Living a healthy life should be a goal for every single one of us, at least living as healthier as we can. Is it only yogical? See what I did there?
Throughout history, yoga has been practiced and nurtured as a way of relaxation and recreation. I can tell you right away that those "myths" about yoga and the spirit of it are true.
This is of incredible importance to us because of the way our body connects with our mind. In order to have a good life and a life that we always wanted and dreamed of, we need to put all pieces of the puzzle together. What I mean by that is – our mind and body must work together! People get sick just because their bodies and mind aren't aligned. Yoga can help with that. It's proven that yoga can be used as a depression treatment.
As you can see, yoga is a way of connecting the two, nurturing your body and your soul. It is only logical that it can benefit both areas; for example, yoga helps with arthritis muscle pain as well (1). We will talk about many other benefits, but first things first - how did it become what it is?
The History of Yoga
The reason why I will talk about the history of yoga is that I want to bring you closer to this lifestyle and help you understand how serious it can be. This is an interesting one. Did you know that the Indus-Sarasvati civilization developed yoga 5000 years ago?
I was blown away by that fact, and here is another.
The word – yoga – was found in the sacred scripts called "The Rig Veda." Vedas were collections of rituals, songs, and other similar cult mantras. As you can see, yoga isn't just some popular technique developed by a guy from a gym. It has a huge, complex background.
Can You Lose Weight with Yoga?
Unlike cardio training, yoga doesn’t seem like a high-impact workout. But, it’s still not that difficult to come across people who credit yoga for their weight loss.
What’s up with that? Are they making things up? The short answer is no. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Although yoga is a subject of many studies, most of them focus on different aspects of the physical and psychological health of a person. Not many of them explored the impact of yoga practice on a person’s weight. That said, current evidence shows you should definitely consider practicing yoga if you want to slim down.
For example, a study from Germany found an intensive yoga intervention lasting 12 weeks reduced waist circumference, waist-hip ratio, body weight, BMI, and body fat percentage in women with abdominal obesity (2). At the same time, yoga increased their muscle mass percentage. Scientists also found yoga improved the physical and mental wellbeing of participants, increased their self-esteem, and lowered stress levels. Since yoga is safe and effective, scientists concluded it should be recommended to women who want to reduce abdominal obesity.
A review of studies published in Preventive Medicine found yoga could be considered as a safe and effective intervention to decrease BMI in overweight and obese individuals (3). These findings are particularly important if we bear in mind excess weight may prevent some men and women from engaging in more strenuous activities. Yoga could be a low-impact method of jumpstarting weight loss and improving fitness levels to prepare and engage in more vigorous workouts.
Yoga isn’t just beneficial for adults who want to slim down. The ancient practice could help children and adolescents too. The January 2021 issue of the Alternative Therapies in Health Medicine published a review of evidence on this subject, which revealed the impact of yoga interventions on child and adolescent obesity might be small but meaningful (4). These interventions promoted both weight loss and relevant behaviors.
The practice of yoga is particularly useful when combined with diet changes. In one study, a six-day yoga and diet change program reduced the BMI and waist and hip circumferences (5). That said, it's important to pay attention to the quality of diet changes. Some forms of diet could reduce HDL (good) cholesterol, and that's not the goal here. However, the point here is that a well-balanced diet and yoga could work together to keep you healthy and help you slim down.
How Does Yoga Promote Weight Loss?
As seen above, scientific evidence confirms yoga can promote weight loss. Of course, further research is necessary to evaluate the long-term effects of yoga on weight loss efforts and all the mechanisms of action associated with it.
How does yoga for weight loss work exactly? A single mechanism of action doesn’t exist. Instead, this ancient practice could help us fit into our favorite pants through a combination of different factors.
Evidence confirms yoga may offer diverse physical, psychological, and social effects that could make it a practical tool for healthy and sustained weight loss. Yoga practitioners reported less stress, decreased appetite, and a shift to healthier, more mindful eating habits. Additionally, yoga provided subjects with social support and healthy role models. They believed yoga practice led to psychological and physical changes that promote weight loss, increased muscle tone, decreased stress, accelerated metabolism, and more (6).
But, let’s focus on different aspects of yoga that promote weight loss one by one.
The term mindfulness refers to a basic human ability to be fully present and aware of everything you’re doing (7). Yoga can make you a more mindful person. You see, both yoga and mindfulness aim to “quiet” the mind in order to cultivate a deeper connection to and understanding of the self (8). In other words, yoga works to increase your awareness and make you more conscious of the lifestyle you have. Through increased mindfulness, yoga can help you focus more on mindful eating too, and help you become conscious of how different foods affect your body and mind.
People who develop mindfulness through yoga find it easier to resist comfort eating and unhealthy foods. They also tend to be more in tune with their body. As a result, they easily notice when they’re full and stop eating. This way, it’s easier to avoid overeating which often leads to weight gain and prevents people from slimming down.
Evidence shows mindfulness training has favorable short-term effects on impulsive or binge-eating and participation in physical activity (9).
Bearing in mind, it's not recommended to practice yoga on a full stomach; you may find yourself making wiser and healthier choices regarding foods you eat before or after. You may be less likely to crave or consume processed and heavily refined foods. After all, yoga is a lifestyle. Practicing yoga encourages a person to make other, healthier changes in their lifestyle. In this case, prevention of overeating and healthier food choices could lower the number of calories you consume and help you lose weight or maintain it in a healthy range.
The reality is that most people fail to get enough sleep. Good night’s rest is vital to our general health and wellbeing. Sleep is also important for our weight. Studies confirm sleep loss is associated with an increased risk of obesity (10). What’s more, sleep deprivation could undermine your weight loss efforts. On the flip side, shifting sleep duration to a healthier amount of time can attenuate the gain of fat mass and help you slim down (11).
Yoga practice can improve the quality of sleep. When you practice yoga regularly, you may notice you're able to fall asleep more easily, and the quality of a good night’s rest increased as well. By improving the quality of sleep, yoga can help you slim down. After all, one study found subjects who had restricted sleep five times a week lost less fat than their counterparts with normal sleeping patterns (12). In other words, you may lose more fat when you sleep better. This is important because fat is stubborn and difficult to lose.
Ideally, you should strive to sleep seven to nine hours every night.
Yoga is not a vigorous type of training, so it's easy to assume you don't lose a lot of calories. But, you should keep in mind some types of yoga are more intense than others. Basically, you can lose a different number of calories with different yoga approaches.
If you want to experience the calorie-burning effects, you may want to try Vinyasa and power yoga at hot yoga studios. These specific types of yoga make you move constantly. As a result, you're more active and get to burn more calories.
In addition to burning calories, yoga can also help you develop muscle tone and accelerate metabolism. Metabolism matters because a faster metabolic rate allows you to burn more calories at rest and during activity (13). That way, you lose more weight.
Besides intense yoga types, restorative yoga can also help you slim down. You see, this type of yoga can help you lose weight even in the stubborn abdominal areas (14). This is good to know because many people feel vigorous types of yoga are difficult. They're good for calorie burning, but if you're a beginner, you may want to start with restorative yoga first.
Other Effects of Yoga on Weight Loss
Yoga could help you slim down by increasing your range of motion and improving endurance. Increased range of motion and proper alignment of bones and joints can help you achieve optimal performance (15). Improved athletic performance allows you to do more during yoga sessions and workout sessions in the gym (or your home). The more you do, and the better your performance, the more successful your weight loss can be. Endurance also helps you stay strong and push through demanding routines.
Let’s not forget one of the most important benefits of yoga – stress relief. Studies show stress management can produce greater reductions in BMI (16). By helping you cope with stress more effectively, yoga can also improve your effort to slim down. Why? Stress is associated with overeating which paves the way to weight gain and obesity (17). You’re more likely to reach for unhealthy food when you’re stressed out. Food becomes a coping mechanism. By helping you manage stress, yoga can prevent these unhealthy behaviors and thereby support your weight loss.
What we can conclude here is that yoga helps you lose weight in a multifaceted approach that involves (18):
- Changing the way you eat
- Changing your mindset
- Improving flexibility and mobility
- Increasing strength
- Correcting your posture
- Improving fitness levels
- Cultivating self-awareness
- Reducing stress
- Improving your sleep
To make the effects of yoga on weight loss sustainable, you need to remember one thing – yoga is not a fad or trend. It's not a program to follow for a while and stop. Instead, yoga should be a part of your lifestyle. It will continue to inspire you to make healthier and wiser choices for a weight loss that you can keep off.
How Can Yoga Benefit Your Body and Soul
Like I previously mentioned, yoga can connect these two important areas and benefit them both. From depression to arthritis and muscle tension, it covers it all.
"Yoga for Arthritis: A complete guide book," written by Ellen Saltonstall and Loren Fishman, is only one proof of what was previously said, and there is more where that came from!
- Inner peace: Through meditation and breathing techniques, yoga will help you shape your thoughts and control them. It all starts from the mind; if you master it, you become a master of your life.
- Stress relief: The same meditation technique will also lead to the destruction of stress. Stress is the reason why people get sick. It can also become a habit. Why not get rid of it for good?
- Muscle tension: Yoga moves can help you with your flexibility and sweep your muscle tension away like it's nothing. Some of the moves are harder to learn than others; however, with patience and practice, you can make it happen.
- Increased energy levels: Don’t take unnecessary energy drinks that only make your body sicker over time. Yoga is a natural way of increasing your energy levels and being active throughout the day.
- Correct posture: Yoga moves can benefit your posture and correct any disorders; if you do them right, that is.
In order to get everything from that list and more, you must live and breathe yoga. Of course, this doesn't mean that it will take your entire day; it just means that you have to commit, at least just a little.
1. Do yoga daily
This shouldn’t be a problem. You can take a class, which is recommended because you will have a professional instructor who will help you with your yoga form and give you some tips, or you can practice it at home. There are literally tons of DVDs that you can buy or just watch how it’s done on Youtube.
2. Correct your diet to go with yoga
We are what we eat. There are diets made especially for yoga. If you practice yoga every day and put good fuel into your body, your whole system will say "Thanks" in a way you haven't experienced before. Positive vibes will come flowing through you; you will attract better people, it would be easy for you to get into that zen mode. This “diet" is full of fruit and vegetables; it isn't terrible nor hard.
3. Practice your breathing
Breathing can calm you down if you know what to do. Yoga will teach you that technique. You should do this even while you aren't practicing yoga. Whenever negative vibes come to your mind, just remember what you’ve learned.
That is literally all you are required to do for yoga. It is open for everyone, and the only things to expect are the three things I mentioned.
Saying more would be just wrong. Yoga is a different journey for each and every student. You will find the meaning behind it on your own. Good luck!