A great post about yoga and weight loss from Sadhguru. Reproduced with permissions.
If you are doing yoga, excess weight will definitely go. For example, when they start kriya yoga, certain people begin to lose weight, certain people begin to gain weight. If your digestion was bad and your ability to convert the food into flesh was not good, when you start practicing kriyas, the digestive fires get activated and because of the improvement in digestion, the conversion of food to flesh will be more efficient and you start gaining weight.
If your digestive fires were already okay and you start doing kriyas, once again the conversion rate will improve. But instead of turning the food into flesh, it will turn food into a subtler dimension of energy. Now, however much you eat, you will find you are losing weight. If you are practicing the kriyas, you may even find that if you eat a larger quantum of food, you still do not put on weight, you even lose weight. Or, it may be the other way around: your food quantum comes down dramatically, but still you do not lose weight. This is simply because the conversion ratio is being altered.
Yoga for weight loss – The food factor
Yoga rejuvenates the system and brings so much sense into you that you will not overeat. Once a certain level of awareness arises in your body, your body becomes such, it will just eat what is needed for it. It will not eat anything more. This is not because you are controlling or regulating your life in anyway or because somebody is telling you to go on a diet. If you do some other exercises or dieting processes, you are always trying to control yourself. With yogic practices, you do not have to control yourself. You just do the practices. This takes care of the system in such a way that it will not allow you to eat more than needed. This is the big difference with yoga.
Yoga – Opening up the existence
We do not teach yoga for weight loss. It is not something that you do to slim down or for your backache or your headache. Yes, those things will anyway happen – becoming healthy, becoming peaceful, loving, gentle – but these are the side effects of yoga, not the focus of yoga. For weight loss, you just have to eat sensibly, play tennis or take a swim. That will keep you healthy. You don’t have to do yoga. The focus of yoga is to set another dimension alive within you that is beyond the physical. Only when that is alive, slowly the existence opens up to you in a million different ways. Things that you never thought existed become a living reality for you, simply because a dimension beyond the physical has become alive.
Upa Yoga and Angamardana
So, yoga is not an exercise form. It has other dimensions to it. To reduce yoga to a gymnastic process would be a severe crime. But there is something called Upa Yoga – that means sub-yoga or useful processes of doing things, which has no spiritual dimension attached to it. If you do Upa Yoga or Angamardana systems of yoga, fitness is assured. Plus, you will not need any equipment. All you need is a six-by-six space on the floor. You will be super-fit and can build your muscle and everything. The only thing is you won’t become bunched-up with muscle. A whole lot of people have become like that. They think they are fit but I think they are in a straitjacket! It is not just strength or the bulge of your muscle, but the flexibility of your body that is as important for the proper functioning of the system.
In yoga, we do not just look at the muscular strength alone. Organ health is also very important. The yogic system is evolved so that there is organ health. Even if you have a lot of muscle, if your liver is not working properly, what’s the use? It is very important that the body is flexible and usable.
Yoga and strength-training
The human muscular system is a phenomenal thing. What our muscles can do is fantastic. And this can be enhanced by strengthening them, but at the same time making them very flexible. If you do a lot of weights, your muscles will look big but without flexibility. If you see people who have grown big muscles, they cannot do a namaskar properly. They cannot even bend.
If you just want muscles that look good, these days there are easier ways to do it. You could get bicep implants. The silicon doesn’t go just into the breast, it goes into biceps, into calf muscles, into everything. It doesn’t matter that it is useless. You don’t have to work hard, take cortisones and hormones and go on pumping iron. There are easier ways, if it is just about looking good.
Yes, body-building gives you brute strength. But you can build the same strength in a completely different way and above all, keep your body flexible, which is very important. There are various aspects to wellbeing: health, energy, psychological and spiritual. When we invest 30 minutes to an hour in the morning, we want to see that the benefit is across the board for us, not just in bunched up muscles.
So, if you want to build muscle, should you not lift any iron? You could, because physical exercise and activity have been taken away from our lives by modern technology. We don’t have to carry a bucket of water, or this or that. Everything is done by machines. Except your iPhone, you don’t really have to carry anything, isn’t it? So, since you are not using your limbs throughout the day, light weight training is okay.
But Upa Yoga involves the use of your own body weight to do exercises. Angamardana is just this: using your own body weight to do all the exercises. Then, you will have no excuse that there was no gym around. You can exercise wherever you are, because you still have your body. This is just as effective in building the body as any weight training is, and it will not create any unnecessary stress on the system. It will make you look like a sensible human being and also make you strong – very strong.