Advanced Yoga Practices
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Yoga, Overcoming Hunger, and
Weight Control (Audio)
AYP Plus Additions: (Audio)
309.1 - Obesity and Yoga
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the web archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
While it is true that healthy eating is an important factor in creating and
supporting good health, in yoga we regard diet to be an intermediary step
between who we are (pure bliss consciousness) and how we are manifesting our
inner essence physically on this earth. By going beyond diet with yoga
practices, we will find our essential motivation for becoming all that we
can be in this life.
Interestingly, we will often come to this spiritual realization when faced
with the hard facts of our physical existence our health and our mortality.
It is these factors that drive us toward that mystical
something more that
we are all seeking in life. For many of us, the spiritual quest begins and
continues with a quest for physical health. We have to start somewhere, and
it is the obvious place to take a stand. However, diet is not where our
quest for health and happiness should end. If it does, we have missed
something important, not the least of which is the primary motivation for
healthy living, which has its genesis within us, not outside us.
However we have come to consider diet, our actions will reflect our own style.
Our choices will incorporate whatever information we have encountered in the
vast marketplace of diet systems, our personal preferences, the influence of
our role models, and even our sense of morality about what we eat.
Our ancient ancestors ate what was available in whatever location they
happened to be living, with little control over the outcome. If the soil was
good and the weather suitable, combined with good accumulated agriculture
skills, then the people thrived. On the other hand, if conditions were poor,
the society fared accordingly. The birth and rise of human civilization
(including all technology) can be traced back to the fertile locations on
Nowadays, the challenge of diet and nutrition has been turned completely on
its head. In many parts of the world, it is choice that
determines what we eat, more than the dictates of a limited selection. This
is not true everywhere, of course, but for most who may be reading here,
dietary choice is the ruling part of the equation. Rather than being
dependent on the elements, most of us are dependent on our ability to choose
wisely and eat in moderation. If we don't do either, we will be prone to
suffer ailments that can rival the problem of not having enough food of any
In western societies there is a huge focus on body weight, for both vanity
and health reasons. It is well known that excess body weight is related to a
litany of health issues, and can substantially shorten our life, by decades
in some cases. This is not to pass judgment on body weight, or even on what
a persons body weight is supposed to be. The length of life is not the
primary measure of happiness. Happiness is always in the now, and not much
related to a persons body weight. Yet, longevity is related to body weight,
so if we are seeking longevity, along with our happiness, some attention to
diet will be appropriate.
There are many approaches to weight loss. In all cases, the formula is to
eat less on
a regular daily basis. In fact, the simplest diet one could imagine can be
summed up as, consistently
There are a thousand strategies for doing this, ranging from fasting to
eating large quantities of low calorie foods. And in recent years,
strategies have emerged involving eating less of foods that stimulate the
body to store fat, and more of foods that do not stimulate the body to store
fat the so-called low carbohydrate, high protein and fat diets. This is in
contrast to the lower fat, higher carbohydrate diets that have been in favor
over the past few decades.
Whether one is from the low carbohydrate camp or from the low fat camp, one
underlying truth prevails fresh fruits, vegetables, foods with good fiber
content, and adequate water consumption will be important parts of any diet.
This has been demonstrated time and time again, whether we are considering
diet from the standpoint of weight loss or improving health. It is also true
that processed foods that artificially increase carbohydrate and/or fat
content and include chemical additives will not necessarily be a positive
component of any diet.
But what of the low carbohydrate versus low fat debate?
There is nothing to debate, really, because both are right as long as they
are taken in moderation. Too much carbohydrate (sugars and starches) in the
diet is not healthy. Too much fat (animal or vegetable) in the diet is not
healthy either, particularly saturated fat. By the same token, a zero
carbohydrate diet is extremely unhealthy, just as a zero fat diet is
The benefits of both can be gained by eating both natural carbohydrates and
fats in moderation.
In fact, the issue of weight loss is taken care of automatically if one
moves toward a balanced diet including a variety of fruits and vegetables,
moderate amounts of carbohydrates (mostly from fruits, vegetables and whole
grains), and modest amounts of protein and fats, along with adequate water
consumption and foods with good fiber content. Moderate use of nuts, herbs
and spices can add significant nutritional value as well.
Losing weight is about eating less on a regular basis. That means at all our
regular meal times, not only now and then, or on a reverse binge basis.
Drastic reductions in food intake, or an obsession with not eating
(anorexia) can be as unhealthy as eating too much all the time. Balance is
Good eating habits cannot be regimented from outside. No diet system will
work long term if the call is not coming from within on an ongoing basis.
This is why daily deep meditation may be the single best diet measure anyone
can undertake. As inner silence comes up, our conduct automatically shifts
to more healthful balanced living, which is a natural component of yoga.
Along the path of yoga, we will learn to overcome the sensation of "hunger."
In the context of this discussion, hunger does not mean what is experienced
by those who are living in poverty and do not have enough to eat far too
many people around the world. The solution for that kind of hunger is to
provide food, plus the means to eliminate poverty and the ill that it
Most who are reading here will not be suffering from real hunger. Rather,
what we call hunger in
modern society is a conditioned response in the body to a reduction in food
consumption from what we have been accustomed to. Chances are, what we have
been accustomed to eating is more than is necessary to nourish the body and
maintain good health, sometimes giving us the opposite effect instead
declining health. Behind excessive food intake are the hunger pangs that can
come upon us a few hours, or even a few minutes, after we have eaten a meal.
What is this hunger that drives us to excessive eating, and how do we
While there is some evidence that genetics are involved in overeating and
obesity, such cases represent a small minority. Much of the rest of society
has simply slipped into the habit of unhealthy eating. The food industry,
ever mindful of its bottom line, hasnt been helpful in this regard, heavily
promoting foods that are ever more pleasing to the palate, and chemically
addictive besides. These are the foods loaded with processed carbohydrates,
sugars and fats. These are the very foods that can leave us feeling a
deficit, and hungry soon after consuming them, even if we are bloated. The
effects of these foods on the digestive processes and blood sugar produce a
roller coaster in our neurobiology, plus strong tendencies toward weight
gain, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and many other ailments.
Yet, the hunger pangs keep us coming back to these foods, which are readily
available on practically every street corner. It is most risky for those
whose career or lifestyle require eating out in restaurants often.
Regardless of the culture we live in, what we have been eating, and where we
are eating, we do have the last word on what goes into our body. It is our
choice. If we understand that what we are dealing with is our own habit,
then we will also know that the habit can be changed, reprogrammed for
better health and spiritual growth.
The call must come from within. There is no one who can reprogram our
conduct the way our own inner wisdom can. This is why deep meditation and
other spiritual practices form the first line of strategy. As we purify and
open the inner neurobiology, the desire and will to engage in healthier
eating habits will be there. As we cultivate more inner silence, we will be
able to see our so-called hunger for what it is a biochemical reflex. We
will be able to experience it with less compulsion to act upon it. In time,
we will come to know that our hunger is actually a call for purification. As
we allow ourselves to be with it without acting, we will come to know that
behind this hunger is great power for purification. As we continue to allow
it without acting, we can feel our inner energies shifting away from the
habitual anticipation of digestion and blood chemistry imbalance toward the
much broader agenda of inner purification. Hunger then becomes a positive
symptom of inner purification, and we can enjoy it, because we know it is
When we do eat, we will be inspired to shift toward more balance in our
diet, and away from processed foods that artificially stimulate the hunger
All of this comes from cultivating more inner silence in deep meditation.
Additional help can be found for overcoming hunger with samyama,
a practice that enables us to move our inner silence for particular effects.
Also, as inner silence continues to rise, we may be inspired to explore fasting (the
next lesson) and other methods that can enhance our health and spiritual
Whatever our eating habits have been in the past, we do have the power
within us to change them. As we find our center in stillness we will come to
know that our hunger is only a habit, a reflex, and that we can utilize it
as a stimulus for purification and opening leading ultimately to a dramatic
reduction of its hold over us.
Overcoming hunger is one aspect of our journey of inner discovery, leading
to better health and increasing happiness in all aspects of life.
Click here for
more lesson content covering yogic methods for weight control.
The guru is in you.
Related Lessons Topic Path
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detailed discussion on
yogic diet, see the
Diet, Shatkarmas and Amaroli
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