Yoga: The Secret to Healthy Weight?

News and Advice, Weight Loss
on September 14, 2011
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There’s a fine line between stupidity and bravery, as evidenced by people who sail solo around the world, enter hot-dog eating competitions, or run ultramarathons. I’m trying to figure out which camp I’m in — brave, stupid, or something else — having committed to doing yoga every day for the 30 days of September, which happens to be National Yoga Month. I decided to take this opportunity to make good on my promise to myself to “someday” develop a consistent yoga practice. My body has been nudging me in this direction for years, as I’ve started feeling more aches and pains from my running habit. Now the nudging has turned to insisting, in the form of lower-back issues, tender feet, stiff shoulders, you name it.

I’m about a week into the challenge. I’ve experienced my share of ups and downs already, the hardest part being actually squeezing it into my perpetually crammed days (not a surprise). More than a few times, I’ve resorted to repeating a sun-salutation sequence I remember from a video I used to do years ago, and it’s not enough. It was during that period, shortly after I had my son, that I really discovered the true benefits of yoga. I felt stronger, walked taller, moved more easily than I ever had. I saw definition in my arms and core that I’d never seen from lifting weights. And I loved the private moments of stealing away, shutting a door, shutting out the world, and focusing on something for me, just for a moment. Anyway, that’s what I’m chasing this month, trying to make yoga as essential to my daily life as my morning cup of coffee. 

In the midst of all this, we came upon a study that said that people who practice yoga regularly are more “mindful” when they eat—ie., they are more in touch with their feelings of hunger and fullness, and why they eat. Wow. One of the things that was hardest for me when I was struggling to lose all those years ago was that I couldn’t tell you what hunger was, and “full” meant sick-to-my-stomach-bloated-and-crampy. I didn’t have an off-switch—if it was there, in front of me (or in the near vicinity), I ate it, whether there was room in my body or not. Knowing when enough’s enough was a real challenge.

As I’ve become more active, I’ve become more in touch in general with my body—what’s hurting, when things are amiss, as well as when I’m hungry, or craving chocolate because I’m bored, tired, stressed, angry, whatever. (That doesn’t mean I always say no to those cravings!) I can see how yoga would help in that pursuit too. Another way to become more mindful about what you’re putting in your mouth is this exercise, suggested by the folks at the Harvard Health Letter. They suggest doing it with a friend, but if you feel too goofy or don’t have a willing partner, write your responses in a journal.

  1. Take one bite of an apple slice and then close your eyes. Don’t chew!
  2. Focus just on the apple—not on the thoughts running through your head. Notice the taste, texture, temperature and sensations going on in your mouth.
  3. Begin chewing slowly, just noticing what it feels like. If your mind wanders, just let go of the thought for the moment and come back to the chewing.
  4. If you find yourself wanting to swallow the apple, see if you can notice the subtle transition from chewing to swallowing.
  5. As you swallow, try to follow it moving toward the back of your tongue and into your throat, until you can no longer feel any sensation of the food.
  6. Take a deep breath and exhale.

Try it, and email me at [email protected] to let me know what you think!

Here’s to more mindful munching.