One of the biggest problems facing America and the world is obesity. We know that burning calories and restrictive diets don't work. Aggressive exercise triggers a stress response in most of us that makes unhealthy weight gain even more likely. The science behind diets changes with each decade, and blanket recommendations too often ignore what is unique to each of us. Above all, these solutions start too late. They're focusing too much on the outcome — our weight — and ignoring a cause that happens even before our food choices. This cause is in our minds, and has everything to do with stress.
For so many years now, I've seen thousands of people drop stress from their bodies and minds, and improve their overall wellbeing through the practice of easygoing yoga. What has gone along for the ride here: each of these people has found their own ideal body weight.
This is a big goal in the work we do with Strala. Reducing stress unlocks our potential and expands our life, no matter our body size. When we find a way to let stress dissolve, we're able to sensitize to more than just feeling stressed. We start to hear our bodies again. From here, we can make choices that help us feel good. From here, we become our own best health care providers. The answer isn't so often in a prescription or diet plan. The answer for many of us is in how we feel.
When we feel like our bodies aren't working for us — on top of everything else that's challenging in life — of course we get stressed, worried, and frustrated. We can try all the exercise and diets in the world, but we don't stand much of a chance here. From feeling stressed, we fight a battle against our own internal chemistry to find our ideal weight. It's a battle we will almost inevitably lose. So we need a new starting point, even before we think about the food we eat. We need to drop the stress.
Yoga can help here, but yoga too is at a crisis point. It needs to drop its own stress. Forcing, struggling, and pushing to make "correct" shapes with the body, feel the burn, and achieve poses has the same health benefits as being yelled at by your partner for eight hours in a row. Immobilizing our bodies in tension-inducing poses, then trying to move our tense body into the next rigid pose, simply doesn't feel good. But we're taught that's ok, to ignore how we feel right now. It's not going to feel good, yet if we endure it, something good will happen someday.
With this way of practice, we're habitually bathing our bodies in stress hormones, which doesn't lead to anything good. As a start, it leads us to believe that how we feel isn't important. It must be that health just doesn't feel good. From stressed and feeling not good, we enter a cascade of unhealthy decisions, declining creativity and immunity, and reduced overall wellbeing. This rigid pose-oriented practice of yoga has become widespread in the last 50 years, and is globally spreading our problems with stress.
Luckily, we can practice in a different way. One that is completely normal, but has become an outlier in the last several decades. We can choose to move easily, through everything, without pushing or struggling.Rather than attacking headlong, we move easily around challenges, getting to know them, and ourselves around them. We aren't afraid of these challenges. We don't need to combat them. Life might have difficulties, but we're also creators in this life. When we choose peace over war, letting stress go rather than escalate, we become far more capable. We're no longer simply surviving a no-pain, no-gain world. Now we're creating something better. Challenges become not so challenging, from here.
It's a small thing, to practice this in our yoga. But this small thing can lead to big things. So maybe it's not so small.
When we practice yoga in an easygoing way, we drop the stress and begin to heal. When we practice this way even when things are tough, we can stay easy rather than stressed, even in the midst of challenge. Our yoga becomes good practice for life. From here, we can activate the opposite of stress: our relaxation response. It's the hormonal state where we want to spend most of our time, and is central to our overall health and wellbeing. We create a strong, balanced, and healthy body and mind from here.
I am asked so much in interviews why I promote yoga as a path for weight loss. I've been accused that this is a superficial goal, and not right for something so deep and spiritual as yoga. That question is a large part of the problem.
Why would we ban the most healing, expansive practice available, from helping with our biggest health tragedy of this generation, and our future? That is the question we should be asking, and more important, move on to practice. It's not the yoga that can save us, it's us that can save us.
How we are, how we practice, how we move, and how we treat ourselves and each other is what will move us from a nation of stressed, sick, and overweight, to calm, radiant, and loving. I'm a rebel against practices that turn the healing power of yoga into a stress-inducing activity. There is a lot of work to do, and a lot of people that need help.
If you're a teacher, healer, or light worker, make yourself an advocate of radiance, to inspire those around you to relax, and move with ease. Slow down, soften, and move how it feels great for you. In sensitizing ourselves we become free! We know how to take care of ourselves. It's in us to be radiantly healthy. In sensitizing, we find what we have, which is everything we need.