Why MFML will NEVER have Yoga for weight loss and why we love your body exactly as it is.
All of us want to feel healthy and happy but here’s why yoga for weight loss is not the answer. As a result of our culture and conditioning, it’s natural to think that being the skinniest best version of ourselves is the answer to our happiness. We’ve all heard that ‘you can never be too rich or too thin’, and that we must be thin to be desirable, accepted and loved . We’re peddled images of an idealised version of beauty.
My questions are, is this version of beauty realistic or even desirable? and is yoga for weight loss?
I find it so sad that some of the biggest and the best brains in the country choose to go into advertising, focusing on finding ways to make us feel like we’re not good enough, instead of collectively solving the global crisis.
The message to buy cosmetics ‘because we’re worth it’ runs a dark undercurrent that we’re not worth it if we don’t use those products. There is very little public messaging about self-acceptance and self-compassion. Quite simply, if we were full of self-compassion and self-acceptance, the beauty industry and advertising industry would be out of business.
Most of us internalise those messages and feel a degree of self-loathing. We believe we are never thin enough or beautiful enough.
If we were full of self-compassion and self-acceptance, the beauty industry and advertising industry would be out of business.Kat Farrants
The Role of the Yoga Industry
Sadly the yoga industry has been a part of this beauty industry. The aim to ‘sell’ yoga, over the decades, has seen it become a weight-loss solution, a fitness craze and a means to become more toned and ‘healthy-looking’.
Yoga has also been pigeon holed as part of the fitness industry, and as such, there is plenty of yoga available which calls itself ‘yoga for weight loss’. Indeed, as part of practicing physical, hatha yoga, you might get fitter and stronger. You may even start to lose weight. But yoga is not for weight loss.
From the cultural messages we receive it is only natural we look for weight-loss solutions, but I won’t look to yoga for exercise or weight loss.
(Check out this article: Will Yoga Help with Weight Loss?)
I absolutely think that there are many wonderful things that we can do for our overall health to stay strong and keep moving. For me, hill walking, and long walks in nature keep my body moving and my mind calm. I also really love Amy Holly’s Barre classes, they’re really fun. Pilates with Sally and Vanessa are another favourite of mine. Whilst I do also love a strong Vinyasa Flow Yoga class, I’ll do this in addition to my exercise. Not as my workout.
Yoga means Union
In fact, to me, the whole message of yoga to lose weight is a misunderstanding of what yoga is about. Yoga means union. Connecting the body, mind and breath. A connection between ourselves and others, a connection between heaven and earth.
If we aim to lose weight, we are desiring to change, or even to control, ourselves. This is an act of separation, separating our bodies wants and needs from our minds. If yoga is the practice of unity, yoga for weight loss is exactly the opposite of yoga.
Yoga is a practice of self-acceptance and self-love.
Fitness VS Health
The word ‘healthy’ has become synonymous with fitness, which I think is such a big worry. I think that there is a massive world of difference between fitness and health. The fitness industry is about goals, pushing, attaining and the controlling of, the otherwise out of control, body. Fitness is associated with beauty, and where we read ‘healthy’, we often think of beauty and fitness.
Whereas, to me, far from being about fitness or beauty, being healthy is about having a good range of movement, feeling free in our joints, feeling energetic and positive about life.
True health is more of a feeling within ourselves, rather than what someone could say that we look like. Being healthy isn’t about a toned body and symmetrical features, a western complexion and flawless skin.
Health is simply about:
- Our bodies being strong and capable
- Feeling good in ourselves
- Staying grateful and resilient
- Allowing vulnerability
- Staying open to all of the challenges that life may bring
(Check out this article: Aisha Nash – Health & Weight are Different)
Anti-New Year Resolutions
With a culture that idealises skinny as being sexy and worthy, it’s very normal for us all to want to turn over a new leaf at the New Year and decide that this will be the year that we’ll shed our excess weight. Of course we want to be all the things that society demands, as fitting this criteria offers very real social and financial rewards.
At New year, we might start off with good intentions, and then the diet and exercise regime starts to slip. We miss the food and lifestyle we’re used to. So we revert (which is normal!). But in this process, we feel immense guilt and shame when we’re not eating or doing the ‘right’ exercise. We believe that our bodies look unattractive, we feel terrible about ourselves, and often, this triggers us to guilt-eat, so the spiral continues.
In my opinion before and after photos on instagram are toxic. They shame others into thinking that this is what they could be, and ‘inspire’ us to have an unhealthy relationship to our bodies and to food. We start to think of our bodies as an alien that we must control, and change, not the heart of our very blessed, and sacred being.
I’m writing this article as an ex-anorexic
I’m going to come clean, I’m writing this article as an ex-anorexic. I was anorexic as a teenager. Whilst that was many years ago now, the need for the body to be beautiful, the seeing the body as a project, and the need to control the body, still retains a powerful hold over me. The times I’m not exercising or eating as well, I still feel a degree of disappointment in myself.
I realise now that this is just the conditioning talking. It’s not really me. Whilst it still takes time for me to realise that it’s the internalised cultural messages talking, I have learnt to consciously take note of these messages and say, no. It is a choice not to listen and a choice how I respond.
Having said all that, I am conscious that in these times, obesity is on the rise, and many folks are carrying more weight than may be healthy for their bodies. The answer isn’t to do yoga for weight loss, filled with guilt and shame. Any changes to the diet or routine that need to be made can be done from a place of self-love, self-acceptance and self-care.
The One True Message of Yoga
To me, the really one true important message of yoga, the important reason for practicing, is to gain self-knowledge, self-insight, self-acceptance and also to cultivate compassion for ourselves and others. When we do those things, the project of losing weight somehow melts into air.
We are able to make connections and friendships based on our real values, and connections become a real meeting of hearts, not just minds.Kat Farrants
Isn’t it so much more important to really start to get to know our authentic, true version of ourselves? So that when decisions come up, we are able to make the decision which is right for us? We are able to make connections and friendships based on our real values. These connections become a real meeting of hearts, not just minds.
When we practice self-acceptance, we accept how we are, right now. We cease looking back with nostalgia at the person we used to be, or how we used to look when we were younger, or how our skinny our thighs were.
Through the practice of yoga we accept the present, and we learn how to live fully in each precious moment.
By Kat Farrants, Founder of Movement for Modern Life
Whilst I understand the sentiment behind this, there are some fundamental areas where I feel there is a misunderstanding of the broader meaner of Yoga much because it is different in various traditions, but also because Sanskrit cannot be translated this way so literally. Yes there is a route from “Yuj” to yoke (hence union) but if we are to look at the perspective of Pantajali’s Sutras the essence of that is Kavaliya or separation. A separation of the purity of mind from the impurity of the body. Really there was no love of the body here, acceptance or otherwise it was seen as a hinderance to higher things; something to get passed. Whereas in the Tantrika traditions the body was something to be nourished and accepted and even enjoyed…but then the meaning of yoga here is different it is “liberation” and underlying that, pure awareness. And, through channelling this more intimate dialogue with the “poornam” or wholeness of the self/Self through this lens we begin to act with “tarka”, discernment. Like with many things in the yoga practice things are multi layered and sometimes the side affects of our practice can be quite surprising…many students find themselves stepping toward a yoga class for a body transformation but they often leave with much more than that, particularly as with dedicated practice the subtleties unfold. One of these side-affects is our relationship with food…as the dialogue with ourselves becomes more fluent the choices we make are more refined and quite organically become more channelled into a way of supporting ourselves better. This can be food choices, sleep, actions toward others/ourselves. And in this way this is a true liberation a way of being that moves beyond restrictiveness of language…this restrictive tight language is a modern-day noose one that we impose to try and make sense of things. But Yoga is beyond language, it is beautifully aligned with the nuanced subtleties of Sanskrit. It has infinite possibilities and pathways toward one truth. Awareness. I would and could not discriminate against someone in my class because they perhaps walked through the door to find a better body shape – but i would hope that they would leave over time with only of faint memory of it as they grew more intimate with themselves.
Thank you for this detailed reply and clarification on the terminology and translations of sanskrit. I hope that the sentiment can be felt even though there are various different understandings of the exact terms.
You are totally spot on with the idea of the multi-layers of yoga and whilst people may be draw to yoga for the physical benefits, it is true that we often leave with a whole lot more than that.
As you say, language is often a limitation in itself, and misses the subtleties that lay underneath.
Thank you again for your thoughts and words 🙂