Recently I ran into one of my yoga students at the supermarket. I had not seen her in a while. She explained that she is going through menopause, has put on a lot of weight, feels weak and out of shape, and is just not comfortable coming to the yoga studio right now. Just last week, I heard a similar story from a student I saw in the library. That woman explained that she is going through a divorce, has gained weight, and as result has not been taking care of herself. Unfortunately, these stories are not uncommon.
Weight gain can happen for all sorts of reasons; age, childbirth, medication, depression, inactivity due to injury or illness or time constraints etc. However, in my opinion, the real question is not why did you gain weight, but is weight gain going to alter your perception of yourself and how you treat your body? Do you feel undeserving of self-care because you are a different size? Are you concerned that people will judge you because you gained weight? Do you feel unworthy of healthy eating habits and exercise? Try to remember that the societal notion of beauty is fleeting and often attached to youth, but inner beauty is enduring. Our true selves are independent from the physical shell we live in. Being a good person, a world citizen, a deep and critical thinker, a caring friend, a reliable neighbor, a loving spouse and family member has nothing whatsoever to do with physical form. The things that truly define us, dwell inside. Physical bodies change as we age and with life experiences, but our internal nature is constant. You can be amazing and beautiful regardless of the size or age of your casing.
Philosophically, yoga is about being truly present in the moment. It is not concerned with how you looked yesterday, or how you will age over time. Yoga suggests that you show up on your mat just as you are. You accept and love yourself here and now. And as you breathe and stay steady in time, perhaps your inner light will shine through your outer form as you connect mind, body, and spirit.
That being said, your body is the temple inside which you live, so nurture it with loving thoughts and kind actions, especially if it is sick or injured. It deserves healthy food, rest, exercise, and love at all times. One of the many ways to care for your body is to practice yoga. Yoga nourishes the entire integrated self by helping to calm the mind and keep the physical form strong and flexible. If you are going through a rough patch, don’t ignore your yoga practice. It might be the time when you need it the most. So, come back to yoga and let your inner light shine.