Part of living well and being happy means taking care of yourself, and feeling good about the way you look. Many people turn to yoga for its transformative physical effects: to build strength and flexibility, reduce stress, increase energy levels and restore the body to an optimal state of health. While yoga can help you lose weight – some styles of yoga are vigorous – the practice is not regarded as a big calorie buster and that is certainly not its intention. Weight loss is a natural byproduct of the mindful transformation that takes place with a consistent yoga practice. This is how the practice differs from other forms of exercise, and why it is a key component to a healthy and balanced fitness regimen.
If you want to lose weight, some yoga (or any type of movement) is better than no yoga. However there are many different types and styles of yoga, ranging from restorative and mellow to physically challenging and intense. Anyone who has made it through an Ashtanga, Vinyasa or Power Yoga class, for example, can attest to the aerobic qualities of the practice and its fat-burning potential. These types of yoga combine meditative, cleansing breath work with an active physical flow that is a triple threat for body shaping: muscular strength, cardiovascular endurance and flexibility. Whether you do yoga with or without added heat (Hot Yoga), the deep breathing, twists, holds and fluid posture sequences heat the internal organs, flush out toxins, and increase insulin levels. This cues your body to burn food as fuel rather than store it as fat.
In addition to being a great exercise that sculpts lean muscles and firms your legs, butt, abs and arms, yoga helps you form a strong body-mind connection. In this sense the physical movement becomes very informing. As you become more aware, both mentally and physically, your ability to notice thoughts and habits that don’t serve you grows stronger. Over time you’ll naturally gravitate toward things and activities that make you feel good, and minimize or avoid those that don’t. Tuning into the nuances of your body helps you make healthier choices about what you eat, when you are full, and how to exercise your body to its best potential. Those who take on less rigorous styles of yoga will experience the same mind-body benefits, but burn calories at a slower rate.
A dedicated yoga practice will eventually lead you to make choices in your diet to become more sattvic. You need to choose nourishing food based on your physical qualities. This may mean choosing the type of food that you think is good for you and your body’s balance, or the type that will help you lose fat, or even those foods that contain vitamins that will help your body stay healthy. It may also mean choosing to be more vegetarian or vegan. The more of a sattvic diet you embrace the more your diet will allow you to take a more active role in your body’s metabolism, and help keep you in your proper balance from the first day.
It is important to recognize that not much research has taken place in the area. Although, in theory, when one studies yoga, one learns the same information as when one studies nutrition, as yoga is a very advanced form of physical exercise. That being said, there are some aspects of yoga that do have the potential for being a powerful tool in shaping your weight and weight loss and even maintaining weight loss. Many of the “best” yoga programs out there, are actually more effective at regulating your body’s metabolism in the long term.
A yoga and fitness program gives your body the diversity in movement and intensity it needs to repair itself, avoid plateaus and continually progress. Having a fun, active life helps promote positive outcomes in their lives, from reducing stress to improving their relationships. Yoga is the perfect way to get the balance needed for a satisfying and productive life. Whether you’re looking to get stronger, tone up, lose weight or simply relax there is something in yoga for everyone.