I had a happy and profound realisation that just as it is wise to travel light on a journey, it can also be easier to navigate through life if you are carrying less weight on your body and mind.
My yoga teachers training (@govardhan_school_of_yoga) was phenomenal for my personal life. I learned an evolved and healthier lifestyle. A nice side effect was burning unnecessary fat. Now, losing fat like sex is something that almost everyone desires, but not everyone gets to have. And if someone gets either of the two, people tend to get curious, how did you manage to do it? And inevitably, the people who get either end up acting smug or saying, “no big deal.”
Nope, both happen to be big deals!
Many acquaintances and friends asked about how the weight loss journey happened. When an old school friend said she’d be willing to read about the process, I decided to write a piece on some of the most important things I learned about health during my yoga teachers training. So thank you for prompting and inspiring me to share this. 🙂
Now let me put out a caveat before you delve further into the blog. This is not ‘professional’ advice. It is an informal sharing intended to be of help to the readers and friends. If you are serious about any health goal, please seek the guidance of a coach/consultant/teacher. Frankly, I am still in the process of learning more about physical and mental wellness. I have humbly put forth ideas that have worked for my body.
Here’s also an honest confession, losing fat/weight wasn’t the goal when I went for my yoga teacher’s training program; it just happened to be a nice by-product for which I am sincerely grateful. So as you read along and have a particular fitness goal, I will share humble realisation:
It is better not to think much of the end goal. Instead, it is best if we can make wellness a lifestyle. Every other little or big fitness goal follows.
At the yoga school, all students followed what is known as Dincharya in yogic/Ayurvedic texts.
What it constitutes is the following:
1. Waking up before or around sunrise. It wasn’t mandatory, but I followed it, and I have never felt happier, healthier in my body and mind. What it also meant was that to ensure consistent early rising, an early bedtime was compulsory.
2. We had two separate classic hatha yoga and asana classes, AM and PM. Both constituted around two hours or more of asana practice. We had an off once a week but twice within a month on our off days, we went hiking in the mountains. Yep, you got it; good, solid work on the physical body.
3. The food served was sattvik vegetarian, which not just nourishes the body but also helps the mind the energies come to a level of receptivity to understand higher philosophy and way of living. In Bharat, since ancient times, we are told,
“जैसा खाओगे अन्न वैसा होगा मन।”
Which means that what eat has an impact on your mind and consciousness.
I will not act like a bigot and preach to you the morality of staying off non-vegetarian food and intoxicants here. If you like indulging in them, that’s completely alright. You should be aware of what to eat and how much.
The idea is to eat in moderation and knowing how much to put in the body. If you have no spiritual aspiration, eating non-vegetarian food, drinking alcohol or doing drugs is fine as long as you know your limit. Yes, you read that right. Whatever makes you happy. 🙂
And on that note, if you want to still indulge in spiritual practices while enjoying the sensual pleasures, the best path is mantra meditation on the names of Shri Krishna. That will help you overcome anything that inhibits your growth— material or spiritual.
Another important note on food is that the biggest meal of the day is to be had between 10 AM to 12 PM when the Sun is supposed to assist you in firing up your digestion and second before sunset, around 6-7 PM. Or ideally, within an hour of sunset. One may take warm milk before bedtime. In the afternoon, one may indulge in a light, healthy snack.
Regarding food, a fascinating idea that had previously been unknown to me was shared by one of my teachers. He said the first burp is an indication that the stomach is full. Second is the body pleading you to stop and so on. In an earlier meditation class I attended years back, a teacher had shared the ideal quantity of food should be as much as can be contained in your palms!
4. The game-changer for me personally was the elimination of white sugar. Prior to the yogic education, I had never contemplated or even considered quitting processed sugar. Neither was I honestly aware of the adverse effects it can have. Sweets of any kind were my drug, as my friend, Sarvesh, once pointed out when he saw me gorge on gulab jamuns one after another at a friend’s wedding. No wonder I started looking like a gulab jamun before yoga!
Our yoga teacher was strict about the no-sugar rule, and now I’m thankful to him for the same.
Seek A Higher Taste
In the Bhagavad Gita, Verse 59 of the second chapter, Bhagavan Krishna makes this genius statement:
विषया विनिवर्तन्ते निराहारस्य देहिनः ।
रसवर्जं रसोऽप्यस्य परं दृष्ट्वा निवर्तते ॥
In plain English language, this can be explained as without experiencing a higher taste, one cannot simply disengage from sensual pleasures.
My yoga teacher said to me that for him, it’s been 17 years practising yoga, and still, his mind tries to trick him out of doing his daily workout/yoga regime! Working on the body is a challenge each day.
But, as Shri Hari (another name for Krishna) explains that when you do gain a higher taste (in our case, some positive changes in your body), you are much more equipped to handle the tribulations of the mind.
I still do love sweets. I still do indulge in them. However, I prefer homemade sweets sans processed sugar to the ones available on the market. I also ensure I check the ingredients label on any food item I am buying. If the food item is simply loaded with sugar, it is better to avoid. However, after a few months of practice, you will reach an understanding about what is good for your body. In time you can also easily be able to eat your favourite food items in moderation and also maintain a healthy body 🙂
The Mind Will Never Make It Easy
I’ll tell you, as my yoga teacher pointed out, it is still not easy to roll out the yoga mat in the morning. I have resigned that it might never be easy, but I have to do it anyway. Most importantly, I love the progress that has come from investing a lot of time, money, efforts more than sweets or mind’s protests at doing the practice. That is the higher taste!
I also try and keep tricking the mind by mixing and matching the physical practices. Combining yoga with running and resistance band training works like a blessing. I would implore you as well to have a few options handy.
A typical conversation between the mind and intelligence in the morning happens as follows:
Mind: We did not get much sleep last night. Better to skip yoga right now. We can always do it in the evening.
Intelligence: What if I do not free on time from work in the evening?
Mind: Oh, we will. You need the respect the body as well.
Intelligence: Doing yoga practice IS respecting the body, dodo. And if we do our routine now, we can enjoy our free time in the evening. 🥳
Mind: Errmm, ummm, uhhhh, then let us just do one part of the practice followed by pranayama?
Intelligence: Sure, why not. Only 5-10 minutes…
One teacher at the yoga school told me, no matter how busy you are, give just five minutes on the mat. That is a genius formula. Those five minutes usually turn into more than that. Trust me on this, there are a few things that feel as good as committing time for your body and mind’s well being. Following through personal commitments gives one a profound sense of confidence and joy. A book suggestion that can help you create good habits that stick is “Atomic Habits” by James Clear.
The Boon of Technology
I’ll conclude by sharing a personal hack that has surprisingly been incredibly helpful for me— my ‘smart’ watch. By setting my daily move, exercise and stand goals, I check my progress and commitment to the body. I’ll be level with you on this, the congratulation message on hitting all these goals is a positive boost! I may not have been as consistent had these daily reminders not popped up on the watch.
Whether we agree or not, but we all crave affirmations and rewards. Our brain craves rewards for the work we put in. When that doesn’t come, it isn’t easy to stay motivated.
So, having a fitness device/smartwatch can also be really handy in our fitness journey.
I hope the post inspires you to commit more time to your physical body. It took me thirty years to realise that one cannot escape the daily hard or happy work on the body if one has to remain healthy. There are no shortcuts or cheat codes. It is never late to begin. Just ensure you seek help. It can be arduous to go alone on such a journey. Having a good trainer or coach can be a game-changer. I have used the example of yoga, for that worked for me. Maybe for you, it can be gymming, running or something else.
Thank you for reading this. If this helps you, please pray I remain committed to the path of a yogic lifestyle.