Its countless different forms have captured the interest of more than 11 million Americans, with a 5,000 year history that spans untellable generations, geographical locations and methods of study. Exploring its many forms can have you perched in a precarious position on a paddleboard, doing handstands in a sauna or even bending into pretzels with your dog.
Of course we are talking about yoga, which is one of the world’s most enduring workouts for many reasons. With its gentle, non-aerobic movements and practices that appeal to many different skill levels, yoga can help just about anyone, anywhere build up strength, flexibility and balance. These attributes may help it meet your bariatric surgeon’s approval as a weight loss workout, but one other factor makes yoga especially beneficial for weight loss: it has a calming, meditative effect on the mind.
Even if you’ve never dreamed of becoming a master yogi, there are many things that yoga can teach us about our relationships with our bodies, and the relationships between our bodies and the world around us. It can facilitate a willingness to work with your body rather than against it, inviting us to explore further possibilities as we go deeper into the happiness, peace and security that we find within ourselves.
Regardless of whether or not you want to try yoga, many of its tenets have value for your exercise habits and more. First, let’s take a look at the force that lays the foundation for a yoga pose or any other activity you engage in: the ground beneath us.
Gravity does not push down on you. It is the anchor that pulls you towards the center of the Earth.
Unless you’re an astronaut, gravity is constantly with you. This can make it easy to forget its consistent pull, but gravity is always everywhere, holding all things on Earth together and exerting its sway over every activity we do.
When you practice yoga or any other kind of weight loss exercise, make sure to stay conscious of the support provided by the Earth beneath you. Gravity is perpetually affecting you—you don’t need to make any extra effort to stay grounded. Familiarize yourself with the feeling of being completely supported by the ground. Stop, sit and experience the effortless release of a body buoyed by one of our planet’s strongest forces.
Once you’ve learned to feel the ground beneath you, begin to focus your attention on the part of your body that contacts the floor. Every movement you make has a foundation or anchoring point—take the time to find and experience it. Can you feel your feet on the floor, pinpoint the spots where the ground helps you pivot and move?
Picture your body as a plant, with your spine as the stem and your head the flower. Envision roots growing from the back of your waist and down into the ground. Think of the lotus flower, with its long roots growing deep into the mud, supporting the long stem and flower that float gently above on the water’s surface.
Much like how a feeling of security can ease psychological burdens, finding the stable base of the ground can help us relax. We can begin to feel more emotionally at ease with this powerful physical foundation, borrowing gravity’s strength for extra support. Aligning yourself with gravity in this way will take time and practice, but can help you prevent injury and improve your technique by focusing on the foundation of every movement.
Because of our constant efforts to jump higher, fly farther and build bigger, you may think that mankind is constantly at odds with gravity, but this is not the case. Gravity is, after all, what keeps you from spinning off the planet at any given moment, what keeps you from getting lost in the limitless nothing of outer space. Learn to appreciate and embrace its influence in every step you take, every exercise you perform and every moment you spend on Earth—you will benefit from its support.
Have you used this exercise or any other techniques in your weight loss efforts? Share your tips, experiences and questions with us in the comments below.