When I began my yoga journey seven years ago, I must admit that I had these fantasies of looking “like a yoga instructor.” You know – the ones with the slim bodies and long arms and legs that seem to stretch on for miles?
Well, it didn’t take long for reality to set in for this 5’ 1” athletic-built girl in her forties. However, as I continued with my regular yoga practice of twice a week, I noticed myself making healthier choices in my life.
Impact of Yoga on Healthy Weights
Through yoga, I learned how to listen to my body and to connect with hunger awareness or other formerly unhealthy actions I used to pacify my emotions. I recall having an argument with my ex-husband.
I couldn’t wait for him to leave the room so I could raid my cupboard of that chocolate bar I knew was stashed in there. As I reached for the chocolate, I stopped myself. I knew I wasn’t hungry, and I knew I was pretty upset.
It was like a light bulb went off. After that moment, I began to be more aware of the times when I will reach for a sugary snack because I was angry.
2. Reduced Stress
It’s a lot harder to eat healthy when we’re stressed. Yoga helped me learn to be present in the moment, which dramatically reduced my stress.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” ~ Lao Tzu
3. Body Awareness
Many times I have taken a yoga class and been surprised at how sore or tight an area of my body is. Daily life can be so hectic – at times I feel I am running from one thing to the next, while ignoring messages my body is sending me. When I am in a yoga class, I take the time to connect with different areas of my body, which can help me to take better care of it.
4. Body Appreciation
Yoga has helped me feel my feet on the earth, and appreciate all the wonderful places those feet have taken me. I can appreciate my strong legs and arms as they help me function throughout the day. I can even appreciate my belly, and all the brilliant churning and digestive activities it does to provide me with the energy I need to chase after my two kids. Instead of focusing on my shortcomings, I now marvel in the magnificence of my body (or at least more often than I used to).
Yes, yoga is an exercise. Although the likelihood of reaching your target heart rate is slim, some practices can be considered strength training with all those planks and triceps pushups. For me, I have never been so strong, through my core and upper body strength, since connecting with yoga.
Think of coming into a lunge, such as in Warrior I, and holding that lunge for 3 to 5 breaths. Your connective muscle pulls on the bone, building bone density and lean muscle mass. And the more lean muscle mass you have, the better your metabolism.
Yoga introduced me to the power of meditation. Being present in the moment, connecting with breath, letting go of all thoughts of the outside world – this is one of my favorite parts of yoga! Pure bliss!
Studies have proven that benefits of a meditation practice include reducing stress, improving brain function, improving your immune system, lowering depression, and helping you to sleep better, just to name a few.
I will also use the tools of meditation during times of stress: Let’s say I’m having an unpleasant conversation with someone, and instead of getting upset, I focus on taking a deep breath for five seconds and exhaling for five seconds. Ta-da! I can handle the situation better with more perspective and keeping my emotions in check.
Achieve A Healthy Weight, Body, and Mind
And, no, I’m still not trying to achieve that slender, it’s-been-years-since-I-had-a-hamburger look, but I have not only found a new appreciation for my body and all the wonderful things it does for me through yoga, but I also feel healthier inside and out.