Yoga was developed in Northern India some 5,000 years ago as a way to use physical movement and a meditative mindset to explore the connection between the spirit and the body. Although the explosion of yoga classes, studios, and yoga-related gear seems relatively recent, the benefits of yoga were first popularized in the West in the 1890’s. This article will explore the Benefits of Yoga for Weight Loss purposes.
There’s a spectrum of mindsets in how you can approach yoga. Some people see it as a lifestyle and a way to harmonize the mind and body, while others look at it as a way to practice physical fitness in a calming, low-impact way. Regardless of what yoga may mean to you, there are a ton of different benefits of yoga for weight loss and your overall health.
Benefits of Yoga for Weight Loss
Although there are many “magic” solutions out there for weight loss, the core of every diet and exercise program is that you need to burn more calories than you take in. At the end of the day, weight loss is a basic math equation. And, because our bodies are very efficient, exercise alone may not result in the drastic results you hope for – it’s changing your diet that is the main catalyst in losing weight. In other words, you can’t expect to lose weight by doing yoga if you’re going to frequently eat fast food.
That said, exercises for weight loss, such as yoga, will work well for losing body fat and improving the way your body looks even if the scale doesn’t budge that much. Regular yoga practice has been proven to assist in significant weight loss and increase muscle while also helping to avoid weight gain. The psychological benefits can also help improve your relationship with food – such as strengthening mindful eating habits.
The psychological benefits can also help improve your relationship with food – such as strengthening mindful eating habits. I’m not aware of any studies on this but I’ll say this, I’ve never met anyone who has been doing yoga for an extended period of time who is grossly overweight. There is something about the activity that triggers a lifestyle change. Again, that’s my “eye test”. Nothing scientific about it so if you know different, please share in the comments.
The Health Benefits of Yoga
Beyond weight loss, there are a ton of other ways yoga can help to improve your health. Weight loss may end up being a “secondary” benefit of yoga due to the mental and physical improvements it helps create.
Yoga can be a low-impact, low-intensity exercise for people of all ages and levels of fitness. Look for classes or YouTube videos of Hatha or Iyengar yoga techniques for a gentle full-body workout. These types of yoga focus on breathing, deliberate movements, and flowing poses. You can build strength, balance, and flexibility with regular practice.
Many yoga poses also have modifications to make them easier for people with mobility issues, arthritis, and other conditions. If you are want to improve your physical fitness but are afraid of overworking yourself, injuring yourself, or aggravating an old injury, yoga can be your “gateway” to improved fitness.
Yoga has also been described as “an exercise in breathing”. Deep breathing has been proven to stimulate and benefit the lymph system, a critical aspect of overall health.
For more advanced students looking for a high-intensity workout, hot yoga, Bikram, or power yoga is the way to go. Obviously, flexibility is an asset achieved through yoga but the strength one gains over time are grossly under reported. Increases in joint durability, particularly the knees, hips, and shoulders are immense. In addition, arthritis.org reports that:
Sharon Kolasinski, MD, a professor of clinical medicine and a rheumatologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia studied the effects of yoga on people with knee osteoarthritis (OA). She found that subjects taking 90-minute, modified Iyengar yoga classes once a week for eight weeks reported significant reductions in pain and improvements in physical function, as well as noticeable improvements in joint stiffness.
Yoga Appears to Improve Heart Health
Studies have shown that yoga has helped to lower the blood pressure of people with hypertension. It can also improve lipid profiles in both healthy people and people with coronary artery disease. It even improved blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 Diabetes. At the very least, yoga is known to provide stress relief, which can help people with high blood pressure.
Yoga Mental Health Benefits
If you struggle with body image issues or mindful eating, yoga’s mindfulness focus can help you get in touch with your body. Because many of the exercises result in easing tension from the body, it can help improve anxiety and stress.
Yoga has been shown to improve one’s stress response, mood, and overall mental functioning exponentially. Who couldn’t use some increase mental functioning in today’s world?
Hot Yoga vs Yoga – What’s the Difference?
While there are different ways to practice yoga, hot yoga has a pretty obvious difference from other types of yoga: the room you practice in is heated to 95 degrees or higher, with the humidity cranked up as well. Bikram is a specific practice that involves a room heated to 105 degrees, but not all hot yoga is Bikram.
What are some of the benefits of hot yoga?
Increased muscle and joint flexibility: The heat increases blood-flow to your muscles and joints, helping to loosen up tight muscles and make your poses more effective.
Improved sleep: Although “regular” yoga also has stress-relieving benefits that can improve your sleep, the heat involved in hot yoga can result in a deeper full-body relaxation for some people as well as aiding in detoxing the body.
A more intense workout: Some people find sweat cleansing and rewarding, and you’ll definitely sweat during a hot yoga session. The greater intensity can leave you feeling satisfied and fulfilled.
Hot Yoga Participants Swear By It
There isn’t a ton of research yet confirming the differences between hot yoga and regular yoga. For instance, the jury’s still out on whether you can lose more weight with hot yoga than regular yoga. At the very least, you’ll definitely shed some water weight from all that sweat. This will result in short term weight loss, but your body will eventually find its balance. Also, it’s very important that you rehydrate over the course of the day when doing hot yoga.
When practicing hot yoga, look out for warning signs that the heat is too much for you. These include dizziness, nausea, muscle cramps, and headaches during or after the session. People with medical conditions, especially heart issues, should check with their doctor before getting into hot yoga.
Should You Practice Yoga to Lose Weight?
Yes! Losing weight is as much mental as it is physical, and making those lifestyle changes can be daunting. As stated earlier, there’s something about the practice of yoga that facilitates a desire for a healthy lifestyle. I believe it becomes a healthy addiction. Whereas, going to the gym can be a painful, necessary evil for many – an activity that requires battling the urge to just go home and skip it. Practicing yoga can help make the process less stressful. Since it can also help improve your mood and body image, you may find it easier to make healthier choices which help in your effort to lose weight fast.
Practicing yoga over time seems to become something students look forward to. That’s a big win for those of you who hate the gym. If you happen to be one of those who falls in love with yoga, you’re likely not going to opt for a night of drinking followed by raiding your fridge when you have the late night munchies. Especially if you can’t wait to catch that 6 AM hot yoga class tomorrow morning!
REMINDER: Talk to your doctor or consult a dietitian if you have questions or concerns.