Yoga has several health advantages, including muscular strengthening, improved sleep, and stress reduction. Can it also aid with weight loss?
According to Judi Bar, the yoga program manager at Cleveland Clinic Center for Integrative Medicine in Ohio, who is certified by the International Association of Yoga Therapists and Yoga Alliance, there are a few different ways yoga can help with weight loss, and it’s not just about the calories you burn on your yoga mat.
“If done correctly,” she explains, “yoga becomes a lifestyle change,” which may assist improve physical activity and minimize emotional eating. It can also help you manage stress, which can help you maintain your weight, she explains.
Bar claims that she has witnessed yoga help clients lose weight in her practice. Her study backs her up.
Bar is a co-author of a research review in which she and her colleagues looked at hundreds of papers on the benefits of yoga on weight loss.
Yoga has been linked to weight loss and weight maintenance due to a number of factors, including increased energy expenditure during yoga sessions, encouraging more exercise by reducing back and joint pain, increasing mindfulness, improving mood and reducing stress, and assisting yogis in feeling more connected to their bodies, satiety, and eating habits.
Another research examined data from interviews with 20 persons who claimed to have lost weight through yoga practice. The responses of the participants pointed to five factors that the researchers concluded aided in weight loss: a shift to healthier eating, the impact of the yoga community and culture, physical changes, psychological changes, and the belief that the yoga weight loss experience was different from previous weight loss experiences.
According to Bar and other experts, there are three major ways that yoga might help you lose or maintain weight:
1. Yoga Can Aid Mindful Eating
According to Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, Ph.D., an associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, yoga strengthens more than just your muscles.
Dr. Khalsa explains that when you maintain a posture for a lengthy amount of time, you are connecting with how your body feels. Your teacher may encourage you to keep track of your breath and pay attention to what your mind and body are telling you as a means of learning and practicing mindfulness.
And exercising mindfulness on your yoga mat may also help you practice mindful eating habits. Recognizing hunger cues and minimizing binge eating are examples of mindful eating. Over time (and with experience), you may be able to determine which meals make you feel nourished and energized, and which have more negative affects (such as making you feel sleepy or bloated), according to Khalsa. And all of these behaviors can assist you in sticking to a diet or weight reduction eating plan — or in choosing overall healthier food choices.
According to Khalsa, yoga has been associated to changes in eating behavior, notably a reduction in dietary fat and an increase in fresh vegetables, healthy grains, and soy-based products.
Another research looked at survey data from 159 women who did yoga or cardio-based exercise on a regular basis. Yogis were substantially less likely than cardio-based exercisers to have disordered eating practices.
“This is where yoga really shines,” explains Khalsa. It is not only about the physical activity you engage in. “It’s all about listening to your body’s cues.”
2. Yoga Can Help You Deal With Stress
There are several ways that stress — particularly uncontrolled, persistent stress — can lead to weight gain. Yoga can help reduce chronic stress.
The foundations of yoga practice are breathwork and meditation. Sundar Balasubramanian, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, whose research focuses on how yogic breathing can promote well-being in people with chronic health problems and other diseases, says that both contribute to boosting energy, improving mood, and lowering stress levels. (Dr. Balasubramanian is also the founder of the PranaScience Institute and an International Association of Yoga Therapists-certified yoga therapist.)
“Stress can make weight loss very difficult because it can cause cortisol to rise, stress-eating, and trouble sleeping,” adds Balasubramanian. Deep breathing helps to relieve stress and counteract some of the negative consequences that might make losing weight difficult (or contribute to weight gain).
According to Balasubramanian, there are physiological changes that occur in the body as a result of breathing exercises. “Studies have shown that mindfulness exercises reduce the amount of cortisol in our bodies.”
Yoga was connected with reduced levels of evening cortisol, awakening cortisol, resting heart rate, and cholesterol levels, according to one study evaluation that evaluated data from 42 trials.
3. Yoga Aids Muscle Growth
Yoga can also aid with weight loss and maintenance by increasing muscle mass.
“When we think about muscular strengthening, we think of going to the weight room and pumping iron. We use our own body weight as a sort of resistance in yoga. “Your entire body is working to keep you in balance, so everything gets a workout,” explains Carol Krucoff, a yoga therapist at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, and a teacher certified by the International Association of Yoga Therapists and Yoga Alliance.
Consider holding your body in a plank position. She says you’re supporting your body with the muscles of your shoulders, core, hips, and legs. After releasing from a plank, move into a Downward-Facing Dog stance, which activates a different combination of muscles in your forearms, shoulders, and back. Krucoff claims that muscular growth burns calories.
According to one study evaluation that included 30 studies with over 2,000 participants, yoga can lower the waist-hip ratio in healthy persons as well as body mass index (BMI) in those who are overweight or obese.
Other studies have shown that even slower, restorative yoga lessons decreased fasting glucose levels in overweight or obese patients, indicating improved metabolic health.
How Can I Include Yoga in My Weight Loss Plan?
If you’re thinking about including yoga in your weight reduction strategy, the experts have some pointers to get you started:
Begin gently. The key to getting started with yoga — or any sort of exercise — is to start small. Beginners, according to Bar, should avoid tougher, quicker kinds of yoga that use adjectives like “hot,” “Bikram,” “power,” or “flow.” You must select a technique that is simple to follow and will not result in injuries so that you may safely increase your flexibility and strength. Look for beginner courses, which are more likely to teach how to accomplish the postures.
Make any necessary changes. If you’re out of shape or attempting to lose a considerable amount of weight, pick a type of yoga that meets your goals; otherwise, you may need to make changes to specific postures that you can’t completely execute when you first start. Krucoff teaches chair yoga to exercisers who have joint, knee, or hip problems so they may practice while sitting comfortably. Seek live courses where you may ask an instructor how to alter a position or practice to match your specific needs.
Find a style, class, and teacher that are a perfect fit for you. According to Khalsa, you may need to try out a few different courses, yoga styles, and teachers before finding the ideal match. Some people concentrate more on breathing exercises and meditation. Some people concentrate on strengthening motions. Some move at a quicker rate, while others move at a slower pace. “The most important thing is to develop a sustainable yoga practice.” When you do, you’ll discover that you’ll want to keep practicing and reap the long-term rewards,” he adds.
Include other sorts of exercise as well. Although most yoga forms include some muscular building, not every session will provide you with a cardiovascular workout. So, Bar suggests combining a daily yoga practice with some cardiovascular activity, such as walking, running, riding, or other activities that raise your heart rate. Khalsa does yoga in addition to other sports like racquetball. Krucoff recommends mild yoga as a sort of active rehabilitation (for individuals who also undertake high-intensity workouts).
Continue your efforts. According to Subramanian, practicing yoga is a habit that must be developed gradually. He claims that no matter whatsoever yoga practice you choose to add to your weight reduction efforts, it will not help if you simply perform it once. Choose a practice that you love and can perform on a weekly or more regular basis, and stick to it to see benefits.
Seek expert advice. Not sure how to incorporate yoga into your weight-reduction plan? If you are experiencing pain or other unpleasant symptoms, or if you are feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of beginning a new yoga practice, consult your healthcare physician. If they have a history in integrative medicine, they may be able to assist you in developing a personalized program to meet your unique health objectives. They may also recommend you to a physical therapist who is educated in creating individualized rehabilitative exercise regimens for individuals and is knowledgeable about yoga.