What about yoga for weight loss? An email inquiry

I recently got an email from a person in Texas who I will call Mary. I thought I would share her email—and my response—with you.

“So, I'm 55 years old and larger bodied. I've been searching yoga on Pinterest and I see post after post of yoga poses for weight loss. This pose to lose belly fat. That pose to firm your booty. I've always looked at yoga as a feel good type of exercise, not a weight loss exercise. Are these poses really going to help? Not menopausal old lady me, but do younger people actually lose weight with yoga? Or is this all BS?"

Ah, yoga pictures on Pinterest.

Here's what I sent back to her.

Hi Mary! Thanks for reaching out! I’m tickled that you found my site and decided to send a note. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. It’s been snowing like mad in Minnesota and I've been snow blowing and shoveling the past couple of days.

So, the kinds of yoga images and posts you mention in your email are marketing, rooted in diet culture and body shame. It’s unfortunate that they have wiggled their way into the ancient practice of yoga, but they have. And they are used against us, usually to try to sell us something.

Will some poses help certain people get a firmer booty? It depends. A person’s genetics, the type of yoga they are practicing and whole bunch of other factors can play a role.

If yoga helps someone change their body in one of the ways you mention above, they are probably practicing a pretty athletic style of yoga. While everyone can practice yoga, not all styles of yoga are good for all people. And there’s no mention of a “firmer booty pose” in any of the ancient yogic texts I’ve read. In fact, many texts mention few poses at all, if any—and the ones they do mention are mostly seated!

What most yogic texts do agree on is the idea of using the practice of yoga to know yourself better and to ready the body for meditation. (For some people, the idea of meditation is a little too woo-woo and that’s okay. Yoga calms the body and mind, and helps a person feel more grounded and embodied in the present moment.)

I’ve practiced some athletic styles of yoga over the years. While some of them were good for my cardiovascular health and stamina, they often resulted in injuries. My body wasn’t ready for the intensity of that specific practice at that time. 

Here's what I recommend:

  1. Seek out larger bodied yogis on social media to see all kinds of bodies doing yoga.

  2. Find a yoga practice that you love and that feels good in your body.

  3. Practice with a teacher you trust.

  4. Enjoy every minute you spend on the mat for what it is: time dedicated solely to you and feeling good in your body.

I hope you take time for yourself on your mat. I hope you practice yoga as a celebration of your body instead of as a way to change it.

Stay warm and be well,