How Does Yoga Help Weight Loss
Updated: Oct 3, 2019
“I can’t do yoga, I need to burn more calories.” I know I’ve thought that it in the past. The only way I thought I’d lose weight was by doing cardio.
When I first became a dance fitness instructor I was doing intense cardio more than once a day seven days a week. For sure I was going to lose weight?!
Even with all that exercise, I still struggled with my body weight.
I battled with my weight not because I didn’t know how to exercise or eat healthy. It was because I didn’t know how to manage my stress and cravings.
Research shows that stress can contribute to the development of major illnesses, such as heart disease, depression and obesity. Some studies have even suggested that unhealthy chronic stress management, such as overeating “comfort” foods, has contributed to the growing obesity epidemic.
I was stressing my digestion by binging on food and alcohol. I was stressing my mind with overwhelm and worry. I was stressing my body with overexercising.
Long sessions of high intensity cardio start to release the stress hormone Cortisol (the hormone that stores fat around the belly). Cardio is great exercise. Don’t get me wrong. Too much cardio can be adding more stress and hijacking your body’s detox system.
The truth is, our bodies know how to detox and be at a healthy weight. It’s stress that inhibits our choices, performance, and ultimately our results.
The problem is not having a balanced physical fitness program nor taking action on stress reduction to restore balance in the body.
That’s where Yoga sweeps in and saves the day!
With a consistent practice, Yoga strengthens the mind and body connection in a way that promotes self-care and healing.
Yoga releases tension in the mind and body as well as restoring balance.
My journey with yoga wasn’t a clear path. I got into it by accident. I had another leg injury from repetitive high impact exercise and needed to move but couldn’t dance. I was getting depressed and gaining weight.
I tried Yoga before and hated it. With my overactive mind and tight body, it was frustrating to just be with myself in uncomfortable postures. If felt like a waste of time. I didn’t have any patience.
I was willing to be more open-minded this time because I didn’t have any other choice.
It took me experimenting with different classes and teachers to learn that Yoga was for Every Body. I found the classes and teachers I liked and developed a routine. Over time, I started to notice the difference. I felt stronger and calmer.
It’s been almost four years of practicing Yoga, pretty consistently. Since my journey started, I achieved a sustainable healthy weight without extreme dieting or crazy cardio. In fact, I’m doing less cardio and eat whatever I want.
Here are some of the ways Yoga can help with weight loss and management:
Attention to Breath
When we are under stress, our breath becomes short and rapid. This restricts the amount of oxygen the mind and body needs to think clearly and work fluidly.
In Yoga we learn how to be conscious of our breathing and how to use it as a tool for energy management. We learn how to breathe deeply through our bellies (where our internal organs get nourished with oxygen). This restores the body back into restoration and rejuvenation. When the body is relaxed it can release Fat.
Here's a fun video on breathing from the belly. Yes, belly breathing can enhance your mood!
Yoga means "to yoke" or bring together. We learn tools that help control the whirling of the mind. We have thousands of thoughts everyday and it's easy to get lost in them. We can mistake those thoughts for our reality.
Meditation in Yoga class often includes Mindfulness training. More and more research is showing the benefits of Mindfulness based meditation as an effective form of treating addiction, substance abuse, pain management, obesity, and more.
In Yoga, we may feel uncomfortable in a pose and then notice how the mind wants to resist. Mindfulness teaches us how to observe discomfort, observe the thinking that gets triggered by the discomfort, and then focus on the breath which creates space for the discomfort to pass.
With a consistent Yoga practice, it becomes easier to practice Mindfulness in everyday activities like eating. A student of mine, started practicing 10 minutes a day, and shared how she had a quarter of a donut and then was completely done with it. She was in shock because she always thought she would eat the whole thing. Mindfulness training in Yoga helped her restore trust in herself.
Hello Abs! A lot of yoga is about connecting with your muscles and engaging them so you have proper alignment. Movements are very functional and you tone using your own body weight. Yoga will define your booty, legs, abs, back and arms. More muscle means more fat burning.
With a consistent Yoga practice, posture improves as the muscles in the core become stronger. We stand taller, sit up straighter, and guess what.....look slimmer.
Mind Body Connection
Notice how we feel when we stand tall with our shoulders back? We feel confident and strong.
What about when we’re hunched over with rounded shoulders? Perhaps sad or afraid?
Our physiology effects our state of mind and vice versa. The mind and body need to work together in order to lose weight. Yoga strengthens the mind and body connection allowing us to be more mindful of our thoughts and behaviors. Check out this video below on how body language shapes who we are.
An extreme lifestyle puts a ton of stress on our body, mind, and specifically our nervous system. It is through the nervous system that we communicate with the outside and our inside world. The communication happens through our senses. The nervous system is also responsible for our METABOLISM, the big daddy in weight loss and management.
Extreme workouts and diets can trigger a stress response in the body by kicking on the sympathetic nervous system. This puts the body into survival mode in which we gear up for Fight or Flight. When this happens, our body’s metabolism, digestive tract, and immune system shut down because it senses danger.
For the body to work optimally we need to be in a state of “rest and digest” activated by our Parasympathetic Nervous system. This is when we feel calm, clear, at peace, and centered. In this state, blood nourishes the internal organs and ultimately restores our immunity, digestion, metabolism, and even cognitive thinking.
Now I love Yoga and believe that my daily practice keeps me in the best shape for life.
There are a variety of Yoga practices ranging in intensity and skill. If you’re interested in more cardio types of yoga, check out Vinyasa or Power Yoga classes.
If you are new to Yoga, check out Gentle Yoga, Hatha, Iyengar, Yin, and restorative styles.
Keep in mind that weight loss can be counterintuitive. Someone who is very active and always on the go may actually need a yoga class that is more restorative. Someone who feels sluggish in the morning can really benefit from a Vinyasa style class. Opposites in this nature bring balance.
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*Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.