Musing About Yoga And Belly Fat

I am currently teaching a class called: Yoga for Core Stability and Strength.  This is not the first time I have taught a series with the word “Core” in the title, but every time I do, the issue of belly fat rears its ugly head.

Here’s what I see in almost all my classes: As soon as I start to lead a forward fold–especially a seated forward fold, I see abject misery. I see people with limber spines who could easily fold deeper into this posture if it were not for their belly fat.

And especially when we are in an introspective pose like a seated forward fold, there is no escape. There is nothing for this person to focus on but the girth that is getting in the way of their going deeper into the posture.

The longer we hold, the more miserable they become. Not because the posture is difficult, but because they have to confront their belly fat.  They feel (pick one): embarrassed, ashamed, disgusted, angry, defeated.

Sometimes after class they will even try to talk to me about this; they will tell me what I already know, and that is: if only they could get rid of THIS (it’s here they point to their abdomens) they could really DO the posture.

Yoga puts people in touch with who they really are: how they live, what they think about obsessively, and what they do. This isn’t really what they came to yoga for, though. They came for a hour of breathing and stretching and un-kinking tight muscles.  But what they get is a reality check. They have to confront things like belly fat. And this is hard.

Most people who practice with me do so once a week. They don’t do yoga at home, they haven’t adopted a yogic lifestyle, they are not on a PATH.  They just “go to yoga” once a week to stretch out.

But if they would practice at home a little, eat brown rice and vegetables, not eat to satiety but leave a little bit of emptiness in the stomach at each meal, over time, the belly fat would disappear, and they could go deeper into their forward folds, deeper into themselves, deeper into their experience, deeper into their lives and the lives of the people around them.

The thing that is getting in their way isn’t really their belly fat, but what the belly fat represents, and that is a desire to insulate themselves from seeing things in their lives that are hard and uncomfortable.

As soon as they begin to realize that, and to decide what they REALLY WANT, (i.e. freedom from pain and suffering and remorse and embarrassment and disgust.) And to decide that they want this more than they want the Cheetos, or the wine, or the candy, etc.), then the idea of a diet of brown rice and vegetables, a little emptiness, and a daily practice becomes a joy, and pretty simple, actually.

It all comes down to deciding what we really want, doesn’t it?


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