It seems I have become a teacher of very gentle yoga styles. It wasn’t really intentional. It happened because when I was becoming a teacher I was working through a knee injury so I could only do gentle yoga. But there it is. I teach yoga to people in wheelchairs, people with high blood pressure, ulcers, hepatitis, amputations, cancer, heart conditions, cerebral palsy, those working through addiction recovery, brain injuries, those recovering from strokes….the list goes on and on. I really love that this is the yoga I seem to be sharing. It is incredibly fulfilling work. The students I get to meet are amazing and open people who face their challenges with incredible skill and bravery. But there is one downside… as my classes numbers are increasing my spare time is decreasing… and although I do a lot of yoga now it is all very slow and mellow. I am not burning calories. I am not getting enough “exercise”.
I am reading “The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards” right now which is a rather controversial book about yoga that came out last year. The author, William J. Broad, spends much of the book debunking yoga myths. One of those myths is the idea that yoga is good for weight loss. As he says, “For decades, teachers of yoga have hailed the discipline as a great way to shed pounds… But it turns out that yoga works so well at reducing the body’s metabolic rate that — all things being equal — people who take up the practice will burn fewer calories, prompting them to gain weight and deposit new layers of fat. And for better or worse, scientists have found that the individuals most skilled at lowering their metabolisms are women.” He does counter this with mentioning that most yoga practitioners have a high level of self awareness and that in general the practice of yoga minimizes addictive eating, compulsive behavior and in the long run usually results in a healthier body.
But it is true. Most yoga does slow your metabolic rate… which can result in weight gain (but also long life apparently). However it isn’t all bad news. There are also some studies that say that yoga lowers cortisol levels… this can in turn help with weight loss around the tummy area and assist in burning fat. Despite the news that “Yoga might make me fat” I feel that the metabolic slowing down that yoga has brought into my life is an incredible gift. I feel calmer and more able to manage stress. And really I LOVE my slow yoga sessions and have no plan to stop or change this practice in my life. But I do need a little more exercise so I am back to a gym (that has childcare on site). Plus me and the baby are taking a lot more bike rides than we have in the past year. It is all about finding the balance right?