Yoga was born in India over 5,000 years ago as a complete system of self-discipline. Yoga is intended to purify, strengthen and balance our minds bodies and souls. This is not just a physical practice, it is an internal Journey that teaches us the path to perfect health, perfect mind control and perfect peace with ourselves, nature, with the world as well as with God.
Yoga teaches us the awareness between the connections of the mind, body, breath and the soul. Within These connections is where we uncover our true selves, through every breath every asana and meditation we gain clarity, focus, strength (mental and physical) as well as many other psycho spiritual benefits.
Yoga is not just a form of fitness as portrayed in the western cultures. It is intended to be a practice of life and a way of living, being non-judgmental and being aware of how you treat your body as well as those around you. The number of health benefits provided by yoga are undeniable, including the benefit of weight loss.
There is a common misconception that yoga is not an effective path to weight loss, that statement could not be further from the truth. Even though weight loss and fat burn depends on the type and intensity of the yoga class, people burn an average of 3-6 calories per minute which totals to 180 – 360 calories during a 60 to 90 minute class.
In a research conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center it was found that in both overweight and normal weight adults who regularly practice yoga were less likely to gain weight than non-practitioners. Overweight practitioners lost an average of 5 pounds while non-practitioners gained about 14 pounds over a period of time. Even with those results, losing weight through yoga may seem out of reach, but yoga, unlike other activities, combines mindful eating, effective stress management (which reduces ‘stress eating’) and increases bodily awareness.
The practice of mindful eating can be very powerful. The same way in which we are mindful of every breath in yoga, we must be mindful of every bite of food to develop a better awareness and understanding of what affects the food has on the body.
In the Bhagavad Gita there are 3 main food types. Sattvic are ‘Pure foods’ like fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, herbs and legumes. Rajasic are ‘Stimulating foods’ like sharp spices, chocolate, eggs, coffee, fried foods and fish. Tamasic are ‘putrid and overripe foods’ like fatty foods, meat, tobacco, alcohol and fermented and processed foods, they contain a lot of oils and sugar.
According to our level of mental purity or spiritual development, instinctively we choose the coordinating food types. A Yogis diet consists of Sattvic or pure foods because it brings purity and calmness to the mind and is energizing, soothing, nourishing to the body and easy to digest. Stimulating (Rajasic) foods are preferred by average or worldly people, it arouses animal passion, causes a restless State of mind, nervous and circulatory disorders, hardening of the arteries and uric acid diseases. Impure (Tamasic) foods are preferred by the undeveloped man, these foods makes us dull and lazy, it diminishes our thinking capacity and creates chronic ailments in the body.
Even though yoga is a great way to keep our bodies toned and healthy (apart from the spiritual journey), the key to keeping the weight off comes from the awareness of what we eat, and what we eat stems from our spiritual and mental development. Yoga is a lifestyle and prevention is better than cure, so use food as a medicine and it should be eaten in its most natural state for nourishment to the body and prevention of diseases.