you have time for yoga!
Why try Yoga for Weight Loss?
Starting to practice yoga can transform the rest of your life. Many people who have taken up yoga advise that if you practice regularly things begin to shift (for the positive) in other areas of your life off the mat.
According to medical research, many trials have been published on the health benefits of yoga. Yoga certainly increases strength, balance and flexibility.
Furthermore, yoga may be beneficial to people with heart disease, high blood pressure, backache, depression and stress.
However, this post is particularly interested in yoga for weight loss. Does yoga for weight loss work and why is the question we aim to examine.
Scientific Evidence for Yoga for Weight Loss
Although the health benefits of yoga are becoming increasingly accepted in medical circles, there is general agreement amongst specialists that a lot more top-quality research is necessary.
However, a relatively recent research study claims that yoga practice does actually help with weight loss.
The 2016 study concludes that yoga practice improves obesity-related outcomes. Furthermore, improvements following yoga include a decrease in Body Mass Index (BMI), body weight, body fat and waist circumference.
The research study included two groups:-
- People who were overweight and had struggled for years to lose weight
- People who were of normal weight and had lost weight unintentionally
Subjects in the study had practised yoga between one and 45 years. They reported an average weight loss of just over 26 pounds. Prior to losing weight, just over half of the subjects were overweight or obese.
How does Yoga for Weight Loss Work?
According to our 2016 study there is NO single factor that contributes to weight loss.
The conclusion of this study is that …
“…yoga can offer diverse behavioral, physical and psychosocial effects that make it a useful tool for weight loss.”
However, the study identifies five main themes as to why yoga for weight loss is a useful tool and these are:-
- A shift towards more healthy eating
- The positive benefits of the yoga community/yoga culture
- Physical Changes
- Psychological Changes
- A different weight loss experience
So, let’s take a look at each theme in turn and find out exactly how yoga for weight loss works.
1) A Shift towards Healthy Eating
From the 2016 study 90% of the participants that practised yoga reported a shift toward healthy eating. This change to healthy eating is a major factor as to why yoga for weight loss is a beneficial tool.
Furthermore, the researchers divided the shift towards healthy eating into three further subgroups. Indeed yoga practice, according to the study, led to three changes regarding healthy eating and these are:-
- An increase in mindful eating
- Changes towards healthier food choices
- A decrease in emotional and stress eating
As yoga practice continues study participants started to realise that the amount of food they ate and the type of food had a negative impact on their yoga practice. Participants became aware of the negative effects of certain foods, such as sugar, dairy, meat and alcohol, on their practice.
2) The Yoga Community and Yoga Culture
Indeed, 60% of the study subjects, especially those that were overweight, stated that support from the yoga group and the yoga teacher helped with weight loss.
The yoga groups hold different attitudes to traditional weight loss arenas, such as diet groups and the gym. Furthermore, the yoga teacher served as a role model for healthy behaviour. This may be due to the fact that weight loss is not a primary focus in yoga practice rather it is a holistic approach to body and emotional well being.
In general, participants felt that the yoga community offers acceptance of all and this attitude passes on to how individuals treat themselves.
but with me in it.
3) Physical Changes
All 20 of the participants in the research study experienced physical changes that they attribute to yoga.
Furthermore subjects separated the physical changes after yoga practice into several subcategories and these are:-
- Increased muscle tone: Most yoga participants thought that yoga practice has helped to build and tone muscles. In addition, this correlates to changes in specific body areas. For example, nearly half of the study subjects lost weight around the waist.
- Metabolic changes: ‘Muscle mass increases metabolic rate’ is a theory that is debated by health specialists. However, the participants of the study believed that their metabolic rate had increased due to the development of muscle as a result of yoga practice.
- Weight Loss: Several of the yoga participants, including those with a normal Body Mass Index, experienced unintentional weight loss. Average weight loss in all subjects was 26 pounds.
4) Psychological Changes
5) A totally different Experience with Yoga for Weight Loss
Subjects from the study who were overweight before they began yoga practice, had all tried (unsuccessfully) to lose weight through dieting in the past.
However, the preoccupation with weight loss and dieting only led to weight regain. This is not a new theory, research studies in the past have clearly demonstrated that yo-yo dieting leads to weight gain in the long-term.
In our study, the main difference with yoga is that the weight loss was often unintentional and not difficult. Furthermore, after regular yoga practice, participants did NOT regain the weight, like in the past.
Top Tips for Yoga Practice
1) Accept yourself and Persevere
You are not going to be able to do every single pose when you first start yoga class. Importantly, it takes persistence and self confidence. To understand this is the main key to unlocking the benefits of yoga.
Try not to get too frustrated at yourself if you fall out of a pose or can not hold a headstand. You may find yourself taking the time to try and work on the poses rather than getting stressed out and being too hard on yourself.
Be sure to accept your level in class. This acceptance also helps you to accept your place in the world. The power of yoga? Yoga reminds you that if you don’t like where you are you have to make a change by working hard.
2) Focus your mind and get more Productive
Yoga is all about turning off your thoughts and clearing your head. Yoga helps you to be more in tune with your body and mind. Indeed, you can not be thinking about that email you have to write or that friend you have to call. You will not be able to reap the full yoga benefits if your focus is on something else.
However, as you learn focus within yoga practice and clear your mind you may well find that you can concentrate more on that work project because you have learnt how to avoid all sorts of distractions.
3) Yoga relaxes your Mind and Body
Being overweight, or being even a little bit bigger than your ideal weight is an indicator that something is out of balance.
Furthermore, stress is a huge factor that contributes to weight gain. Yoga is a very simple way to help you relax. When you practice yoga, you bring a deep sense of relaxation to your body and mind.
As your body and mind begin to learn how to relax, you can ease the stress in your life. As you tune into your body and maintain a calm state, stress eating will reduce. Hence, yoga for weight loss may be the way forward for some.
Furthermore, yoga is said to help access and release negative emotions. As you become more attuned to your physical body, you also tune in to your emotions and feelings. This can be an ideal platform to recognise and release negative feelings that may be holding you back.
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- Ross A, Brooks A, Touchton-Leonard K, Wallen G. (2014) A Different Weight Loss Experience: A Qualitative Study Exploring the Behavioral, Physical, and Psychosocial Changes Associated with Yoga That Promote Weight Loss. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016; 2016: 2914745. (Retrieved July 6th 2017) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4995338/
- Sengupta P. (2008) Health Impacts of Yoga and Pranayama: A State-of-the-Art Review. Int J Prev Med. 2012 Jul; 3(7): 444–458. (Retrieved July 6th 2017) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3415184/
- Taneja DK (2008) Yoga and Health. Indian J Community Med. 2014 Apr-Jun; 39(2): 68–72. (Retrieved July 6th 2017) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4067931/