When we think of weight loss, the equation seems quite simple. Fewer calories in plus more calories burnt through physical activity, equals a decrease in your overall weight and the appearance of a lower number on the scale. So how does yoga fit into this equation, can yoga effectively help us with the battle of the bulge?
When we take a look at the types of physical activities suggested for optimal weight loss results, ranking at the top of the list, you will find jogging, aerobics, and other high intensity cardio vascular activities that get your blood pumping, your body moving, and make you build up a sweat. At face value yoga doesn’t seem to be one of those exercises or practices that falls into that category. Rather, yoga focuses on core muscle activity, prolonged poses, breathing and connection, so how can it impact on our weight loss?
Used as an exercise in sessions that last between 75 to 90 minutes, yoga requires constant deep breathing and muscle engagement. As an effective way to kick off the weight loss journey, muscle movement and strengthening, coupled with weight bearing poses will have an immediate impact on your calorie burning. Yoga can show its effectivity when you pick a more impactful yoga style, such as power yoga and you join a class at a level that challenges you and your body. Through the constant movement of your body, yoga increases your metabolism which means that those extra calories that are just hanging around, don’t stand a chance of sticking to your fat cells and setting up home.
In days gone by, the leading contributor to poor health and illness were contagious diseases, our bodies didn’t stand a chance. With the invention of anti-biotics, this effectively decreased the spread of contagious diseases, leaving room for the next contender. According to Health Psychologists today, lifestyle diseases are the number one leading cause of poor health and morbidity, with stress having the most harmful effects and causing the most diseases of lifestyle.
We live in a day an age where stress is something that we are forced to deal with on a regular basis, without any reprieve, and our bodies are left in a heightened state, with hormones like adrenaline and cortisol on high alert. Chronic levels of high stress can prevent you from losing weight. A flow of adrenaline ensures that you have enough energy in your body to fight the stress and a surge of cortisol then follows to assist your body in replenishing the calories that you have burnt. With this system in place, when we live in the reality of continuous stress, it becomes difficult for our bodies to let go of excess weight.
Stress can be extremely harmful to our bodies as it leads to poor diet. Who hasn’t reached for a chocolate or a bag of chips to help them beat it? It’s no secret that when we feel stressed, we look for something that will soothe our feelings of overwhelm and anxiety, and with many of us being the owners of poor coping methods, food and alcohol are usually the first things that many of us turn to when feeling the extra pressure. With these unhealthy habits, we can thank stress for its contribution to our weight gain.
Enter yoga! An extremely successful practice and technique, used as an incredible medium for stress relief. Through physical movement and the changes of position, yoga aids in releasing muscle tension and pain, which often builds up during stressful times. Through deep breathing low into the stomach, yoga helps the lungs to expand, and fill with oxygen, as it improves the blood flow and oxygenation to the muscles and brain. The physical motion, coupled with the breathing techniques, meditation and mindfulness, brings focus and calm to the body, alleviating the feelings of stress and regulating the stress hormones. It allows us to think clearly and regroup, as opposed to stuffing our faces with sweet, calorie loaded foods which numb the emotions that we have. With yoga keeping our stress under control, our dietary habits can improve and instead of packing on the pounds, we’ll start to see them melting away without the sweat!
Yoga practice allows us to continuously work on our mindfulness and behaviour. Through the movement of our bodies and change in body positions, yoga practice also allows us to change our behaviour and to connect with our emotions. With an awareness of our thoughts, emotions and behaviours, we can effectively take control of our weight gain and eating habits. Far too often the cause of excess weight is a disconnect in our eating habits and behaviours, with our awareness of our thoughts and emotions. Through a deeper awareness we can get rid of the habitual eating, or the behaviours we use to numb our emotions.
Making healthy food choices, and eating whole foods that give us maximal nutrition effectively lowers our calorie intake, and this is a lot easier to do with a free mind thanks to yoga! This new found mindfulness can also aid in the ability to estimate portion sizes correctly, to prepare healthy balanced meals and to eat at a slower pace, instead of gulping down meals.
Yoga practice is known to help with the improvement of self-compassion. People who are involved in regular yoga practice are taught to be compassionate to themselves and to treat themselves with kindness. This is an incredible tool that is extremely effective in successful weight loss, as it eradicates or significantly decreases the negative self-talk that so many of us are haunted with, which works against our best weight loss efforts.
Although yoga may not be considered the number one weight loss exercise or the most conventional weight loss method by any means, its effects on our ability to lose weight are far reaching. Through increasing our metabolism, lowering our stress and improving our awareness, yoga can easily help us to kick our weight loss journey into high gear!