How I lost 30 pounds through yoga & never saw them again, with embarrassing “before” picture.

Via Claudia Azula Altucher
on Dec 7, 2010
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Early in 2008 I set off for a trip to India.

When I returned, I was 30 pounds lighter. The weight never came back.

A friend who knew me “before” and then “after” recently asked me how did this happen and as I tried to recall I noticed that it was not because of the yoga, or the trip, or the food, or because I starved myself, and certainly not because I was mean or deprecating to myself in an attempt to discipline my food choices. None of that had anything to do with it.

Releasing weight can be a drama or not, it can be hard or not—it depends on so many factors that I do not believe one single method can ever work for everyone.

But these steps worked for me:

1-Loving myself

There is no way around it, no matter who says that the US has an epidemic of whatever it might, or that I, or you, may need a diet or blah, blah, blah, it is all nonsense if we do not start at the beginning.  Loving and respecting me enough to sit down and look at what was important in life was the very first step.

I know it may sound silly but I followed Louise Hay’s exercise of looking at myself in the mirror and saying “I love you”, to my own image.  At first it felt silly, stupid even, and you know why? Because I did not believe it.  But a few weeks into it I did start to believe that I was worth of my own respect, and it helped me get grounded in acting as if I loved myself until I did eventually fully believe in it.

2-Daily Yoga-asana Practice

I find that the release of the weight for me had to do with a “momentum” rather than a “get thin quick” mentality.  By the time I took my trip I had been practicing daily yoga-asana for a year (6 times a week,  1.5 hours each day), and it had taken me 3 years to build up to such a strong and committed practice.

When it comes to releasing weight I find that it does not so much matter what kind of yoga one practices, but that one does.  The simple act of getting on the mat every day sends the body the message that one cares.  The body gets to be stretched, paid attention to, and aligned.

Throughout time my body began to take over, for example: it knew that we (body and mind) would have to enter kurmasana (tortoise pose) the following morning, and it knew that an empty stomach would make such exertions more palatable, and so it signaled me NOT to eat anything past 7 PM, a practice that has become a habit, because my body says so.

3-Verbal Messages

I find that people dismiss this quickly, so much so that I began to suspect it is a very well-kept secret.

When somebody wants to manifest something positive, then keeping the vocabulary clean (no curse words, no negativity), is key.  It surprises me to no end to see, even in yoga circles, a tremendous denial of the power of the word.  I hear people complain all the time, say bad/dirty/loaded words, and talk about their bodies with negativity.

Even as you read this, I will dare bet that you will either read through, or dismiss it promptly.  If you are still reading you are probably ready to hear it.  If you are, then do not allow negativity into you, in any form.  This in turn has the effect of cleansing the mind and to release bad ideas, extra anger and extra weight. Think of a diet of words as a foundation, the bad ones are very high in bad fats and calories.

There is a reason why I call it “weight release” (except perhaps in the title of this post), and that is because phrasing it that way is more powerful since usually whenever we “lose” something we try to “find it again”.

4- Cleansings

Weight release can also be thought of as “cleansing”.  What is necessary is to look at what is coming into our bodies and how fast it is coming out.  If we are not going to the bathroom (both for number one and two) daily, then there is a problem.

Just as an example, there are easy-to-use enema bags that help ensure that the “pipes” are clear. When I talk to friends about enemas they usually freak out, and so did I when I first heard about them.  However I was blessed to have a teacher in Thailand go over all of my fears and answer each one of them.  Will it hurt? No, it does not.  Will it be uncomfortable? Maybe but you are totally in control and can regulate the intensity.

Some people go all out and do a “colonics”.  Movie stars do these frequently because of the glow it produces.  I have not tried one yet, but I want to.  They are not too expensive and have an even deeper effect. And hey! If they are good for movie stars they are good for me too.

5-When you are hungry, drink water first

A yoga teacher once said that to me. Most of us get the signal of hunger when in reality it is thirst speaking. I know I confuse the signals sometimes.

I have tried this many times, especially at mid-morning when I hear the stomach rumble with noise in what seems like starvation, and found that drinking one or two full glasses of water may not stop the feeling of wanting to eat, but at least will delay it.  It will also hydrate the body, and help it with the elimination process.


While in India I felt a little scared about eating in restaurants because the quality of their water is very dangerous for westerners so, for example, eating salads (or anything raw) outside of the house was not an option.  This forced me to start cooking, and I prepared lots of stews and soups with boiled vegetables and olive oil which I served with brown rice.  I also learned how to make lentil dal, and kicheri, easy meals that are tasty and nutritious.

Also I understood that very often our bodies are starving for real nutrition.  For example, I learned that taking spirulina supplements is a great way of supplementing the diet so as not to have to eat a pound of spinach every day, or that Niacin (a type of B vitamin) helps enormously in uplifting moods.

7-Take that overdue vacation, make it a real one regardless of how long

Taking time for ourselves seems impossible, but it is not.  When a body is overweight, it is out of balance.  When a body is out of balance it needs time for itself, to heal, to have an opportunity to assess what exactly is happening and what can be done to help it.   As long as the time we give to ourselves is dedicated, focused time, it is useful, otherwise we are not nurturing our soul, and an un-nurtured soul produces an unbalance that usually manifests in us reaching for the ice cream.

I have noticed that people who say that there is absolutely no way they can take time for themselves are actually saying that their priorities do not involve taking time off, meaning, their focus is not on their own wellbeing but rather on other things.


Our bodies are determined by our genes and ancestors.  It is important to respect nature.  Yoga and these principles can restore our body to our original blue-print, to what our bodies would be like if completely healthy, but they will not transform us into super models. The real miracle in weight release happens when we shift perception, when we can accept our body as it is and treat it well,  with respect, providing good nutrition for it, so that it can function at its peak, which also means, mind you, at its ideal weight.

9.-Choosing the middle path (satvic)

Trying to eat only spinach or only drink water with lemon for days or going completely raw overnight or any other extreme is not only unrealistic, it is also dangerous and guaranteed to never work because we are fighting against a very powerful force of nature: our own natural psychological tendencies, which have been ingrained into us over a period of well, think about your age, that long!  In yoga this has to do with our “gunas” or psychological tendencies, of which there are three, rajasic or overexcited, tamasic or lethargic and satvic or balanced.

Forcing ourselves to be always balanced or satvic is in itself rajasic or out of balance in a forcing way because we are trying to machete our way through into the middle rather than respecting what is actually happening right now.  Falling into denial is not the answer.

For example, a few months back I felt like eating marshmallows.  These are not exactly healthy treats as they have gelatin and are full of sugar, but I was fortunate enough at that very moment to be listening to Richard Freeman’s Yoga Matrix and to hear exactly this, and so I ended up enjoying the marshmallows, which was, albeit counterintuitive, the most satvic or balanced thing I could have done.  Interestingly, I have not felt the urge to eat them again ever since.

10-Attend a 12 step meeting

There is a cathartic effect in admitting our vulnerability to other people, as for instance when someone confesses to a group of people that he or she ate two pints of ice-cream the night before, or when someone says: “I am powerless over this”.  12 step meetings work because they are simple steps that demand enormous courage, of the type that can only be navigated with help from others who also happen to find themselves in a similar setting.

The benefit of 12 steps is that they open people up, they reconcile people with their own humanity, through them we find that what we think is “crazy” in us, is just as normal as it is in any other person, we all share a common humanity, we are all one, and I have yet to see a form of therapy that is more effective than people being brutally honest in a group, and under very specific regulations for sharing, with proper boundaries and respect.

Interestingly enough, it was a conversation with Carl Jung that led to the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, and through that all related 12 Step Programs. [see comments below]

11- Patience

Recovering a healthy body may take time, but every day things speed up, there is a momentum that is generated by slowly adding more and more healthy habits and releasing the old ones that do not serve us anymore.

So what if it takes 6 months or a year, or three? I have seen with my own eyes fellow yogis practice for 5 years and then all of a sudden release an enormous amount of weight.  In the end, the recovery of the original healthy body also happens by grace; we put all the healthy and nurturing elements in place, and then surrender to divine intervention, Gita style.

12.- Train yourself in trusting your instincts

Before every meal ask: “what is the most nutritious thing I can eat right now”? and trust, and let your body have it.  Remember moderation, of course, but do go ahead.  It may be decadent chocolate mud pie today, it might be baby spinach salad with fresh olive oil sprinkled with raw almonds tomorrow.

And so here is the embarrassing “before” picture. I was at about 148 pounds.  just like all those “before” pictures this is a photograph of a photograph which kind of makes it look like one on those brochures that abound out there.




10 (Healthy) Ways to Lose Weight (& Feel your Best).


11 Mindful Tips for a Healthy Diet:


About Claudia Azula Altucher

Claudia Azula Altucher has studied yoga for a long time. Her only focus these past eight years has been on Ashtanga through which she studied at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India (three study visits so far), and at Centered Yoga in Thailand (focus on practice, philosophy and pranayama). Currently she studies at Pure Yoga in NYC. She has taught yoga classes in both Spanish and English. She is also the Author of: 21 Things To Know Before Starting an Ashtanga Yoga Practice (you can get a free PDF at her blog). She writes daily at And you can follow her on Twitter:


192 Responses to “How I lost 30 pounds through yoga & never saw them again, with embarrassing “before” picture.”

  1. Samantha says:

    Hopefully you also lost the belief that your body is something to be embarrassed about based on its size. That would be true freedom.

  2. Claudia says:

    Samantha that is a good point, that is what this article is about, back then I did not love myself.

  3. Katie says:

    I like you, Claudia – you're so human! You allow *us* to be human. I get awfully tired of the rock star yoga queens. You're the real thing.

  4. Katie, thank you, I feel so, what is the word? warm

  5. YesuDas says:

    Thanks for this, Claudia; I especially applaud the section on excluding negativity. When I realized that my dogs know the "f-word," I decided it was time to do something differently. I also appreciated the part about surrendering to grace–something which does not come naturally for most of us!

  6. I appreciate your thoughtful posts, Claudia. I love the first item in this post–it's so true! However, I wish you hadn't posted your before pic and weight as "embarassing." As someone who weighs a hell of a lot more than 148 pounds and practices and teaches yoga regularly, I found it difficult not to be triggered by that information.

  7. yogi to be, that is so right on, I really like how you put it," the extra weight we carry is just protection from the things that hurt and scare us…" all the steps helped me above, but yoga certainly is the common thread.

  8. Pamela says:

    I love this post.
    Tomorrow no more bad words or negativity (going to be very hard) – as I spend so much time putting myself down.

    There is a missing spiritual aspect to the whole weight issue. I'm currently training as a yoga teacher, and one day I'd love to do a class for women (and men) who believe all those awful things about themselves because they are overweight – and who think you need to be stick thin to do yoga.


  9. Pamela, I hear you, for a while at first I used a rubber band and slapped myself everytime I said one… but then I realized that was too harsh, so eventually won myself over into all good words with love… I agree with you about the spiritual side of weight, it is important to look at it differently, to add Higher Power into the mix. Would be interesting to see your idea for the class come to pass, do write to me if you do it, would love to hear.

  10. Pamela and Claudia, I teach curvy yoga students (and am one myself). Body image is definitely a big part of my classes. You can check out my site or my writing here on Ele for more info. Pamela, I hope you do this. We need more people talking about and doing this!

  11. Claudia says:

    YesuDas, that is really funny, cant stop cracking up about the part where you realized that your dog knew the word…, and I hear you on the surrendering part… work in progress for me too…

    Anna, I understand the triggering part. I do not know you and I know that weight is relative, I posted it because that is what is for me. as I say in the post yoga does not turn us into models it just returns us to our original blue print, bodies vary in weight, health and wellbeing is the goal

  12. Anna, was just checking your site, I like your writing, I like the proposal to accept ourselves as we are, that is what I feel.

  13. joysuzanne says:

    Claudia has plenty of muscle; I've seen her yoga vids. And gorgeous skin and great hair– she's healthy!

  14. @Joysuzanne, thank you

    @13rh floor, these days I am at my ideal weight

  15. Yogini33# says:

    I would think some of this (goal-setting/goal-achieving) is brought about by the demands of the style you learn and you teach. I am not sure what style or style-derivation of yoga Anna teaches. [Kripalu? Iyengar?] Whatever it is, it probably is mellow (like I like), even if it has to "play the edge" (don't readily subscribe to THAT part) … That said, how you feel about your body should determine eating patterns, too. The yoga makes you feel better about the body. The body then finds its natural weight and shape. Effort (dieting viz. enduring hunger viz. mindful eating) hopefully becomes minimal …

  16. @Yogini33, yes that is true, how we feel about our body is everything, that is why number one on the list is loving ourselves, it is the foundation on which everything else happens with a domino effect

  17. Colin Wiseman says:

    I love the use of the word "release" rather than "loose". Thank you for these awesome words of advice. It is something I battle with and really has restricted (i feel) my yoga development, is the weight I carry around my midrif, and because I have the will of piece of paper in the wind, so find myself scoffing on all types of junk.

  18. Colin, thanks for your kind words, yes using the word "release" instead is very powerful, if you allow me one suggestion, I would not think of this as a "battle" but rather as a "challenge" or an "opportunity" 🙂 and I say this from my heart

  19. timful says:

    I like 2 and 12. When we train ourselves to breath mindfully and listen to our body as we stretch into an asana, we strengthen the communication channels between mind and body, in both directions. Our instincts become more often correct, and more often obeyed.

    Also, one of the first things I noticed after taking up yoga is that it was suddenly a delight to reach out to turn off my bedside lamp. I had not realized how my range of motion had shrunk with age, how I subconsciously cringed when I twisted to back up my car or stretched to turn off that lamp. Could it be that simple liberation to the joy of movement might have us burning more calories all day long?

  20. @timful that is such a good insight, leaves me wondering, yes, it must be related!, thank you for sharing

  21. Colin Wiseman says:

    Thank you again. My new years resolution is to find a local teacher that practices early in the morning, as I find it hard to be motivated…other than sitting in front of a computer on a snowy morning such as today, and just get some work done.

    And yes I will change "battle" to "opportunity" as I have an "opportunity" to fix myself 🙂

  22. Colin good luck with this resolution!, I really hope you find a teacher you click with. I also practice in the morning, I can relate to what you mean, it is best to practice early and "get it done for the day"… and I think you are fine just the way you are, nothing to be fixed 🙂

    If you do start yoga please write to me, I would like to hear about your journey, about how you go about finding a teacher and what happens

  23. Pamela says:

    Thank you for anyone who offered me advise – I shall go away and see how it works out.

    As to the future of yoga teaching to those who think their bodies are not capable of such things, being a newbie – I'm drawn to doing a practice which focuses on the heart. Going back every so often to reconnect with that – loving energy. It's just a little seed at the moment.

    The elastic band idea does sound a little harsh, but oh so tempting.

  24. Pamela says:

    advice, sorry

  25. Pamela, well put 🙂

  26. tamingauthor says:

    Warning: Negative Attitude Ahead.

    I cringe every time I see an article about weight loss. Add yoga to that and I am in full trauma mode. As others have noted above there is a bigger purpose to yoga that includes not really caring about your weight. When an article tees off on weight, I anticipate hearing about the failure of yoga, even though the writer might not be aware of the failure.

    BUT that is not the important aspect of my diatribe…

    My concern is the mental violence done to other women by such articles. I have suffered through the monkey mind craziness of daughters who have fallen into the mind trap of the weight game… in yoga class. The torment and the stress all on something that is so NOT important.

    And the endless comparisons…oh, look, she lost weight. Oh, look at her…and OMG my thighs are SOOO fat (when, in fact, they are toothpicks). You look around yoga class and see women who should know better turning into anorexic pillars of anxiety and self flagellation. And you see they are not healthy nor happy nor enlightened.

    PLEASE, PLEASE stop this mental violence against one another. Elephant take a vow to never publish another article about weight loss and yoga unless it is written by and for old fat guys like myself. Let us look at the absurdity of this topic in a humorous frame. No more woman to woman violence!

    PLEASE. No more pictures of anorexia masquerading as yogic health. I want to see pictures of smiles. And a light in the eyes. Let us see the inner beauty shining forth and not the tragic insecurity of weight loss mania.

  27. Vanita says:

    I loved this post! Thank you for sharing.

  28. Carolina Vergara says:

    thank you, tamingauthor. this is exactly what I felt about this article.

  29. Claudia says:


    I wonder if you actually read the article.

    For example, number 1 on the list is "loving ourselves" and number is 8 is "surrendering" which has to do with "accepting our bodies where they are and as they are" learning that the real miracle of getting to a healthy body is in a "shift in perception" it all boils down to loving ourselves, it is there, in black and white.

    And by the way, I am not anorexic, if you read you will see that sometimes I eat chocolate mud pie and sometimes spinach

    I understand the anger, but I believe you are misdirecting it.

  30. @Vanita, thank you!

  31. thil says:

    and me

  32. Pamela says:

    I hear all that you say taming author and it is an issue that young girls in particular are attracted to yoga because they see it as something they can deliberately starve themselves for. I notice my teachers challenging these girls, telling them they need to eat to be strong enough to do the asanas. If anyone has any advice about how they handle these situations I would be really interested.

    Any kind of weight based personal punishment is wrong and hard to handle. The connection of body, mind and spirit is what I am hoping to heal with the people I want to teach, whether they be young girls who think their worth is based on how thin they are, or overweight women who have lost all their self confidence because they are not thin enough.

    I despair at the number of young women with perfectly lovely bodies going for surgery – this illness has got to have a remedy. I'm hoping for some it will be yoga.

  33. Pamela, I agree, yoga was what helped me in loving my body, in being kind and respectful towards it and eventually in letting go of what no longer served me… I also hope yoga can help

  34. Lisa says:

    and me too

  35. […] difficult negotiating my feelings of “corporate” yoga with my desire to keep the traditional, unmaterialistic viewpoint that is yoga’s foundation. photo courtesy Elie […]

  36. […] is the healthiest most nutritious thing I can eat now”?, then trusting what we hear, really trusting. May be ice-cream today, might be spinach tomorrow, if we […]

  37. […] rest of one’s life. So perhaps we need to reframe what resolutions can be in a culture addicted to before and after pictures. Since there’s plenty of prescriptive bullshit in the self help arena, I hesitate to give you some […]

  38. […] this first step seriously and you’ll be ready to move on to step two of your health makeover plan. The first step might just be one of the most profound health-related self discoveries you ever […]

  39. Marylee says:

    Go girl. You seems fit in body and mind! Thanks for this post. I really liked it

  40. […] testimonianza di un’insegnante di Yoga statunitense, Claudia Azula Altucher, e di come ha perso 13 kg (30 libbre) praticando yoga (il suo percorso raccontato in 12 […]

  41. Thank you Marylee

  42. […] how do you lose 37 pounds and write a book? According to Zig Ziglar, you set goals. He says that we can choose to set goals […]

  43. Brandi says:

    people who suffer from anorexia and other eating disorders sometimes eat chocolate mud pie! eating chocolate does not make you NOT anorexic, and NOT eating it does not make you anorexic. just wanted to clear that up! anorexia and related disorders are hardly about the food. but from the perspective of a woman recovering from anorexia (and now helping others recover), all the focus on weight IS sad!!! especially when it relates to yoga, and cleansing, etc. some people will not lose weight doing yoga and eating healthy. people have genetics and sometimes you just are what you are. the myth of ultimate control over our body size is one of the most damaging myths in this culture (or any culture). it is from this myth that we have the diet industry, and the plastic surgery industry, and lastly, the eating disorder sub-culture. be careful. we do not have ultimate control. we are bound by genetics and biology to some extent. and we need to be happy as we are, and LET GO of the control.

  44. Joe Sparks says:

    All women are threatened with fat oppression, but not all women are targeted with it. A parallel is the way that all boys are threatened with Gay oppression. All males get teased, are called sissies, and are threatened with what will occur if they don't conform to the sexist expectations of manhood, but iscompletely different from the actual targeting that men who are Gay, or percieved to be Gay, experience.The threat of fat oppression is a major tool of sexism in this society. This is what confuses thin women about the oppression of large women. The threat of fat oppression keeps all women scared of getting too big, of existing outside of the sexist desires of men, and having their minds free to think about the world rather than being preoccupied with their physical appearance.

  45. Kala says:

    There has been a lot said, and I'm not sure I will be adding anything to the discussion at this point. However, as an I overweight person who practices yoga, I often struggle with feeling out of place in class and being ashamed about how I look. When I read your article, I felt that flush of shame about my weight. You felt embarrassed at 148! I weigh quite a bit more than that. I am truly happy that you feel great about yourself and have settled in at a weight you are comfortable with. But as I think you have discovered by the discourse here, weight issues are a sensitive and complicated matter. Readers should know that your experience is extremely rare – statistically, the majority of people who lose a significant amount of weight regain it. I think any discussion of weight loss should include this information. I would also challenge your assumption that overweight =unhealthy. I feel that this may vary from person to person and there is also research suggesting that this is an oversimplification of the issue. Search 'health at every size' for more info.