Does Yoga Help One Lose Weight? Can it prevent the Yoyo Effect?
In a short and simple form, the answer is yes. Many a hard-bodied Bikram, Vinyasa or Ashtanga Yogi will brag up their practice and the calorie burn they experience. Yet, that is not the only answer. One does not have to engage in such an extreme practice to feel the effects of weight loss. Yoga is a holistic and safe way to consistent weight loss for many different reasons. Many experts agree that yoga works in different ways to bring about healthy weight loss.
Most people gravitate to calorie burning as the ultimate way to lose weight. Yoga is often not thought of as aerobic, yet certain styles are more physical than others. The intense, active types of yoga, such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa or Power Yoga, prevent weight gain. And, these types of yoga are also often offered in hot yoga studios. The styles keep students moving constantly and sweating, effectively burning calories. Practicing yoga increases muscle tone, speeds up one's heart rate and improves digestion. A general premise of weight loss is that the more muscle you build, the more calories you burn, even after you are finished exercising. And with yoga, as opposed to high-intensity workouts, a person's body feels different at the end of class. The student often feels refreshed as opposed to wiped out, flexible instead of sore, and loose instead of tight. This means an active yoga practice helps with weight loss.
Mindfulness and Yoga
Mindfulness is automatically cultivated when practicing yoga. It brings a heightened awareness to every facet of one's life. A student can not help but be aware of how their body feels in poses, where their thoughts are in meditation, or how deep they are breathing in pranayama. This, in turn, creates a strong body-mind connection. By becoming more aware of the present moment, even the simple act of chewing slows down. By taking time to eat and enjoy food, a person can then become more aware of the feeling of "being full". This means eating less and consuming fewer calories. The act of mindfulness and body awareness can also put one in touch with the way their body feels. This means that the effects of nourishing foods and junk food are more present in one's awareness. Often, the newly conscious person is more aware of how their body feels after eating a bag of chips as opposed to how it feels after a salad. In response, this person will more often make the choice to eat nourishing foods because it feels better.
Yet, that is not all. It is a known fact that stress is a leading cause of health issues. When stressed, the body will shift into survival mode, creating fat stores for reserve. And usually, these fat cells are stored as abdominal fat. The body will also release a stress hormone known as cortisol. Cortisol acts as an appetite stimulant and contributes to overeating or stress eating. Yet, slower yoga classes, like Restorative and Yin, are effective for reducing stress. The practice of meditation, slowing down and breathing deeply helps one deal with stress differently. Less stress means less cortisol, less overeating, and less abdominal fat.
Lastly, mindfulness contributes to better sleep. After the regular practice of Yoga Nidra, students report falling asleep faster and sleeping longer. Interestingly enough, better sleep has also been linked to weight loss. So, the practice of yoga and its effects all contribute to consistency and life changes. Lifestyle change, including activity, healthy food choices and stress reduction, results in long term effects. This means consistent weight loss and keeping the weight off. Which also means no more YoYo dieting or weight loss and gain. Yoga does more that help one lose weight, it helps one become healthier in body, mind, and spirit.
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