in my body.
Throughout high school my weight fluctuated but never seemed to settle in a healthy place for long. In my early twenties, I remember going to my doctor and being told that I was technically obese. I was shocked and scared.
After that, I started to become aware of the true potential of my yoga practice to elevate my physical and mental health. As my practiced deepened I learned to appreciate my body and take better care of it. By this time, I was in my early thirties and I was ready to make some big changes to my eating habits. This is also around the time I started studying Buddhism and yogic philosophy more. These philosophies include the idea of moderation. The Buddha called it the middle path or Middle Way – the path between the extremes of self-indulgence and the subjugation of appetites or desires by self denial. Patanjali's Yoga Sutra II.38, also agreed that a balanced life is characterized by moderation in all things.
So I started listening to my body more when it was full and eating smaller portions. I cleansed to reboot my relationship to food too. My body felt better, movement was easier and my mental and physical health improved.
My eating habits continued to evolve from my study of yoga philosophy and my observations about the state of the planet. Ahimsa is a sanskrit word used in Buddhist and Hinduism that means to respect all living things and avoid violence towards others. Along with the yoga postures, breath-work and meditation, it is part of one of the limbs of the eight - limbed yoga path. Over time, I have eaten more and more ethically and now have a whole-foods plant-based diet with almost no animal products.
I hope my story can be an inspiration to others. I would love to hear where you are on your path, too.