photo by: adria.richardsThis month at Intent Blog, we've been featuring a series of in-depth conversations with some of the nation's top yoga instructors and wellness experts in our GaiamTV interview series. In this interview with Jill Miller, Jill talks about the connection between yoga, weight loss, and eating disorders.
Hi Jill. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us! We wanted to start out just by asking you about your video, Yoga for Weight Loss. Why would someone do yoga for weight loss? Why not hiking or biking or some other form of exercise... do you think yoga is more effective?
I would not claim yoga as a stand-alone is a "more effective" approach for weight loss. Changing one's body requires change on multiple levels from inside-out: nutrition, mind-set, stress levels and day-to-day activities all bear weight (so to speak) when a body has decided that it is time to shed. What yoga brings to the table is a body-wide introduction into deeper connections between muscles and tissues that may be glossed over by simple one-plane movements such as hiking or biking.
Yoga has a way of teasing out dormant connections amongst multiple muscle and connective tissues layers which revitalizes a body's way of moving in space, and a person's connection to their body as a special entity… not just something to shrink or get rid of. A practice of yoga helps to harmonize a body that lives soaked in stress hormones or may be trapped in a mental state of having a negative self-image. Most yoga methods emphasize connecting emotions with actions, and slowing down a mind that may have removed itself (metaphorically speaking) from it's own body.
In short, yoga is exceptional as an adjunct or additive practice for a person attempting to lose weight.
How has yoga helped you personally find your ideal weight?
In general I am uncomfortable with terms like "ideal" weight, and "weight loss." I feel that culturally, we are extremely obsessed with body fat as a barometer of health, well-being and social acceptance. Having survived both anorexia and bulimia as a young woman, my journey to robust health did not, nor was ever, satisfied by an ideal number on a scale. I can modify my shape based on the amount of activity I do, or the amount of calories that I eat, or by increasing or decreasing stresses in my life. Weight is hormonal, nutritional, emotional and responsive to exertion.
So, that being said... My personal Yoga Tune Up® practice has made me incredibly conscious of my own appetite, my cravings, and specifically what emotions might be triggering certain cravings. Yoga gives me a barometer to witness my behavior around food so that I can see whether I am eating out of genuine hunger, or whether I am acting on unconscious impulses. Additionally, my practice gives me a chance to feel deeply, both on a soft-tissue level, the movements of muscles, fascias and fluids, and a chance to feel my innermost secrets expressing themselves through movement, my drives, my thoughts, my clarity. All of this brings about balance, because I am seeing myself as I am and ultimately that helps me make better choices in my life.
What was your intent in creating the Yoga for Weight Loss Kit?
When I was initially approached about this title, I had a really hard time with it. Because I had gone through years of serious issues with anorexia and bulimia, I recognized that I was now in a position to perpetuate this never-ending product production around the concept of "weight loss," which I feel in many cases does not create a supportive portrait around the process. So many thousands of products are designed to "shred," "rip," "destroy" or "annihilate" the body in the name of weight loss. I truly find it repulsive and psychologically harmful to us all, especially the most vulnerable, young women and teens.
So I wrestled with these questions as I contemplated whether to create the kit or not. Ultimately I decided that I would rather have my voice contribute to the subject rather than be silent. My director, Rebecca Stetson was completely supportive of my approach, and gave me full creative control over my messages within the kit. My intent with the kit was to emphasize:
1) The practice helps put you in touch with your feelings, both physical and emotional to help you truly discern what you are craving.
2) The physical practice is novel with lots of surprising dynamic moves that are born from my Yoga Tune up® approach that safely prepare a body to move better as a human form… rather than an "ideal" form.
3) The practice makes you sweat, get strong, limber and is super fun!
I continue to have amazing feedback from video students who love my approach and who appreciate that their body is respected in all ways while encouraging them to make these new connections in order to live better in their body.
You can watch the Yoga for Weightloss video for free here. Also check out these other interviews with top yoga instructors and wellness experts: