You won’t hear yoga being recommended as a weight-loss practice very often, which seems completely reasonable. After all, how can gentle stretching and deep breathing followed by sitting still in meditation burn fat? However, there is ample evidence from research studies showing that yoga aids in weight loss through different pathways than those from vigorous exercising. The weight loss you get from yoga is also more likely to be successful and long-lasting, and there are plenty of success stories to back up this claim. While science is just at the beginning of understanding the ways in which yoga promotes both physical and mental health, the basic principles and philosophy of yoga have been telling the same story since ancient times: without tuning in your body with your mind, you won’t become a whole and healthy human being. And while weight loss is not at the core of yoga practices, it does become an inevitable “side effect” of yoga and in this article, we explain why this is so.
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Yoga makes Weight Loss Easier
The ancient practice of yoga was developed out of the universal human desire to reduce pain and attain power over oneself. Yoga is at its core a spiritual discipline, and its history dates to 5000 years back. What we consider to be yoga today is just one branch of the great number of different yogic practices. The stretching, deep breathing, and meditation we see being practiced in yoga classes has its origin in a younger yoga branch called hatha yoga – physical techniques that help you achieve greater physical health and that make it easier for you to become more spiritual. Simply put, practicing any type of yoga is supposed to make attaining a goal easier, even if your goal is weight loss. If you’ve been struggling to lose weight your whole life, chances are that you’ve started feeling miserable and disappointed with yourself.
The idealized body images, emphasis on discipline and hard work from personal trainers don’t make self-love in any way easier. Well, yoga teaches you to become compassionate and caring towards yourself and this is a proven way to help you achieve weight loss among other things.
How Yoga Helps With Weight Loss?
Research shows that only 20% of overweight individuals achieve long-term weight loss. Taking these statistics into account, it becomes quite apparent that we must be doing something wrong in our attempts to lose weight. The usual recommendation for successful weight loss is restricting calories and vigorous exercising. But it seems that most people are unable to adhere to such a strict and torturous approach to weight loss. Yoga, on the other hand, is enjoyable, and people are more likely to adhere to regular yogic practice than to high-intensity workout. This was even confirmed to be true in a study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine that found that seniors were more likely to adhere to yoga classes than to conventional exercise classes. Furthermore, another study that was published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found that one of the reasons why yoga could promote weight loss is that people were very likely to increase their frequency of practicing yoga.
Stress Relief and Weight-Loss
Now, we know that any exercise is better than no exercise and the no-sweat yoga stretching is something most people are likely to find enjoyable. But yoga helps with weight loss in ways other than simply being a form of exercise you are likely to stick to in the long run. Yoga helps you lose weight by completely transforming the way your body works. Yoga, as you probably already know, helps relieve stress significantly. In today’s ever-busy world, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage our stress levels. But stress management is important if you want to lose weight. Studies show that elevated cortisol (the main stress hormone) levels are one of the main reasons why we gain so much weight. What is even worse, elevated cortisol levels were even found to promote abdominal weight gain in particular. The gentle stretching and deep breathing in yoga is a true and tried method for stress relief, but not just instantaneous. Yoga is known to help increase our awareness of our environment and our response to the environment. Simply put, by practicing yoga regularly, you’ll develop internal skills that help you cope with stress more intelligently, and this can not only lead to better health and greater well-being, but to weight loss as well.
Yoga and Awareness
And when speaking of awareness, we know that nutritionist, dietitians, and fitness trainers all emphasize the importance of conscious eating in weight management. Binge eating and emotional eating are two things that you can do only if you are unaware of your actions. Yoga can help increase your self-awareness explains Charity Ferreira, senior editor at Yoga Journal. “When you make positive changes grounded in self-awareness, you are more likely to connect to the truth of who you are and understand why you do the things that you do” explains Ferreira. This was even scientifically proven to be true in a study that was published in the International Journal of Yoga. The study suggested that hatha yoga can be used as a therapeutic method to correct abnormal eating behavior and obesity. The study also observed significant changes in eating behavior in people who practiced yoga, such as reduced fat intake, higher intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, and greater intake of whole grain foods and soy products. In simplest terms, by practicing yoga, you won’t have to put too much effort in controlling your eating behavior. Instead, the self-awareness that you will inevitably gain through yoga will guide you towards mindful eating.
Yoga Success Stories
Now, all these benefits of yoga sound great, but when you hear real-life examples of people that have achieved weight loss through yoga, you really get the full picture of yoga for weight loss. Elisa Thompson shares her life story at Yogi Apprved, explaining how exactly yoga helped her become happy with her body. Thompson had been overweight most of her life and decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery. While the surgery helped her lose weight all in itself, it was yoga that helped her cope with the drastic changes her body was going through following the surgery. We all know that gastric bypass surgery is risky and that it increases your risk of depression. Yoga can help you cope while you’re trying to lose weight and help you beat depression while on a weight-loss journey.
Beyond Weight Loss
Overall, it’s safe to say that yoga can be a safe and effective adjacent to other weight-loss regimens. But the benefits you get from yoga go far beyond simple weight loss. While you may not lose a significant amount of weight simply through yoga, you still can attain greater levels of happiness and meaning in life while also supporting your overall health. An article published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine explains that yoga as a self-care behavioral treatment provides life-long behavioral skills, enhances self-efficiency and confidence, and provides additional positive side effects. The positive effects of yoga include decreased incidence of depression, greater energy levels, anxiety relief, stress reduction, increased physical fitness, better cardiovascular health, better glucose metabolism, and pain relief. All these factors, when taken together, can help with weight-loss in themselves and we see no reason not to practice yoga to boost your weight-loss success.
How to Practice Yoga?
If you want to practice yoga for whatever reason, be that weight-loss or other health benefits, you need to start with the right mindset and techniques in order to get any real benefits. Timothy Burgin, a Kripalu & Pranakriya trained yoga instructor who teaches yoga in Asheville, NC recommends starting with breathing techniques. According to Timothy, the most important part of yoga is knowing how to breathe while in postures. Next step is to learn how to meditate. Meditation will bring you into a relaxed mindset which is of crucial importance when getting serious about yoga. To start with the postures, you’ll first need to do warm-up exercises before continuing with basic postures. You can either attend a beginner’s yoga class or do your own research on the beginner yoga poses which you’ll easily find online. Every yoga session needs to end with complete relaxation, preferably in Shavasana which involves resting on your back and relaxing for up to 15 minutes. Integrate yoga into your daily life at a time when you’re able to wind-down and be relaxed.
Although yoga is not usually recommended for weight loss, the practice can actually help you achieve your weight loss in the long-run. The practice is said to keep you motivated, stress-free, and conscious of your habits. All these factors when taken together help with long-term weight loss. However, you will probably need to exercise and diet in conjunction to practicing yoga if you want to lose a significant amount of weight. But yoga will help you achieve your goals in a more relaxed and easier way while also providing a host of other benefits.
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