When someone brings up yoga, an intense workout and weight loss don’t usually come to mind. Yoga is known for creating mindfulness, serenity, peace, and reflection. Its postures are also known for helping with flexibility and strength. But what about weight loss? Weight loss is not typically the reason that one takes up yoga. However, although it is not a high impact activity, some weight loss can be associated with practicing it. Yet still, it’s not a simple yes or no answer; yoga is much more complicated than that.
When it comes down to it, practicing yoga is about the physical development of your body, coupled with the mental and spiritual development of your mind. This combination allows for yoga’s ultimate goal to happen: the best version of yourself comes shining through. Weight loss may accompany this development, but it is not and shouldn’t be the main reason you decide to do yoga. Yoga is so much more to it than just a workout!
However, if weight loss is your goal, then you must first understand how it works.
Generally speaking, weight loss occurs when your calorie intake is less than your caloric expenditure. Meaning that you expend more energy in exercise and movement than you do taking in calories through food and drink. Typically, most people need to adjust their calorie intake by lowering it when trying to lose weight and then couple that with more exercise.
A great way to adjust your calorie intake and encourage weight loss, as well as healthier eating habits in general, is to adopt a moderate to full plant-based diet. The yoga lifestyle promotes moving away from meat products and becoming more plant-based. By adding this change to your yoga practice, you will see a more significant change in your body. You can learn more about the benefits of a plant-based diet HERE
In comparison to other forms of exercise like jogging, cycling, rowing, etc… yoga burns fewer calories than these higher intensity workouts. On the flip side, yoga practice makes you more aware of your body and its capabilities-thus, encouraging a whole-body approach. It helps you to become more self-aware and conscious of your habits. Certain foods can make you feel more sluggish during a yoga class. By focusing in how your body feels during your practice, you may be more inclined to make healthier food choices when you are off your mat.
Part of the beauty of yoga is the importance that it places on being relaxed. When individuals are stressed, they tend to consume more calories due to stress. Yoga helps to combat stress and therefore minimizes the effects of stress eating.
What type of yoga is good for weight loss?
Not just any yoga will assist in weight loss, however. For a change in the body to be seen and felt, it’s crucial to choose a form of yoga that is challenging and one that has continual activity. This is important because you want your heart rate to go up while working out to burn more calories. Some forms of yoga are more stretching and meditation-based. These, while incredibly effective at working certain aspects of overall health, will not be the best choice for weight loss. Choosing a more vigorous style of yoga-like Ashtanga, Vinyasa or Power Yoga are better choices. These styles have a higher intensity and longer class time. Continuous movement and flow from pose to pose will have a higher cardiovascular benefit. This will help burn more calories, stretch, and tone your muscles along with aiding in the traditional flexibility aspects.
You may find that these are challenging at the beginning, but yoga has this incredible ability to foster mindfulness in a way that other forms of exercise do not. This new outlook helps you to realize when your body is working well and when you need to treat it more kindly. Treating your body to better nutrition helps foster a better practice, and it soon becomes a circle that gives multiple befits in several areas of life. All this together will make your practice easier and your body stronger and more adaptable.
Yoga and your sleeping habits
Yoga has many benefits, and one of them is that it often is conducive to better sleep. The quality of your sleep once you begin practicing yoga is often improved. You may find that you can fall asleep easier and even sleep longer and more deeply with a consistent yoga practice. The ideal amount of sleep per night is about six to nine hours, depending on the person.
So how does this relate to weight loss?
The more and the better you sleep, the less calories you will consume. This is true, especially in the evenings. Most people find that this time of day that is hardest to control cravings. The desire to eat even when you are not hungry tends to increase as the evening progresses. By going to sleep earlier, you will minimize the amount of time that is the hardest to control.
As well, several studies have shown that in various groups of people who both work out and eat the same amount, there is an increase in weight loss for those who sleep more! So, this means that yoga can both help you sleep better and help you lose weight at the same time! Not many other activities can do that!
Another benefit of yoga for weight loss is the meditation and guided intention setting. These areas can help with the goal-setting associated with weight loss. Set your weight loss goals, then use those goals as intentions in your practice even as your overall intention as you shop for groceries and prepare meals.
Yoga and calorie burning
As we mentioned above, some yoga styles lend themselves more to calories burning than others. Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Power Yoga are among these three. These styles have a continuous flow and more of an aerobic feel to them. They will raise your heart rate significantly and keep you moving. They also are often done in a hot yoga studio. Hot yoga classes are fabulous for sweating out the toxins that accumulate in the body and helping you to burn more calories. All of this movement will, in turn, help boost your metabolism and ultimately burn more calories.
Like all workouts, yoga for metabolism and calorie burning purposes is best done first thing in the morning. By getting in your workout early in the day, you set the tone for the day in terms of making healthy eating choices, and your metabolism is given an early morning boost.
How often should you practice yoga?
All forms of exercise have more significant results when practiced regularly, and yoga is no different. If your goal is weight loss, then choosing a vigorous yoga style and committing to regular practice is best. Attending sessions to four to five times per week will be most beneficial.
However, if you are a beginner, it’s best to start slow and lead up to multiple times per week. Try a vigorous class one day followed by a gentle practice like Hatha, Yin, or Restorative Yoga the following time. You can start by two or three times per week and slowly work your way up to every day or almost every day. This can be done at home or a studio.
Alongside this, your nutrition should be carefully examined. Add in the exercise, and you will see a difference. Add to that a few changes in your regular eating habits, and you will see massive differences in your weight and overall body shape. Healthy whole foods and portion control will help to shape your body into a leaner, stronger version of yourself. Ultimately it should be about more than weight loss -a total transformation.
Another option is to combine your yoga practice with another form of exercise. Alternating walking or jogging days with yoga days are a great way to balance out your training and work for all the muscle groups. Not to mention that this will increase your cardiovascular health!
Yoga at home
Sometimes, going to the studio is not possible or convenient. But one of the great things about yoga is that it can be done anywhere. As long as you have your mat and some knowledge of the poses, you can do a great workout right at home.
Options for home yoga can be done by following along with one of the many online programs or simply lighting some candles, putting on some Zen music in the background, and following the beat of your drum.
Typically, practice will start with ten sun salutations. This means diving down to the floor and through to downward dog with as many or as little variations as you wish. Starting like this gets the body and blood moving and prepares your mind to focus in your intention for the day.
Often flowed to through downward dog, the plank is similar to a push-up position, and it engages the entire body. During the sun salutation, you can choose to flow through a plank pose and hold it for as long as you can before continuing through. The plank works all the muscles in the body and is a great strength trainer.
Lying flat on your stomach, grab your feet behind you and gently lift your chest while pulling into your feet and lifting them higher. This is not only an excellent stretch for the back but also the quads.
Other positions can include warrior one and two as well as tree pose and pigeon. Each of these has basic variations as well as intermediate and advanced ones.
After a few classes, it becomes easy to replicate the poses on your own. Some people are committed to the class, and others prefer to practice alone. No matter what your choice is, just be sure that you understand how to position yourself in each pose properly.
Still, feel that you need some guidance? No problem! There is plenty of online help, just like this video. Watch it HERE!
Yoga requires commitment, especially if you are doing it to lose weight. Small changes, modest goals, and remaining present in your mindset and always focusing on your intention will help. As you begin to move deeper into awareness, you will see the connection between the mind and the body. It will become easier to understand how healthy living and eating can influence your practice and your body. Although yoga is not designed to be a weight-loss technique, it most definitely can be as you become more involved in yoga as a lifestyle.