Yoga for Obesity, Weight issues and Body Image

Weight issues are epidemic. Obesity is widespread and it’s rare to meet someone who isn’t aware of their weight or has some kind of body dysmorphia. There are infinite reasons for becoming obese but also for having self-esteem issues relating to the body.

The yoga practice is about consistency and steadiness: appropriate whether weight issues are because of an unhealthy weight or if it’s a mind-body issue.

Obesity is such a prevalent problem and there is a lot of literature devoted to how the medical system treats obese individuals. Anecdotally, it appears the system can be dismissive of obese patients and even go so far as to blame any ailment on their weight. Overweight patients with conditions that have nothing to do with weight (crohn’s disease or scoliosis, for example) are prescribed weight loss as the only remedy. These patients feel discredited by the medical system and experience stress, shame and frustration. The power of the yoga practice might surprise obese students.

These students likely know the basics of getting and staying healthy; they know that smoking is bad, eating fruit and vegetables is good, regular exercise is imperative and that it’s critical to keep stress at bay. But the medical system sometimes confuses habits and lifestyle and instructs patients to “better” their habits, “get” healthier and “change” something with the expectation of “improvement.”

Paradoxically, the desire to improve and to “cure” ailments creates more stress. In opposition to this desire to improve, yoga is a strategy to observe what’s happening with health and wellness. By doing a regular yoga practice, students are able to check in with their own physical and emotional self and understand their constitution from a point of view of acceptance rather than change.

By accepting themselves for who they are and not constantly being prescribed change and improvement, obese students may find wellness from a different perspective than they’re used to.

Obese students face many challenges in society, the worst of which is feeling constant pressure to change their habits, overhaul their lifestyle and shrink. The pressure to change who you are is overwhelming but with weight loss often being the only prescription, if they don’t succeed, obese patients are left feeling they’ve failed.

Yoga can give patients a new perspective on their health. By focusing on meditation and yoga movement, they find acceptance and appreciation of self and remove themselves from the pass/fail outcome of results-oriented weight loss.

Obese patients suffer from extreme attachment to a particular outcome. They are striving to lose weight and if they don’t succeed, they suffer because they are so attached to the outcome of their actions. The yogic perspective of non-attachment to outcome is a refreshing new perspective for a demographic who is being coerced by society to make changes to their appearance. Yoga, meditation and a new perspective on “results” will help obese students love themselves in the face of society constantly telling them to change. From that place of love, students find their place in society and respect themselves, regardless of their weight.

Exercise: Acceptance

Exercise: Acceptance

A student just dropped out of your beginner yoga class because she’s doing too many “exercise classes” and doesn’t have time for all of them.

Her doctor prescribed exercise as a weight loss strategy, but she is tired and doesn’t want to attend all the classes she’s signed up for.

She feels frustrated in exercise classes, conspicuously different from everyone else and fat. She’s been told too many times to “just get more exercise” and she views classes as evil and unwelcoming and yet another domain for the thin people.

How will you describe yoga as a complete system of health and more than exercise?

How will you make the practice relevant and comfortable for her?