For many years, yoga has helped countless people achieve better physical, mental, and spiritual development. This light and low-intensity workout can substantially improve your quality of life.
Many people believe that yoga is fundamental in reaching physical and mental harmony. By performing specific yoga techniques, people can heal physical injuries and be more mindful. But did you know that yoga is great for losing weight?
Yoga is an effective tool to help you slim down and burn that pesky fat, especially the forms of yoga that are more active and intense than restorative yoga forms. When done properly, yoga can help you gain awareness through controlled and relaxing yoga practices, and this can help you tone your body and trim down your waistline.
Is Yoga backed by science? Definitely. Experts believe that yoga works in various ways to help manage a healthy lifestyle.
Yoga, Mindfulness, and Weight Loss
Mindfulness is one of the principles of yoga. Certain yoga practices can help you focus on the now. The intense concentration that you get in yoga can help increase your awareness on so many levels in life.
The more mindful you are, the more likely you are to become conscious about how various foods can impact your mind, body, and spirit.
According to Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (Volume 2016, Article ID 2914745), increased consumption of foods high in calories and fat but poor in nutrients, stress, and the lack of physical activity are the main factors of obesity.
In their study, they discussed how yoga can improve obesity-related outcomes.
“Yoga [is] an ancient discipline involving physical poses, breathwork, and mindfulness techniques. [It] is the most commonly used non-dietary or supplement complementary and alternative therapy to weight loss.”
A review article published by Jennifer Rioux and Cheryl Ritenbaugh entitled Narrative Review of Yoga Intervention Clinical Trials Including Weight-related Outcomes concluded that yoga can aid in weight loss. Here are a few of the general conclusion the research team had:
- Programs with a yogic dietary component are more successful when it comes to demonstrating a higher degree of efficacy in weight-related outcome measures.
- The frequency of performing yoga appears to affect weight loss more than the intensity (or length of a session) of practice.
- Yoga sessions with 60 minutes of sustained asana practice seem to be adequate in achieving a beneficial result when combined with pranayama and meditation, and;
- Yoga for weight loss is equally appropriate and potentially successful in preventing obesity or weight maintenance.
Also, the people who develop mindfulness through yoga sessions can better able to resist the temptation of eating unhealthy foods and comfort eating. They also get more in-sync with their body so that they can immediately notice when they’re already full, which helps prevent overeating.
If you’re struggling to lose weight, then yoga might be the best way to go. A 2017-meta study Obesity Research & Clinical Practice (Vol. 11, Issue 5, Supplement 1, 09-10/2017, pages 90-111) reported that mindfulness training has been closely associated with the adoption of healthier behaviours. It also reported that mindfulness can help decrease binge and impulsive eating and increase physical participation.
However, in their study, mindfulness training has no effect on weight loss in adults with excess weight. And in conclusion, mindfulness training does not have a direct impact on weight loss. Further studies are needed to back up these findings.
Also, if you want to engage in yoga, you will be advised not to perform yoga poses on a full stomach. This alone will get you into the notion that you must make healthy eating choices before performing yoga.
And after a long yoga session (which would have generated mindfulness already), you are likely to crave fresh and unprocessed foods instead of unhealthy snacks. And because you’re in the now, you’ll learn to chew more slowly and thoroughly, which can then result in less consumption.
Remember, your food choices and consumption of food are two of the main factors of obesity. You can battle the urge to eat unhealthy knick-knacks and eat more consciously when you’re in a mindful disciplined state.
Yoga, Sleep, and Weight Loss
Did you know that yoga can help improve the quality of your sleep? According to the latest statistics published by Sleep Advisor (February 2019), 35% of adults do not get enough sleep (7 hours a day), and 37% of people aged between 20 and 39 reported short sleep cycles and difficulty sleeping. Pretty crazy right?
Are you one of the many people who struggle getting a goodnight’s sleep? When you perform yoga consistently you’ll find yourself to be able to fall asleep more easily and more deeply.
The quality of your sleep is associated with weight loss. A 2018-study posted in Oxford Academic by Sleep Research Society (Sleep, Vol. 41, Issue 5, May 2018, zsy027) examined the impact of moderate sleep restriction (SR) on body weight, composition, and metabolic variables in people undergoing caloric restriction (CR).
In the study, a group of overweight adults were randomised to an eight-week caloric restriction (CR) regimen alone or combined with sleep restriction (CR+SR).
All subjects were instructed to limit their daily calorie intake to 95% of their measured resting metabolic rate. Those in the CR+SR group were also asked to reduce time in bed on five nights and to sleep as necessary or desired on the other two nights each week.
The result? The study found that those who have restricted sleep five nights per week lost less fat than those who followed their normal sleeping routine. Both groups were instructed to limit their caloric intake, suggesting that sleep loss has a negative impact on body composition, fat loss included.
Again, yoga can help you sleep more deeply while increasing your mindfulness. Yoga Nidra is a form of guided relaxation that can significantly help improve your sleep quality. And while performing this relaxing yoga pose, you can set goals to boost your weight loss.
In another 2018-study published by Holistic Nursing Practice (May/June 2018), the effect of yoga Nidra meditation was put into test in health care workers.
“As health care workers provide emotional support to patients, it is not uncommon for workers to experience both physical and mental exhaustion,” explained in the abstract of the study.
“One holistic approach to support employees is mindfulness training. iRest Yoga Nidra is a complementary and integrative health therapy that increases mindfulness,” it added.
The subjects of the study (the health workers) were asked to perform yoga Nidra for eight weeks. And as a result, their levels of mindfulness exponentially increased. However, there was not a significant improvement in their sleep at baseline and follow-up. Clearly, there has to be more research to be done to expand these findings.
Nevertheless, it all falls down to achieving the state of mindfulness, which, as discussed above, can essentially aid in weight loss, albeit in passive ways.
Yoga, Calories, and Weight Loss
Yoga is technically a form of aerobic exercise. Take note, however, that there are different types of yoga, and some forms can be more active and intense than others.
Physical and intense forms of yoga can help you burn the most calories. The more you are able to burn calories, the less likely.you are to gain weight. Our bodies need a certain amount of calories to maintain our weight, when we eat less than this we lose weight. This is what is known as a caloric deficit.
Certain yoga styles like ashtanga, vinyasa, and power yoga are a few examples of more intense yoga.
When you go to gyms offering yoga or yoga studios, you’ll find most of them offer vinyasa and power yoga. These yoga styles will keep you moving almost constantly, which then results in burning calories.
Performing yoga can also tone your muscles, improve your metabolism, and sculpt your body.
Restorative yoga, on the other, is not as intense as the other physical yogas, but it can still aid in weight loss. According to one study, restorative yoga is effective in helping overweight women to lose weight.
More research is needed to expand these findings. Nevertheless, the studies prove that even low-intensity physical workouts can help a person slim down.
Another study from the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine (Yoga in the Management of Overweight and Obesity, published on July 17, 2013) revealed that yoga may assist with weight loss and maintenance by heightening mindfulness, improving mood, and reducing stress, all of which help in reducing food consumption.
Yoga also allows individuals “to feel more connected to their bodies, leading to enhanced awareness of satiety and the discomfort of overeating,” the study concluded.
Then again, these findings must be backed by more research and studies.
How Frequent Should You Do Yoga to Lose Weight?
Yoga is way less intense compared to fat-burning cardio exercises and heavy lifting workouts. Hence, if you want to lose weight through low-intensity, light yoga practices, then you should perform yoga as often as possible to trim down.
And if possible, do more active and more intense yoga poses at least three to six times a week for at least 60 minutes.
On the other days, you can perform light yoga styles like yin, Hatha, and other restorative yoga options.
If you’re just a beginner in yoga, you can start slowly. Then, you can gradually increase your intensity from there. This will allow your body to build up strength and develop flexibility, which are empirical to prevent injuries.
However, if you do not have time for a full yoga class on some days, you can do a self-practice for at least 20 to 30 minutes. You can perform yoga at home, in the park, or in any place that’s quiet enough to help you concentrate and get into the now.
You don’t have to perform yoga seven days a week. You can give yourself one full day break each week.
To make weight loss even more effective, it’s best to combine your yoga with other physical and intense activities, such as cycling, walking, swimming, and other cardio workouts.
And most importantly, you need to be smarter in your food choices, habits, and lifestyle. The food you eat, your habits, and your way of living are factors to obesity. It’s practically unhealthy to perform yoga but stay on your bad food habits.
Yoga Poses to Perform
As emphasised in this article, there are certain types of yoga practices, some are more intense than the others. It’s good to know each pose to better understand what yoga type best fits your needs.
Take note, these poses can be performed at home. All you need is a matt, a quiet space, and a flat surface.
Also called the Surya Namaskara, the sun salutation is a series of poses done in a sequence. The goal is to create a flowing movement. Each pose coordinates with your breathing: inhale when extending and exhale when bending.
- Standing Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Place your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Press your palms in a prayer position. Rest your thumbs and take several breaths.
- Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)
Inhale while sweeping your arms out to the side and overhead. Push your head back gently, then gaze to the sky.
- Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Exhale while you fold forward from the hips. Gently bend your knees if needed. Then, rest your hands beside your feet. Your nose must meet your knees.
- Half-Standing Forward Fold (Ardha Uttanasana)
Inhale while lifting your torso halfway, extending your spine toward to flatten your back. Your torso must be parallel to the floor. Keep your fingertips locked on the floor. Alternatively, you can bring them to your shins.
- Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)
Exhale while you step back into plank pose. Your hands should be under your shoulders and your feet should be hip-distance apart. Exhale as you bring your body toward the floor, while keeping your elbows tucked in on your sides.
Keep your legs stretched and reach back through your heels.
- Upward-Facing Dog Pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Inhale while drawing your chest forward and stretching your arms. Draw your shoulders back and push your heart toward the sky. Press through the tops of your feet, then gently lift your thighs off the floor while engaging your leg muscles.
- Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Exhale while lifting your hips. Then, roll over your toes. Place the soles of your feet firm on the floor. Your heels don’t need to meet the ground.
Ground down through your hands and the soles of your feet as you stretch your spine. Lift your belly up and sit bones toward the air. Breathe five times. On your last exhalation, bend your knees and look down.
- Half-Standing Forward Fold (Ardha Uttanasana)
Inhale while you step both feet between your hands. Lift your torso halfway, stretching your spine forward to flatten your back. Your torso must be parallel to the floor. Keep your fingertips on the floor, or you can bring them to your shins.
- Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Exhale while you bend your torso over your things. Fold your knees if needed. Rest your hands beside your feet. Your nose must meet your knees.
- Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)
Inhale while sweeping your arms out to the side and stretch them up again. Gently lean your head back and look upward.
- Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Exhale while returning to the mountain pose. Bring your hands back into the prayer position. Repeat the entire sequence two or more times.
Boat pose is also known as Paripurna Navasana. This yoga pose puts emphasis on your ab and hip. It requires you to have a balance on the tripod of your tailbone and sitting bones.
- The first step is to simply sit on the floor. Your legs must be straight in front of you. Place your hands on the floor. Ensure your fingers are pointing toward your feet. Stretch your arms.
- Lift through the top of your breastbone and gently lean back slightly. When doing this, ensure your back is flat. Sit on the tripod of your two sitting bones and tailbone.
- Exhale as you fold your knees. Then, lift your feet off the ground, ensuring your thighs are angled about 45 degrees to the floor. If you can, slowly straighten your knees and raise the tips of your toes a little bit above your eye level. If this is impossible, you can remain with your knees bent.
- Stretch your arms alongside your legs. They must be parallel to each other and the floor.
- Stay on this pose for 30 seconds or longer (only if possible).
- Repeat this sequence at least five times.
Plank pose is good for yoga beginners. It’s the best yoga to start with. Plus, it promotes balancing your arms.
- Start in downward-facing dog position or Adho Mukha Svanasana (see Sun Salutation pose). Inhale while drawing your torso forward until your arms are parallel to the floor and your shoulders directly over your wrists.
- Press your outer arms inward and lock your position with your index fingers into the floor. Lean your shoulder blades to your back, then spread them away from the spine. Stretch your collarbones away from your breastbone.
- Lift your thighs up to the ceiling, but resist your tailbone toward the floor as you stretch it toward your heels. Gaze to the floor while keeping your eyes and throat soft.
- Perform this pose for at least 30 seconds or more.
Is Yoga for Everyone?
Yoga is beneficial for losing weight, toning your body, building leaner muscles, reducing stress and anxiety, and achieving mindfulness. But yoga also has some caveats.
Yoga can induce blood pressure. It can also worsen carpal tunnel syndrome (pain, tingling, and numbness in the arm and hand).
There are also some physical dangers in performing yoga, especially the advanced level yoga poses like backbends and headstands. When you fail to perform the poses correctly, it may cause back injuries, muscle strain, and even eye complications.
The best thing about yoga is that you can perform it at your home. However, when you’re lacking experience in yoga, it’s not best to engage in it alone. Some yoga poses can be dangerous to your body, and without guidance from an expert, experienced instructor, you might put yourself on a lot of risks.
Is Yoga Better Than The Gym?
The answer depends on what you want to achieve. If you want to gain muscle, lose fat, and increase your stamina and stability, then the gym and a structured weight training routine is the way to go.
Gyms have the heavy equipment you can use when working out. Most workout programs in gyms are strenuous and intense, which can help you lose weight and gain muscle faster.
On the other hand, if you want to tone your muscles and lose weight through light, less intense workout, then yoga is the better option. Yoga is also focused on helping you become more mindful.
And notably, yoga will not only shape your body, but it can also improve your joints and bones, all the while alleviating stress and pain.
Through yoga, you can lose weight and sculpt you to your desired physique. It’s worth noting, however, that yoga is way less strenuous than cardio workouts. So while you can lose weight with yoga, the effect is not as quick as when you perform heavy, physical workouts.
Yoga can help you improve your sleep and be more conscious, and, in effect, you’ll prevent obesity and promote weight loss. It’s also best to combine active, intense workouts on top of your yoga sessions to lose weight faster.
It’s important to remember, though, that yoga is not for everyone. We highly recommend speaking to your physician before engaging in any workout. If you want to commit to yoga, it’s best to speak with a yoga teacher or instructor to guide you throughout the course.
If you don’t have much experience in yoga, we advise seeking help from experienced yogist to assist you with poses, especially the hard positions to prevent injuries.
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