Yoga for weight loss has been a recurring theme of late, after the fifth person this month asked:
“Can Yoga help you lose weight?”
I decided to investigate beyond my initial response which was that there are probably faster ways of shedding excess weight. Yoga does help bring greater clarity to mental patterns, resulting in a greater awareness especially around repeated behaviours and thereby deal with issues at root.
The truth is that I didn’t know if yoga can help anyone loose weight. I have firsthand experience of the transformative power of Yoga so I was positive without really knowing why or how. It wasn’t really something that I’d thought of very much, of course postural Yoga is a bodywork – but I’d used Yoga to access something else.
I thought it a valid question so I decided to find out. I started researching online and followed up with my friends in the Yoga community. I wanted to find out 2 things.
- Whether Yoga is a better workout than say; running to loose weight.
- I wondered whether Yoga may be assistive in shedding pounds through other non-direct means.
Here’s what I found
Weight loss happens when you burn more calories that you take in. How many calories you burn depends on your body weight and how vigorous your exercise is. According to LiveStrong, a 150 Lbs woman burns about 350 calories in a 60 minute ‘Power Yoga’ session and up to 700 in a hot Bikram Yoga session. This research seemed a little weak to me because there is a strong case to suggest that ‘Bikram Yoga’ simply drains the water out of your body and the related weight loss is actually more harmful because of the resulting dehydration.
The same person could do a medium for fast paced run (not a jog) and would loose more calories.
To loose about 1 Lb of weight you’d have to have a calorie deficit of about 3,500 calories. In other words, you’d have to maintain a 500 calorie deficit for the week. That’s a lot of sun salutations! Bear in mind that when you’re in Childs pose you’re not burning calories. Relying on vigorous Yoga alone to achieve this goal will not be easy. There would have to be some an element of dietary control reducing sugar and saturated fat intake.
Yoga will help you loose weight by:
Reducing inflammation, stress and developing your core muscles. In my classes we do a lot of leg and glute work – once fired up these muscles continue to draw energy from the body for up to 2 hours.
We practice Hatha Vinyasa And Kundalini Yoga, right now most people are in the same place, they’re beginners. We’re working on setting our foundation, that means paying special attention to the breath and being able to practice safely. Detail is offered around the placing of our hands and feet. This can take time but is MEGA important so that we don’t cause ourselves an injury or antagonise a pre-existing condition. For questions around, ‘Is Yoga bad for you?‘ Check out the link.
As we develop together: “The classes won’t get any easier, you’ll just get stronger” – says my friend and TYA Yoga teacher Johanna Nye, Yoga Reading. And that is one of the goals of classes at the Mill Bridge Rooms.
Yoga Weight Loss: Associated benefits
Stress and the consequential hormonal responses are a big cause for weight gain. The pattern of anxiety resolved by comfort eating is something that many people can identify with. Can Yoga influence this? According to LiveStrong:
“Yoga also reduces stress and creates a state of mindfulness. Mindfulness might be just what you need to curb your eating and stick to a weight-loss plan.Even one yoga class per week could help create the awareness and mental state to help you drop pounds.”
A 20-30 minute medium paced Yoga practice in the evening instead of snacking can have dramatic effects. Yoga teaches us to pause and breathe, there can be an ocean of time in a breath. Long enough to recognise a conditioned response and replace it with a few Asanas. We come to a better understanding of ourselves and in so doing recognise the behaviours that contribute toward overeating or a sedentary lifestyle.
According to the American Journal of Managed Carers’ recent study, this type of stretching had a greater effect on reducing the amount of subcutaneous fat compared to their control group over a 6 month period. At the conclusion of their study the AJMC added that Yoga was not a replacement of aerobic exercise, rather it was a complimentary practice that was particularly useful to those that were out of the habit of exercise.
Katherine Van Koughnet was one of the few commentators to point out that Yoga was never designed to help people loose weight. Yoga is an ancient and mystical practice that brings a greater integration and harmony to the practitioner. If an individual were to incorporate the yogic lifestyle (not just postural Yoga), but Ayurveda, Pranayama, Meditation and Pratyahara then there is a good chance they would lose girth around the belly. But by that stage the Yogi wouldn’t care one jot about their belly fat.
In her post on CanadianLiving.com/Can-Yoga-Really-help-You-Lose-Weight, Katherine listed the 4 main benefits of Yoga for weight loss as being:
- It reduces stress
- It builds muscle (Makes sense, because muscle burns more calories than fat)
- It teaches discipline
- It encourages sound sleep
In the end I feel as though I have a better understanding of the physical effects of Yoga on our body. Yoga Asana can help you loose weight providing you take a holistic approach, there has to be some element of dietary control as well as a regular practice. If one were to come to a Yoga class with the sole intention of loosing weight, and they only did the bodywork and payed little or no attention to what else was going on – then I’m not convinced that Yoga would help them loose weight. I personally know of people that have overcome Cancer, depression, insomnia and chronic disease so weight loss could be possible.
With regard to the associated benefit of Yoga creating greater fortitude around mental processes, I’m pretty convinced that Yoga can play a pivotal role. It depends on how we practice, by that I mean the intensity of our focus.
And that’s the most enjoyable part of practising Yoga, the adventure of the journey within is enthralling. What could be more interesting to us than to go within? After all; the inward part is the only thing that we have 100% control over.
If there is enough demand for it, I’d be keen to explore the possibility of putting together a mini series targeting weight loss. Answers in the comments I guess 🙂