Yoga is a way of life, a philosophy that found its roots in India thousands of years ago. Its origins remain a mystery. However, the belief is that this supreme science was shared with the great sages who passed it down through the generations. The earliest record of Yoga’s existence appeared in the Yoga Sutra, written 2,000 years ago by the sage Patanjali. Ancient Yoga’s main focus was on spirituality and mental focus rather than fitness. Over the years, however, yoga has evolved to encompass a much larger area that includes physical fitness. There is no denying that the benefits of yoga are manifold but does yoga help you lose weight? The answer to that is an emphatic yes. It won’t help you lose weight in the traditional sense like other physical exercises but there’s no denying that you will.
How does yoga help you lose weight?
You’re definitely not going to be counting the quick loss of calories like you would do on a treadmill or with cardio. However, what you will get are all-round positive results. Yoga is not a strenuous form of exercise so any weight loss is going to be extremely gradual. Although the more active forms of yoga such as Vinyasa or Power Yoga will get you quicker results, these styles are not suited to everyone.
Way back in 2005, a study conducted by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center concluded that yoga definitely had a positive impact on weight loss. The study which involved 15,500 middle-aged participants found that overweight people benefitted more from yoga. Over the period of the study, participants who practiced yoga lost quite a few pounds while those that did not do yoga, gained more.
Anyone who’s overweight is definitely aware of not pushing the body too hard. You could injure yourself instead of reaping any benefits. So although the easier restorative form of yoga may not seem like much exercise, a study funded by the National Institutes of Health proved otherwise. Those who practiced this more relaxed approach of holding poses for a longer duration burned 2% more body fat than those who practiced regular stretching for the same length of time.
As stated earlier, yoga is a philosophy, a way of life. It’s not just about the poses and breathing exercise but about consciousness too. When you practice yoga for a longer period of time you become more mindful of your actions. As you become more in tune with your body you’ll gradually become more conscious of your eating habits. Things that you probably took for granted like the kind of food you eat, and the time you eat, will gain more significance. Since you cannot practice yoga on a full stomach, nor eat immediately after, your eating habits will automatically begin to change.
Although yoga has evolved as a fitness regime, the essence of it remains the same. It still has a large focus on building your mental health. When you connect with your inner self you become more relaxed, leading to a reduction in stress hormones such as cortisol. One of the key hormones responsible for stress eating and weight gain is cortisol, an appetite stimulant. Expert studies have shown that yoga reduces the levels of cortisol which in turn creates a healthier mind.
Better quality of sleep
When you practice yoga consistently you’ll begin to notice a change in your sleep patterns too. Yoga has been credited with helping people fall asleep quicker and deeper. Medical studies have shown that there is a direct connection between the quality of sleep and weight gain or loss. Inconsistent sleeping patterns have been linked to a higher body mass index (BMI) and weight gain. Also, people who tend to have disturbed sleep patterns often report an increase in appetite and cravings. On the other hand, people who follow a regular sleeping pattern tend to maintain their body weight.
If you’re someone who has problems sleeping, Yoga Nidra may be just what you need. This guided relaxation will not only make you more aware but may help you sleep better too. Unlike meditation, Yoga Nidra is practiced with the sole purpose of allowing you to fall into a deep sleep. However, to reap the full benefits of yoga and see if yoga does help you lose weight, you need to be consistent.
Although yoga is a more relaxed form of exercise there are more intense styles of yoga that do help in quick burning of calories. Asthanga, Vinyasa and Power Yoga are examples of the more rigorous forms of yoga. Ashtanga and Bikram styles are generally repetitive while Vinyasa mixes things up. Power Yoga on the other hand, keeps you constantly on the go which helps in burning more calories. However, traditional yoga practitioners will tell you that Power Yoga goes against the precepts of yoga. It’s a more westernized approach to yoga.
A good idea for someone looking to lose weight quickly would be to practice yoga along with another physical activity. Yoga involves a lot of flexing and strengthening which in turn will contribute to toning your muscles. Stronger muscles and better flexibility means that other more rigorous exercise options will be possible. Certain poses also help tone your abs as they focus on the core.
If you’re a newbie planning to dive right in to understand if yoga does help you lose weight, it’s a good idea to take a few lessons from a good instructor first. Once you understand the process from an expert you will be able to practice yoga on your own. For someone who’s already physically active, a good idea would be to incorporate yoga into your schedule. Use it as a supplement to your other workouts a few days in the week until you’re more comfortable.
In order to lose weight you need to be consistent and practice as often as possible. Three times a week would be ideal but make sure that you’re not idle on the other days. Supplement it with other physical activities like walking, swimming or cycling to see better results.
Consult your instructor to help you choose the style of yoga that suits you. Don’t start with something intense if you’ve never done yoga before. However, no matter what form of yoga you plan to do, don’t look for immediate results. Yoga is a long term solution to good health, not just a quick fix for weight loss.