Published on: September 23, 2016 Author: Garry Ong
First a disclaimer. I am not a medical professional. I don’t have a degree related to the health field. I don’t have any letters after my name to state that I’m an expert. And … I definitely do not claim to be smarter than those who have dedicated, probably the majority of their lives, selflessly, sometimes without reward or recognition, to the art of tending to broken bodies. What I do have to offer is my story and my experience. I want to offer you encouragement and inspiration. By no means is my experience universal truth and nor should it be taken that way. Too often we’ll take a well-intentioned piece of advice as gospel truth and that is not my intention.
Now that the necessary niceties are out of the way let’s begin.
Since as far as I can remember I have always struggled with my weight. It wasn’t just a physical battle … it was mental, emotional, and only recently have I come to understand … spiritual. Some days I can still hear the rhythmic, relentless chant from my childhood — Sweaty! — Fat! — Kid! Whether it be my childhood, adolescence, or now into adulthood, I have always been over weight, anywhere in the neighborhood of between 40-70 lbs.
In the past 30 years I have tried every possible diet/workout/program I can imagine. Some giving me excellent results, others — not so excellent. All of them with this common theme: it was always short lived. I could never seem to lose the weight for longer than a few months — always returning to my two habitual activities: overeating and couch surfing.
This all changed over 3 years ago when I had to renew my driver’s license. Looking at my new license I couldn’t believe what I saw. This was probably the heaviest I’ve ever been. I’m 5’9” and based on my body type I should be hovering between 175-185. (I’ll talk about body weight in another entry but I realize weight isn’t the litmus test that determines one overall fitness level) It was Christmas Eve and I wasn’t going to subject myself to the roller coaster phenomenon known as New Year’s resolutions. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’ve always been intrigued by yoga but I’ve always felt intimidated or just out of place. But because things had gotten desperate I called a few studios and finally landed on Bodhi Tree. The lovely receptionist answered every question and calmed all the fears and misconceptions I had about yoga. Here’s some of them.
The first thing I learned was I didn’t have to be Gumby to start. To my surprise, that wasn’t even the end goal. The real goal is self-discovery that takes place during the practice. Again more about that later. But I was reassured that really all body types are represented. I also feared about not being able to do any of the poses. Again I was reassured that being able to get into the pose isn’t the point, the main focal point is the journey of discovery that happens when you attempt each pose. In the past 3 years I’ve learned that every day will be different. Finally, I learned how accessible this practice is for everyone, especially for those who have busted up bodies. I’ve had a number of ankle and back injuries over the years and so the low impact nature of this practice is so freeing for a person like me who thinks that the only way I can lose weight is to hit the weights or hit the pavement, not that any of those things are bad in and of itself.
My first hot yoga session started at 6:30 am on boxing day. Was I terrified? Absolutely. was I self-conscious? You bet. Any regrets? Not one single bit. It was an awkward 90 minutes of fumbling in poses — constant looking around realizing that I look pretty goofy and — wondering what people thought of me. Looking at my mat, I couldn’t believe how much I had sweated just moving my body on a 30” by 70” piece of rubber. But when my head hit the ground, lying in my final savasana, something clicked. For the first time, I found something that had enriched not just my body, but my mind, heart and soul at the same time.
By no means am I saying that yoga is the only way to lose weight. There are numerous activities and diets that are all good. The purpose of my next few entries is to share how yoga has helped me in my weight loss/fitness journey. Oh yeah, the postscript — It’s been 3 years since I’ve started yoga and I’ve lost almost 50 pounds. My weight hovers between 190-195 so I’m not at my target weight that I’ve set for myself. I’m still trying to let go of that marker and use other things such as fitting into clothes I never dreamed of or achieving personal fitness goals like doing my first chin up (yes I know embarrassing but it is what it is). Another one is asking myself every day, “How do I feel?” This is probably the most important gauge I use now. And yes, I feel fantastic. Until my next entry, be well and just breathe.