While most yoga practitioners do yoga for other reasons, can yoga help you lose weight as well?
Many people think of yoga as a great stress-reliever, or a way to improve flexibility and stretch tight muscles. But what about weight loss? In fact, you may be surprised to learn just how effective yoga can be at helping you lose weight – although this is more of a “side effect” than the main goal for most yoga practitioners.
Yoga physically burns fewer calories than traditional exercising like jogging or running. But because of the internal and external changes your body and mind may experience when you consistently practice yoga, you may in fact find yourself losing more weight than you would when performing traditional “weight loss” exercise methods such as cardio.
Beth Lewis is an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota School of Kinesiology in the United States. She has stated that regular yoga exercise tends to influence weight loss rather than directly causing it.
The regular weight loss you are familiar with is when you burn more calories than you consume. And to some extent (depending on what type of yoga you practice), yoga will contribute to your weight loss efforts in this way. But the spiritual and mental understanding of how your body works that comes with practicing yoga over time is what leads to a realization of what is causing your weight gain. This deeper understanding of how your body works – and what impacts its health – changes both your energy intake and expenditure, and has consistently been proven to contribute significantly to weight loss, until your personal healthy body weight is achieved.
So while yoga can definitely help you lose weight and get in shape, do not expect the pounds to melt off as quickly as with some other forms of exercise. Remember that yoga was developed as a spiritual and religious practice, not as a physical exercise – although that is how it is generally approached here in the West. Since yoga teaches you to focus inward and pay attention to your body, helping you to achieve harmony in both mind and body, you may find it easier to seek out healthier foods and habits which can relate to losing weight and fat.
And if you are one of those people who “stress eats,” yoga can definitely help there! Significant studies have shown stress levels plummet in veteran yogis and even beginning yoga practitioners that regularly practice this ancient mind-body cleanser.
Additionally, remember that there are a number of different levels and types of yoga. Some forms of yoga are more physically intense and energetic than others, providing more of a metabolic boost. If weight loss is important to you, you may wish to try types of yoga such as Bikram or Kundalini.
Since yoga is a sophisticated tradition involving metaphysical, internal and external functions and delivering physical, mental and spiritual benefits, the improvements you will receive with regular practice are numerous and go far beyond just weight loss. But if you are looking to lose weight, you may discover that practicing yoga 3 to 5 times a week provides noticeable weight loss benefits as well.