The Problem with Using Yoga to Lose Weight

Sophia Herbst
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“Will yoga make me toned? I just want to like… tone my tummy and get rid of this pooch.”
 
Chrissie grabbed her stomach with both hands and squished it up & out to emphasize the belly fat she wanted to oust from her body. My response to this took a lot of self-control. First, to not roll my eyes at the phrase “tone my tummy” – words promoted by glossy magazines to the point where women now parrot it without a second thought. Second, to not grab my friend’s shoulders and shake some sense into her, because Chrissie has the body of a porn star, and her dissatisfaction with her midsection seemed slightly ridiculous.
 
We have all encountered these “how many calories does yoga burn?” girls at some point or another. They’re the ones going to hot yoga because they want to sweat off 5lbs before their dinner date. They hate Plow pose because it causes fat rolls to erupt out of nowhere. They don’t see the point of restorative practices, or meditation.
 
Honestly, some of us were this girl for a while, too. I know I was. But it is not my place to judge, so I refrained from rolling my eyes until they fell out of my head.

“Yoga will definitely help you tighten things up,”

I responded. I’m a yoga evangelist the same way I’m a CrossFit evangelist: I love it and am constantly encouraging people to try it, because I think everybody’s lives would be better if they did yoga (or CrossFit) too. In that vein of logic: Any reason is a good reason to do yoga. No problem there. Still, something about wanting to “use” yoga to lose weight rubbed me the wrong way.
 

 
It’s kind of like when people use books as doorstops. I mean, sure, you can use a book as a doorstop. It gets the job done. It’s not harming anybody. It’s not illegal. But the original purpose of the book was not to prop open entryways. And if that is all you ever use books for… boy you are really missing out on some deep, eloquent, potentially life-changing knowledge.
 
Same with when the practice of yoga is reduced to a means to a firmer backside, or a flatter belly. Sure, you can use yoga to look sexy, but it is most definitely not the original purpose of yoga.

If you approach every yoga practice with the intent to “torch calories and blast belly fat,” you are really missing out on a beautiful, healing and dynamic experience.

It is not only a disservice to yoga, it is a disservice to yourself. I previously mentioned that I used to be one of those girls. But as my practice progressed, something interesting happened: My desire to look like my inspiration, Meghan Currie, was overtaken by my desire to move like her.
 
As I gained appreciation for the strength and control needed to perform harder asanas, my goal shifted naturally from wanting to burn calories in yoga class to wanting to perform the asanas to the best of my ability. Or, to put it a different way: This is the moment I quit using my book as a doorstop, actually opened the damn thing, and began reading the wisdom of the words inside.People who do yoga to lose weight are merely scratching the surface. The potential for yoga to heal your soul is much greater than the potential for yoga to sculpt your body into a Playboy Bunny. One study from UC Berkeley found that women who did yoga regularly rated their body satisfaction 20% higher than did those who took aerobics, even though both groups were at a healthy weight.
 

 
Body confidence and body hotness, while loosely correlated, do not have a cause and effect relationship. There are flawlessly-physiqued women full of self-loathing, and there are women whose bodies don’t conform to mainstream beauty standards but are full of self-love.
 
To the girls and women who are doing yoga to lose weight: I am glad that you have found a source of motivation to begin practicing yoga. You may not realize it now, but many women (and men!) unintentionally find self-acceptance by beginning a yoga practice, even when it was not their original intent.
 
Yoga is a practice of the mind over the body. Never is this more apparent than when one finds self-confidence in the body through yoga, not because yoga transformed your body, but because yoga transformed your mind. Just wait. You’ll see.

This article has been read 20K+ times. Bada bing!

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Sophia Herbst

Sophia Herbst is a Seattle-based freelance writer, blogger, and proud feminist. When she's not writing for Cody, a health & fitness startup, she's practicing yoga and CrossFit.

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