Since 2007, I had been struggling with on-again off-again dieting and exercise to lose weight. My attempts would stop as abruptly as they began, with no results to show for it. Over the years, I even continued to gain weight and felt powerless to my own body. I struggled with attempts to lose weight fast, not many of them being the best way to lose weight.
Yoga was not a magic bandage that took all the weight away. I did not find a yoga for weight loss specific class. I struggled in the beginning of my practice, over-exerting myself and constantly comparing myself to those in the room who had been practicing for decades. I was defeated, and kept making excuses to skip yoga to not face my own failures.
Though I will not tell you that yoga will help you overnight with your goals, it can help you focus on them. Yoga did not tone my body, as I did not practice enough for that to be accomplished. What yoga did for me is help analyze why I wanted my goal, and ask why I stood in my own way.
At the beginning of most yoga classes, while we take control over our breathing and warm-up for the class, the instructor asks us to set a goal or ask ourselves why we are on our mat to begin with. Why did you decide to do yoga today? What do you hope to accomplish?
Your goals do not have to be a lot, or really anything. Simply wanting to practice has been my mantra for many sessions as I genuinely enjoy how yoga makes me feel afterwards. It became therapeutic for me, especially when I was just starting out in college.
We are often so focused on being on the move constantly that we do not take time to honor ourselves and relieve our minds, even in sleep. In my early community college days, I would lay in bed angry that I needed to sleep at all, since I had so much work to do.
So what about the weight loss? It EVENTUALLY happened, but it only did once I changed my outlook on why I wanted to in the first place. Many things I did when I was young was so I would be better liked by my peers. Yoga made me concentrate on myself, honoring my body, taking a break from stressful situations, and not pushing myself too hard to match what others were doing that I could not.
I wanted to practice yoga because I felt rejuvenated for the rest of the day after my practice. I picked up running because the endorphins helped relax me and I could climb stairs without being out of breath. If I started on a new goal, I always established why I wanted it, and made sure that why was for me, and not how others see me.
Yoga helped me concentrate on myself, and focus on what I needed in life. Breathing techniques helped as coping mechanisms for when obstacles got in my way. It brought me a community of peers who cheered each other on as they attempted arm-balances. A yoga class could help ground me into the reality of a situation and force me to face it head on, or lift me up and relax once in a while.
Yoga is not a miracle cure, but can morph itself into what you need it to be. With a variety of class types and teachers, I feel there is a practice for everyone to at least take an hour out of their day to focus on and honor themselves. We should be there for each other, but sometimes we focus on achieving things regardless of how they affect us in the process.
I lost weight at a slow pace because that was what I needed to truly succeed. I set realistic goals and did not stress myself out over slow results. It took over a year, but in 2016 I had lost almost 70 pounds. I had changed my eating to foods that brought me energy and made me feel physically well.
Yoga is my form of self-reflection, a sort of physical checks and balances. I am not telling anyone to practice yoga if they are struggling with weight, because I feel like making that your goal won’t work. Yoga put me in a mental place to realize that I wanted to lose weight for myself, and not so others would find me attractive. I had more energy, which definitely helped with my yoga.
I slowed down, since yoga told me not to push myself too hard just to achieve results faster. It took me almost a year to be able to do camel pose or plow, because I worked on them slowly without breaking myself as a result. These poses come second nature to me know, and I have never been more proud of myself.
So what was the point of it all?
I think yoga is a tool to help us accomplish what we need out of life. We might go into it simply for exercise, and there is nothing wrong with that. Being connected to ourselves for that one hour can make a difference in our outlooks on life, or simply pause our stressful days to relax on our mats. The beauty of yoga is that our practice is what we want it to be.
Meredith Schneider is a senior Mass Communications Public Relations major at The University of South Florida. Currently, she is interning with Green Locus Yoga, where Meredith gets to combine her love for writing with her love of yoga! You can follow Meredith on Twitter.