We know that yoga is great for relaxation and stress reduction, but what about Yoga for weight loss? Admittedly, it’s not the first form of exercise that springs to most people’s mind when they want to lose weight. If you’re looking to shed some extra kilos, don’t jump on the treadmill and abandon your yoga mat just yet, scientists are now finding that even the gentlest styles of yoga help you lose weight.
A study by dedicated Yogi Dr. Alan Kristal found those who did yoga at least once a week for 4 or more years lost an average of 2.5kgs, while those who didn't practice packed on an average of 6.5kgs in that time. So it’s time to give up the gym and slogging it out on the pavement and time to step into the calm blissful yoga room. In some even better news, this also works for that middle age spread that is notoriously hard to shift!
One of the ways yoga can help us to lose weight is by helping us to recognise ‘why’ we gain weight. We all know that if we take in more calories than we exert we will put on weight. To lose weight we need to know ‘why’ we are taking in those extra calories in the first place. Think emotional eating and comfort food, the calories we consume when we’re unhappy, bored, stressed and tired. When we turn to food for comfort it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture of what, why and how much were actually eating. This is where yoga can step in, it helps to make us more AWARE.
1. Yoga Makes You a Mindful Eater
How? Yoga makes us more in tune with our body, practicing yoga regularly makes us more mindful of our thoughts and actions. Stepping on the yoga mat between 2 – 4 times each week begins to transform the body both physically and physiologically, which in turn changes our mindset and behaviour.
- Yoga teaches us self-awareness - as you develop the ability to tune into your body you may realise ‘why’ you are eating, it could be that it’s out of boredom or emotional neediness not actual hunger.
- Yoga builds healthy habits – when you notice when foods make you feel bad, you eat less of them and begin to re-train the brain/body from bad to good habits. You become more mindful of what and how much you are eating.
- You will also become aware of your cravings - when that 3pm sugar craving hits, you will be much more likely to reach for an apple or some nuts because you will know how a handful of lollies or some biscuits will make you feel.
- Yoga teaches self-compassion - studies have shown that yoga helps to stop binge eating. If you slip up and eat something high in calories you won’t hate yourself. If you avoid thinking badly about the self, you are much more likely to go back to healthy eating at the next meal
2. Yoga Detoxes & Cleanses The Body
Yoga stimulates and detoxes your internal organs, which helps us lose and maintain our weight. Twisting poses such as parivrtta utkatasana (Revolved Chair pose) and Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes pose) squeeze the intestines and aid with digestion.
- Yoga can help you have a healthy liver - this important organ purifies our blood, it processes fats, both good and bad kinds. If the liver is healthy and strong it can dispose of bad fats and put good fats to work, the best poses to stimulate the liver are backbends.
- Yoga stimulates the thyroid gland – this gland determines our metabolism, an increased metabolism helps us burn fat. Poses that stimulate the thyroid are Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) and Matsyasana (Fish pose).
- Yoga massages the colon - when food gets clogged up in the colon, it makes you feel gassy and bloated. One of the best poses for cleansing the colon and getting things moving is Pavanmuktasana (Wind Releasing pose).
3. Yoga Restores Balance To The Nervous System
When we are stressed or anxious, the sympathetic nervous system is activated and it releases stress hormones such as cortisol. Cortisol leads to weight gain because it increases blood sugar, when we are stressed and sedentary the increase in sugars around our system don’t burn off and instead become stored as fat (usually around the belly!).
How does yoga help?
- Yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates breathing, digestion and hormones — all of which can aid in weight loss.
- The meditative and relaxation effect yoga has on the body improves how the brain controls your reaction to stress, which leads to deceased cortisol production.
4. Yoga Has The After Burn Effect
Yoga builds overall body strength and muscle tone. Muscles are active tissues that consume fat as fuel. Dynamic yoga sequences such as Salute to the Sun; Surya Namaskar A & B like we do here at WW help to build strong muscles. This is because they have to shorten or lengthen when moving into and out of poses. Strong muscles eat your fat stores, even when you are resting, meaning you will burn calories even after you have finished your practice! This is called the after burn, even though the calories burned are much fewer than those burned during class, it still contributes to weight loss.
5. Yoga Makes You Burn Calories By Breathing
Yoga encourages deeper breathing, this not only makes your body use oxygen more effectively, it also helps the body to burn calories by:
- increasing oxygen flow through the body, which is essential for fat burning and cellular efficiency.
- boosting metabolism- deep breathing triggers the release of hormones from the thyroid gland that stimulate metabolism.
- massaging your abdomen and helping to burn fat faster around the mid-region.
- stimulating lymphatic drainage – the lymph vessels form a drainage system throughout the body, getting rid of toxins and transporting nutrients to our cells.
Along with a balanced diet, yoga is an invaluable tool on your weight loss journey. It stimulates your organs and balances the nervous system to help us get rid of kilos and keep them off. A regular practice will make you strong, flexible and fit, we well as raise your energy levels. As an added bonus you will be less depressed, less stressed, more focused, and more mindful of your body. All this will help you to make better health and lifestyle choices. Stepping on the yoga mat will enable you to build healthy habits for a lifetime.
Western Wellness Team
(Your friendly neighbourhood yogis)