We all know how important exercise is to our health, especially when it comes to weight loss endeavors. Yoga may not conjure up the same images of a calorie-burning, sweat-inducing workout as bootcamp workouts or cardio dance-party routines. But don’t be fooled by yoga’s deep breathing and sometimes-slow poses. It can seriously trim and tone your body as well as work on your mind and spirit to help you get healthier overall. By supporting physical, mental, and spiritual development we can create the best version of ourself.
Yoga encourages a healthy weight in many ways:
Yoga and mindfulness
Yoga can increase awareness of the effect different foods have on our mind, body, and spirit. In one study people who develop mindfulness through yoga were better able to resist unhealthy foods and comfort eating. They felt more in tune with their body, especially their awareness of when they were full.
That mindfulness training had positive short-term benefits regarding impulsive or binge eating and increasing physical activity. Since yoga isn’t recommended on a full stomach, those studied made healthier eating choices and were more likely to crave fresh, unprocessed foods after a workout.
Yoga and better sleep
As I’ve discussed in previous posts, getting 7-9 hours of sleep at night is not only imperative to good health but it also improves weight loss. Studies have found that people who slept less five times per week ultimately lost less fat than those who slept more. Both groups limited the number of calories they consumed, suggesting that sleep loss itself has an adverse effect on body composition, including fat loss.
Those with a consistent yoga practice not only improved the quality of their sleep but also improved the ability to fall asleep more easily and sleep more deeply. Yoga nidra is a form of guided relaxation performed lying down that can encourage a deeper sleep and increase mindfulness. Like meditation or hypnosis, specific goals can be inserted during yoga nidra sessions to improve weight loss as well.
Yoga and calorie burn
While yoga isn’t traditionally considered an aerobic exercise, there are certain types that are more physical than others. The more active intense styles of yoga such as ashtanga , vinyasa and power yoga help burn the most calories. They also help develop muscle tone and improve metabolism.
While restorative yoga isn’t an especially physical type of yoga, studies showed it still helped weight loss, including that hard to lose belly fat. These findings are especially promising for people whose body weight may make more vigorous forms of yoga difficult.
How much is needed
As a beginner, start slowly and increase gradually. This builds strength and flexibility and prevents injuries. Begin with 20 minute sessions with one full day of rest each week. Gradually increase to a more active, intense practice at least three to five times per week for one hour. In between, balance out your program with more relaxing, gentle methods such as Hatha, yin, and restorative yoga practices.
If you don’t have time for a full class on certain days, do a self-practice for at least 20 minutes. Combine your yoga practice with activities such as walking, cycling, or swimming for added cardiovascular benefits.
Strike a fat burning pose
Certain poses, or asanas, have benefits that far exceed mere calorie-burning and muscle-strengthening. Yoga speeds up the metabolism by stimulating endocrine glands that regulate the metabolic rate. Make sure to discuss any new program with your healthcare provider provider before you begin. And while you’re striking poses- particularly in fast-moving vinyasa or power yoga-it’s crucial to pay attention to your body and that proper alignment is always maintained.
Certain poses can also help with trouble spots.
- Shoulder stand and fish pose: Both rouse the thyroid, helping to give your body a metabolism boost.
- Valrasana (spinal twist), a lengthening child’s pose, and cobra pose: These twisting poses massage the abdomen, target internal organs and aid with optimal digestion.
- The dogs: Downward-facing dog and upward-facing dog poses are particularly helpful in toning hips and thighs.
Poses for home
Here are a few yoga poses you can do at home if you don’t have time for a full session.
Do at least 10 Sun Salutations. You can increase the intensity by holding some of the positions for longer periods or by speeding up the pace.
- From standing, inhale as your lift your arms overhead.
- Exhale as you swan dive down into a Forward Bend.
- Jump, step, or walk your feet back into Plank pose.
- Hold this position for at least five breaths.
- Drop your knees down and lower your body to the floor.
- Extend your legs, turn the tops of your feet to the mat, and place your hands under your shoulders.
- Inhale to lift partway, halfway, or all the way up into Cobra pose.
- Exhale to lower back down and then push up into Downward Facing Dog.
- Hold this pose for at least five breaths.
- Exhale as you jump, step, or walk your feet to the top of the mat and stand in a Forward Bend.
- Then inhale to lift up your arms overhead.
- Exhale to lower your arms back down by your body.
This pose engages your whole body, especially your core, and helps to reduce stress.
- Sit on the floor with your legs together and extended in front of you.
- Bend your knees and lift your feet off the floor so that your thighs are at an angle to the floor while your shins are parallel to the floor.
- Extend your arms in front of you so that they’re parallel to the floor.
- If you can, straighten your legs while keeping your torso lifted.
- Hold this pose for 30 seconds.
- Repeat at least five times.
Spend 10 to 20 minutes doing variations of Plank pose.
- From tabletop position, step your feet back with your heels lifted.
- Bring your body into a straight line. You may want to check your body in a mirror.
- Engage your core, arm, and leg muscles.
- Hold here for at least one minute.
Long term results
Research shows that yoga can help stop middle-age spread. Overweight folks who regularly practiced yoga for 10 years between ages 45 and 55 lost five pounds on average, compared to a 14-pound gain for those who didn’t. Yoga practitioners simply ate more mindfully, had a lower body mass index than non-practitioners, noticed when they’re full and avoided eating out of stress or boredom.
Yoga not only helps to change underlying behaviors that encourage weight gain, but also sheds pounds by burning calories, heightening mindfulness, and reducing stress. All important factors to reducing food intake and becoming more aware of the effects of overeating.