Can yoga help me to lose weight?? This question is commonly asked in our classes. The answer is it’s complicated. A lot of people start yoga for weight loss, but several find that the reason why changes over time.
Many people come to yoga for weight loss, a physical challenge or to increase their flexibility, but they end up staying for much, much more. Most of us have heard by now about the positive impacts that yoga give to your body – both physically and mentally. The recent boom of hot yoga studios and gym yoga classes shows that there is much more access to the practice of yoga than ever before. This is both positive and negative, because as the trend spreads, we see an increase in less experienced teachers and potential misinformation on a mass scale. But with the right instructor and the right type of yoga, you will see a huge difference in the way you look and feel. Be aware this does not happen overnight, it takes time but the result is worth it.
So, what is really going on? And if you are looking to lose weight, can yoga for weight loss be the key?
Absolutely, the addition of yoga to your physical routine can lead to weight loss— but for reasons that are deeper than caloric burn. And does hot yoga burn more than other styles? No, not necessarily! It is all about finding what suits you as an individual.
Your immediate weight loss may be more following a hot class – but this is because the water you are losing by the bucket, and not necessarily fat. In fact, the American Council on Exercise stated in 2013 after extensive studies about yoga for weight loss that “core temperature and heart rate were almost identical between the two sessions (referring to hot yoga versus traditional temperature), suggesting that hot yoga is just as strenuous as regular yoga.” And that the perceived increase in effort in hot classes was just that – perceived, and not actual. You don’t have to sweat buckets to see a difference in your body and mind. Yoga for weight loss comes with practice and time.
One of the biggest reasons yoga can lead to weight loss is its tangible effect on stress and the levels of stress hormones in the body. Yoga has the phenomenal ability to raise our heart rate and increase oxygen absorption in the body WITHOUT raising the stress hormone cortisol, in the body as many other challenging exercises do. Feel-good endorphins are also released, so the full mind-body relaxation effect post-yoga class are very real. With consistent practice, yoga can consistently lower stress hormones in the body, and because cortisol leads to weight gain or inability to lose weight, lowering the levels of cortisol can lead to weight loss as a pretty cool side effect. Stress can have a huge impact on weight loss, so although yoga may not directly lead to weight loss from the hours you put in – the impact of lowering stress levels can mean that you store less belly fat and increase your metabolism while doing it.
Yoga practice develops a deeper sense of awareness in the individual, and so the ability to sense when one is craving unhealthy foods, eating mindlessly, and making detrimental health choices becomes sharpened. If you are trying to lose weight, this can be an invaluable skill. Conscious healthful choices become clearer and many yoga practitioners report lower cravings of junk food, and the desire to carry the level of embodied awareness from the mat into the other parts of their life. Yoga not only can help shed pounds, but it can help people from gaining weight. In turn, you will feel better and make better choices in what you eat and how you choose to exercise. You will find that it is easier to create a healthy balance between food, exercise and weight loss. You may have started yoga for weight loss but what you get out of the one-hour class will be a lot more than that – you will find happiness, release stress, and feel better about yourself.
Given this evidence, it’s no surprise that companies such as Apple, Google, Nike, and Forbes offer yoga classes voluntarily to employees to encourage them to practice regularly and release stress. They know that yoga not only lowers physical stress markers but has been shown to increase memory function and cognitive ability, making thinking processes more clear and problem-solving improved across many areas. It is a win-win situation for everyone, especially the employers when they see that their employees are less stressed, and therefore, enjoy coming to work more.
Whether you have several kilos to lose or are looking to lower your stress levels, there is a yoga class for you, and getting started is the hardest step. Find a beginner class and learn the basics before you jump into any faster-paced type of class. This will give you the foundation you need, so that you can relax into your practice, gain strength safely, and lower your stress levels with yoga for weight loss, and your weight loss will likely follow. And above all, Enjoy!! Its meant to be fun!
So you may have started yoga for weight loss but your reason may have changed just from reading this article. Whatever the reason you start, just find something you enjoy doing, relax and have fun. After all, that is what exercise is meant to be all about.
Our yoga instructors Erin Fischer and Natasha Dillon can help you out on your yoga journey today. Our yoga instructors can a run down on the different types of yoga and what each class entails, and how you can get involved now.
Everyone has their own reason for wanting to start yoga. Find your reason.
For more information on the yoga classes we offer at Thanyapura, how you can get involved and yoga for weight loss, click here.