Maintaining a healthy weight is extremely important for overall health and wellbeing. Not only will it make you feel better about yourself, but it can also be a major factor in fighting medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea and arthritis. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, maintaining a healthy weight is great for cardiovascular health, and is also controls energy balance. Energy balance is the relationship between energy coming in (food calories) and energy going out (calories being burned), which is a key factor in weight loss.
We all know that exercise is needed in order to maintain a healthy weight. However, some people can be intimated by gyms and feel uncomfortable going to one. This is where yoga comes in, yoga is a fantastic aid for losing weight and keeping it off and you can do in the comfort of your own home – no need for any complicated gym equipment or managing your life around class timetables. Plus, yoga for weight loss can help reduce stress, build muscle and even teach you discipline. Another great aspect of yoga for weight loss is the fact that it can help you to make better dietary decisions due to an increased level of mindfulness and heightened awareness of your own body.
How Does Yoga Work For Weight Loss?
Doing yoga may not necessarily help you to burn as many calories as exercises such as running and cycling would, but it does increase your body awareness and body mindfulness. This means that the more you do yoga, the more you will be aware of the things that you do including what you eat on a daily basis. This will help you make better choices in terms of staying healthy. Many people turn to food when they are stressed out, and yoga can help you to have a better relationship with food as it can reduce stress as well as make you more mindful of food choices.
Yoga combines cardio, muscle building, and mindfulness, all rolled up into one. Classes usually last from 60 to 180 minutes, with your muscles being worked the entire time. The more flexible you become, the more your body will naturally burn away fat so that you can get into the asanas (poses) easier. For example, when practicing Paschimottanasana (Sitting Forward Bend), your stomach may get in the way of you bending even further. So your body will naturally get rid of the extra weight around your belly so that you can bend deeper into the pose. It is a slow process, but it works, and you will not only lose weight, but will keep the weight off with a regular yoga practice. Even if you only do yoga once a week, you will see the results.
Detoxification is an aspect of yoga that is not talked about a lot in the western world, but it is an important element. Especially when it comes to yoga for weight loss. Yoga helps to eliminate impurities from your body like lactic acid, carbon dioxide, and lymphatic fluid. It also cleanses your liver, kidneys and digestive system.
Pretty much every yoga asana addresses some sort of detoxification by either helping to purify the body or the mind. As the body rids itself of impurities, the body then gets rid of excess weight. Twisting poses, like Vakrasana (Simple Spinal Twist), are particularly good for detoxification. Twisting poses squeeze the internal organs and increase blood flow to the liver, stomach, intestines, and spleen. This means that fresh blood is entering these organs, which naturally detoxes them.
Inversions are another great way to detox your body and help with weight loss. When going upside down, or partially upside down like in Viparita Karani (Half Shoulder Stand), you are naturally draining lymph fluids from your legs and re-circulating them throughout the rest of your body. This tells your immune system to work overtime, which results in it working at its best. Inversions also stimulate your thyroid gland and your nervous system, which then boosts your metabolism.
How Often Should I Practice Yoga In Order To Lose Weight?
There is no specific answer to this, as everyone is different, but ideally, yoga should be practiced around three times a week in order to lose weight. This will help you build stamina, strength, and flexibility, which are all things that aid in weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight.
Doing a more active yoga class like Ashtanga, Vinyasa or Power Yoga will mean that you will burn more calories. However, all forms of yoga will promote you to be mindful of your body and diet, which means you will eat better and only give your body the fuel it needs without overdoing it.
How often you should practice yoga to lose weight also depends on whether or not you are doing any other form of exercise. If yoga is your only exercise source, then the more you do it the better. If you are combining yoga with other fitness regimes, then two to three times a week will certainly steer you in the right direction in terms of maintaining a healthy weight.
That said, there are a few additional factors to consider.
A calorie is a unit of measurement that is used when measuring a unit of food energy. Food energy is chemical energy that we get from food, which we need to make our brains, metabolism and internal organs work. We need a minimum amount of food energy each day in order to function properly, but overdoing it may cause adverse effects, like weight gain.
In order to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you take in. This is done through exercise. The more you move, the more calories you will burn. In yoga, the amount of calories that you burn depends on a few factors, like your size, how often you practice, and the intensity of your yoga practice. By doing just three yoga classes a week you will burn calories and trim off some of your weight. If you do yoga five or six times a week you will get much faster results.
The more muscle you build, the faster your metabolism becomes, as muscles boost the metabolism. This means that the more muscle you have the more calories you will burn when you’re resting. We already know that yoga helps to build muscles, so the more you practice the more muscle you will build. And the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn, resulting in you losing weight.
Many people do yoga to help deal with stress. As we have mentioned above, stress can often be a factor in people making poor dietary decisions due to it wreaking havoc on the body’s hormonal response to your internal mind-set and your external environment. Stress plays a big part in hormones, resulting in comfort eating. This will make you gain weight, and keep gaining if it doesn’t stop. Yoga will teach you how to better manage stress and anxiety so that you don’t turn to food for comfort.
Which Style of Yoga is Best for Weight Loss?
All yoga styles are good for weight loss, as they all give you the building blocks that you need to meet your weight goals. Whether this is through calorie burning, mindfulness, detoxing or de-stressing, there is a place for yoga in any weight loss regime. Still, some do burn more calories than others, which means by practicing these forms of yoga you will get faster results. More intense yoga practices are designed to increase your heart rate, promote sweating and create a movement of lymphatic fluid. These are all vital elements in weight loss. But this doesn’t mean that a slow-paced, less intense practice won’t help you lose weight and keep it off.
Ashtanga Yoga is a set of postures that are done in a specific order to build muscle and stamina. It also really helps you with your patience and your memory. The same set of poses are done over and over again until each one is mastered before you can move on to the next level. This often takes years, making it a challenge and an obstacle for yourself. Ashtangis are determined, patient and focused, and it pays off. Results can be seen on a daily basis, as your body becomes more flexible and strong.
While doing Ashtanga, your body will build internal heat and detoxify through the movements and coinciding breathing. As well, the repetition of the practice helps with blood circulation, body awareness, and discipline, which are all great things to learn in order to lose weight and keep it off. In an Ashtanga class, you can burn anywhere from 350 to 550 calories per hour.
Vinyasa Yoga stems from Ashtanga, but there is more variety than in an Ashtanga class. A Vinyasa class is a flowing, continuous movement, where you are moving from one pose to the next in a dance-like manner. You will follow the teacher’s sequence, which is carried on from Ashtanga’s Surya Namaskar A & B (Sun Salutations A & B). The pace is different per class and per teacher, ranging from movement in one breath to movement in up to five breaths.
Like Ashtanga, when you practice Vinyasa you are building heat in your body as well as promoting blood circulation and detoxification. You will also develop strength, increase your suppleness and, of course, lose weight. Some say that a Vinyasa class can feel like you are running a marathon, and you will definitely sweat as if you were. Plus, you could be burning anywhere from 450 to 600 calories in one hour.
Bikram and Hot Yoga
If you love the heat, then these yoga practices may be the best choice for you. These styles of yoga are done in a room that is heated to 40°C with a humidity of 40 percent. Bikram Yoga is a set of 26 poses that are done in each and every class. It was designed to make your heart rate rise and your body sweat. Hot yoga comes from Bikram, though instead of 26 set poses there is much more variety.
Doing yoga in the hot room increases blood flow, flexibility and body heat without the same exertion experienced when practicing other forms of exercise. In fact, a study that was done at Colorado State University found that you will burn the same amount of calories in a 90-minute Bikram Yoga class as you would on a brisk walk.
This slower-paced yoga style is great for beginners, as it teaches you all of the basics. In fact, most yoga is Hatha Yoga, which is the art of doing yoga asanas and breathing at the same time; movement and breath. It is a physical practice, though it is a much gentler form of yoga that consists of hundreds of different poses. Each class can be completely different and can focus on different things. The speed and intensity of the class will differ from one teacher to the next. Hatha yoga will build muscle, burn calories and create mindfulness.
You will not burn as many calories in a Hatha class as you would in an Ashtanga, Vinyasa or Hot Yoga class. Still, you still can burn up to 300 calories, depending on the intensity of it. But that is the beauty of Hatha. There are so many different ways to do it, from basic stretches to power classes that build large muscle groups. Plus, you often get pranayama (breathing exercises) thrown in, creating an all over yoga practice.
Is Yoga enough on its Own to Lose Weight?
This depends on what style of yoga you are practicing. If you are doing a slower-paced style of yoga than you may want to add in a bit of cardio for optimum health and weight loss. If you are practicing a more intense form of yoga, then yes, yoga alone is enough to lose weight. Especially when combined with healthy eating. But in terms of adding in some other form of exercise, it really isn’t necessary. Here are a few reasons why.
Cardiorespiratory fitness is the fitness of your heart, lungs and blood vessels. The better your cardiorespiratory fitness is, the higher your energy levels will be, which will help in preventing a number of cardiovascular diseases. These are the leading cause of death around the world today, with physical activity being one of the greatest preventative measures. A study done by the Department of Exercise Medicine and Cardiovascular Rehabilitation at the University Hospital Olomouc in the Czech Republic in which a group of 16 males of various ages practiced yoga for one hour each day over the course of two years were tested against 16 males of the same ages that practiced some other form of aerobic activity. The results showed that the group of men doing yoga had significantly higher cardiorespiratory fitness scores.
Muscular fitness is a combination of strength and endurance. In order to maintain our muscle fitness, we must exercise regularly. Otherwise, we will become weak and lose both balance and coordination. We have already learned that building muscle increases our metabolism and that yoga helps to build muscles. So the muscular fitness needed to lose weight and keep it off can be achieved by a regular yoga practice.
Healthy Body = Healthy Mind
This has been mentioned earlier, but being able to remain mindful really does work towards losing weight. Yoga makes you more aware of yourself, your connection to food and your overall wellbeing. Being aware of these things means that you will be more cautious of things that you eat, things that you do and the way that you feel about yourself. Having mindfulness will allow you to read signs of hunger and fullness, as well as being able to control cravings. You will focus your attention on the present, resulting in much better eating habits. The mindfulness diet is a great way to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
The Top 5 Yoga Poses For Weight Loss & Strength
There are so many different yoga poses, with each style of yoga incorporating different poses into a structured yoga class. Each asana aims at stretching and strengthening different areas of the body, though some are better than others in terms of trimming off extra weight and really creating muscles. Here are the top 5 yoga poses for weight loss and strength.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Also known as Downward Facing Dog, Adho Mukha Svanasana is the ultimate all-over stretch that also happens to strengthen your arms, your core, and your legs. As well, it stimulates digestion, calms the mind, energizes the body and relieves back pain. Adho Mukha Svanasana is done in Sun Salutations A & B, although it is easy enough to do on its own as well.
A few things to remember when practicing this pose is to keep your fingers stretched, with your middle fingers facing forward parallel to each other. This ensures that the weight is distributed evenly throughout the palms of your hands, which should be directly under your shoulder blades. You also want to make sure that your shoulders are open and your neck is in a relaxed position, as this will take strain and stress away from them. Finally, you want to curl your tailbone up so that your sit bones are pointed up to the sky.
Utkatasana (Chair Pose) strengthens your thighs, calves, and buttocks. It will also work your core, your back, and your arms. Plus, it stimulates the diaphragm, abdominal organs, and the heart, so in addition to building strength, it is also a fantastic pose for overall weight loss.
When in Utkatasana, it is important not to push your tailbone out, as this can put pressure on your lower back. Instead, you want to keep your spine straight, which will work your core. Also, make sure that your shoulders are down away from your ears, otherwise you can strain your neck.
This is one of the best yoga poses for getting rid of weight around the midriff and strengthening the abdominal muscles. It also increases the muscles in your inner thighs and can shrink fat around your hips. So basically, it slims and strengthens all of the areas where women are known to put on access weight. Plus, it works on your balance, your stamina, and your patience, as well as stimulating your thyroid glands, kidneys and intestines.
It is important to keep your chest open when in Navasana (Boat Pose) so that you do not curve your spin. This will put extra pressure on your lower back, which is exactly where you will feel it. If this happens, bring your shoulders back and your sternum up so that you are using your abdominal muscles and thigh muscles to stay in the pose, not your lower back. To make the yoga pose a little bit easier, bend your knees rather than keeping your legs straight.
Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) requires you to support your body with your upper arms, using your abdominal muscles to keep your body parallel to the floor. It strengthens your triceps, biceps, shoulders, and wrists, while also working your abdominal muscles. Like Downward Facing Dog, Chaturanga Dandasana is usually performed during Sun Salutations A & B, but it too can be practiced on its own.
This is quite a difficult pose to master. If you are a beginner, try putting some sort of support below you parallel to your spine (like a rolled up blanket or a pillow). Use it as a light support for yourself, so you are still building strength but softly floating above it. You can also keep your arms straight in Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana (Plank Pose) and lower yourself down bit by bit until you build the strength to do a complete Chaturanga Dandasana.
Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2 Pose) focuses on the legs and the hip flexors, strengthening your entire legs and your ankles, while also opening up your hips and stabilising your core. It fuels the abdominal organs and builds stamina. All-in-all, Virabhadrasana II is a great pose for yoga for weight loss.
A few important things to remember when doing this pose is that your hips, torso, and spine should be facing forward, not tilting to one side. Also, you want your arms to be parallel to the floor and in line with one another. Finally, be sure that your knee is in line with your ankle so that you do not over extend, as this can cause injury to your knee.
How Yoga Can Help You Achieve Weight-Loss Goals — Both On & Off the Mat
You have already learned how yoga can help you with weight loss on the mat by building strength, burning calories and shedding pounds. Yoga can also be extremely positive in your everyday life off of the mat, helping you to have a more positive body image, a better relationship with food and an overall healthier attitude. Here are few further explanations on how yoga can help you achieve weight-loss goals both on and off the mat.
Better Body Image
Everyone has a body image that they perceive of themselves, regardless of their shape and size. However, body image has two sides; the mental picture and attitude. With a positive attitude, your mental or physical body image will decrease, as you will become more accepting of yourself and of your body.
Yoga helps you develop inner awareness and abilities. You will fast learn that everyone is different, and everyone has their strengths and their weaknesses. You will become more aware of what your body will allow you to do and not to do by actually feeling and being aware. You will learn what your strengths and weaknesses are, and you will learn to work with them as opposed to only caring about what you look like. The more supple and strong you become, the better your yoga practice will be, which will have a great impact on your body image.
Having mindfulness means that you are focusing your attention on your experiences and not judging yourself. You are aware of your surroundings, which allows you to be in tune with your body and what it wants. Mindfulness takes you to the present but goes far beyond a yoga mat. In fact, it helps in everyday life, particularly when it comes to eating.
Mindful eating will allow you to sense your hunger and know when you are full when you need to eat more or even when you don’t need any food at all. It will give you a much healthier relationship with food and will make you more aware of what you are eating. You will organically want to eat things that look, taste and smell better, with healthy being the key. You will also be able to curb food cravings, especially those caused by stress.
Yoga has an extremely positive effect on cardiovascular risks and has actually been known to restore baroreceptor sensitivity. This is what helps the body naturally sense imbalances in blood pressure. It can help healthy people maintain good cardiovascular health and improve those that don’t. In fact, yoga has been known to lower blood-sugar levels and has helped patients with coronary artery disease. It can also help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, which is great for your arteries and overall heart health.
Yoga & Mindful Eating
As mentioned earlier, a regular yoga practice helps with mindful eating. People who eat mindfully tend to be healthier and are less likely to become or to stay obese. A study done by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has proven this. The four year study found that people who practiced yoga regularly either maintained a normal body weight or lost weight. Researchers found that it had more to do with increased body awareness than the physical practice itself. It also showed that people who had a regular yoga practice gained less weight over a 10 year period than those that did not do any yoga at all.
It is a proven fact that people who eat mindfully have a better chance of losing weight and actually weigh less than those who eat mindlessly. In the same study done at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, researchers found that there is a strong connection between yoga and mindful eating, but there was no such connection with other types of physical activity.
Another study that was performed in Australia also found that there was a deep connection between yoga and mindful eating. In this study, 169 women were chosen from fitness centres, yoga centres, and the community. They examined the roles of mindfulness and body awareness in terms of the relationship between exercise and eating behaviour. Researchers found that those that practiced yoga had significantly higher body awareness and mindful eating habits than those that did cardio-based exercises.
Benefits of Mindful Eating
Once you learn the art of mindful eating you will no longer be interested in eating just to eat, but instead, eating for satisfaction. You will be eating to give your body fuel, but not too much fuel. Just enough to make you feel content. Plus, you won’t feel guilty about sometimes enjoying a cookie or two before bed.
There are many benefits to mindful eating, with none of them having to do so much with what you eat. Instead, mindful eating focuses on knowing when to eat and how much to eat, so you do not binge eat or eat under stress. It will put you more in touch with your feelings of hunger and fullness, which results in both losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight. Mindful eating will give you a healthy relationship with food so that you can enjoy every bite on your plate.
Yoga and Eating Healthy
In addition to helping you achieve mindful eating, yoga may make you want to eat healthier. Yoga has always been known as a healthy way of life, and with this comes healthy eating. As you become more strong and flexible, and your body is detoxing, you will naturally want to start to eat better and will become more mindful of what you are eating. This could be something as simple as cutting sugar out of your diet, becoming vegetarian, going gluten-free, or adding more fruits and vegetables to every meal.
Yoga may make you start to eat more natural products; cutting out chemicals and preservatives. You make a conscious decision to stop drinking all forms of alcohol and/or carbonated beverages. There are a number of ways that yoga and eating healthy are related. In fact, they seem to go hand in hand in terms of living a healthier life and losing weight.
Yoga for Belly Fat
Having too much belly fat can really affect your lifestyle. It is one of the most dangerous places to carry excess weight. Belly fat is closely linked to type 2 diabetes, heart diseases and even some forms of cancer, so getting rid of it should be a top priority. And to most people it is. Unfortunately, stomach fat is one of the hardest things to get rid of all, although it is not impossible to do with hard work. Yoga is a fantastic way to lose fat around your midriff. Here are the top five yoga poses for reducing belly fat.
When in Padahastasana (Standing Forward Bend), your stomach is completely compressed, which will help you burn and reduce tummy fat. It will also improve your digestion, which is another aid in losing belly fat. A healthy digestive system means a healthy belly.
Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) strengthens the back, abdomen, and arms, while at the same time reducing fat around your belly. It also elongates your spine, which helps to keep your entire core strong. A strong core means reduced belly fat, as your body will want to naturally stand straighter with your stomach pulled in. This means that you will use your abdominal muscles even when you are off the mat, which will greatly reduce the size of your waist.
This is one of the best asanas for strengthening the core. You can even take Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) further by rolling backwards and forwards, rolling on your stomach. This stimulates your metabolism and activates your digestive system, which results in shrinking belly fat. It also gives your body a good stretch.
Pavanamukthasana (Wind-Relieving Pose) massages your spine, your colon, and your sit bones. It also tones your abs, hips, and thighs. This simple pose is also believed to help balance pH levels in the body, which will stimulate your metabolism and boost stomach health.
Like Padahastasana, Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) also compresses your tummy, as well as arouse your solar plexus. The solar plexus is the nerves of the sympathetic system near the pit of your stomach. Stimulating these will help you get rid of a pudgy belly, as well as improve your digestive system. This pose also stretches your hamstrings, thighs, and back.
Yoga to Strengthen & Stretch the Glutes and Lower Body
Not only do strong glutes and legs look good, but they also stabilise the lower back, hips, and knees. On top of that, stretching the lower body will improve your range of motion, which will have positive effects on your life. You will find that things like getting out of a chair or rolling out of bed after a good night’s sleep will be that much easier when you have strong, flexible glutes, hips and legs. Here are the five best yoga poses to strengthen and stretch the glutes and lower body.
You will look like a dancer in Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose), which stretches the thighs and groins, while also strengthening your legs. This yoga pose will also greatly improve your balance. If you are having problems balancing while doing Natarajasana, then grab onto a wall. This will keep you stable while still stretching and strengthening your lower body.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
This is one of the best poses to do to build up the glutes and lower body. Plus, it also elongates the spine, chest, and neck. When doing Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) you are pushing your pubic bones up to the sky using your gluteus maximus. This strengthens them as well as your inner thighs, resulting in toned glutes and legs. When doing Setu Bandha Sarvangasana make sure that your knees are in line with your ankles so that you do not put unnecessary pressure on your knees.
Commonly known as Triangle Pose, Trikonasana strengthens the thighs, knees, and ankles. It also stretches the hips, groins, and hamstrings. It is important when doing this to keep your hips in line. As soon as you start to feel your upper body bending forward you have stretched too far. They key is that you want to be able to feel your hip pulling and your hamstrings stretching.
Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1 Pose) is included in Surya Namaskara B (Sun Salutation B), but when held for five breaths it will really work your glutes, hip flexors, and thighs. It also builds muscle in the shoulders, arms, and back. When you are doing Virabhadrasana I, make sure that your knee is directly over your ankle and your pelvis is not tipping forward. If you have trouble doing this with your back heel on the mat, raise your heel on a sandbag or a rolled up blanket.
Standing on one leg can be challenging for some, but it is also a great way to strengthen your lower body. Your leg holds up the weight of your entire body, which works your glutes, your hips, your legs and your ankles. Vrikasana (Tree Pose) also stretches the inner thighs, groins, chest, and shoulders, as well as improving your sense of balance. If you are having difficulty balancing, try holding a wall or standing with your back against one. As well, it is easier to keep your hands at heart centre or out to the sides than it is to raise them above your head.
There is no doubt that yoga for weight loss works, this is due to both the challenging physical aspects of the practice, as well as the positive mental effect it brings. You will be hard pushed to find another form of exercise that is able to have all of the positive effects on you and your body (inside and out) that yoga does, and it should be something that everyone brings into their lives. The best way to use yoga for weight loss is to attend yoga classes, but you can also watch YouTube videos or read more articles on yoga and its weight loss benefits.