07/10/2010 11:35 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Getting Real About Yoga and Weight Loss

I've seen, heard, felt and received piles of messages about yoga and weight loss. Does it work? How does it work? And why does it work? These questions only begin to scratch the surface of inquiry and wonder. I've also felt a strong reaction from people who are holding yoga for something other than weight loss, something wrongly perceived as deeper, more intellectual or psychologically superior. There are people who intensely clutch an idea that yoga is a higher system, not to be lowered to the weight loss or even fitness category. This is the same kind of clutching that has kept yoga part of a tightly knit club for so long, since its introduction in America. I am standing up for yoga, because if yoga was a person, she/he would have no part of any superior air.

Yoga in its authentic form is a system of health for the body, mind and spirit. Neglecting an element transforms the practice into something that is not in fact yoga. Spiritual hoping, longing and closed-off-ness perhaps ... but that's not what yoga's about. Yoga is a highly effective system. When practiced authentically and regularly it works and works well. Extra weight -- whether it's physical, emotional or spiritual -- holds us back from our health and our potential. Overeating is a behavior caused by stress, depression, excitement, fun with friends, self-sabotage and countless other feelings, emotions and circumstances. There can always be an occasion to eat and overeat.

Yoga puts us back in touch with our bodies' needs and equips us with the tools we already have: the intuition and awareness to nourish our bodies properly with wholesome, healthy foods. Yoga doesn't show us how to starve ourselves. That is a terrible disorder, as terrible as overeating.

Yoga puts up a mirror to ourselves and from there we are faced with our actual behaviors. We learn in yoga how to pay attention to the breath, instead of following our thinking, or necessarily our cravings. We learn how to tune in, not to tune out. We learn how to be good to ourselves, not deprive or stuff ourselves, when we feel our lives are lacking. Yoga puts us back in control.

The best part is that everyone can practice. Try it now. Close your eyes and follow your breath. When you notice your attention wandering toward your thoughts try to gently guide it back to your breath. If you wander again, gently bring it back. The practice is in bringing it back, not being perfect in shutting out the thoughts. We bring awareness to what is going on with us so we can deal with it. Dealing with issues may be tough, but when we face them head on we can begin to improve our health, our lives, and have a whole lot more fun with our time here.

Life can be joyful if you allow yours to be. Yoga will remind you of that.