Can Yoga Help You Lose Weight?
Rebecca Robin, IIN Content Editor
There are many factors that play into weight loss, and with a wealth of diet and fitness plans online, it’s hard to know where to start. Put simply, weight loss occurs when your body experiences a calorie deficit, pushing the body to use stored fat as energy. However, losing weight is not always that clear-cut and simple. Each of our bodies are different, and each hold onto weight differently, depending on body type, movement level, food choices, and age.
As a physical activity, yoga is a healthy movement option that can challenge any body type, boosting metabolism and improving tone in all areas of the body. A fast-paced yoga flow can increase your heart rate and help you burn additional calories, making it a great addition to your workout routine. It’s widely known to have a therapeutic effect on the body, incorporating a variety of postures that challenge your flexibility, strength, and endurance. It can also calm anxiety, which will ground you in whatever you encounter during the day.
Each style of yoga brings attention to different areas of the body, whether it be a vinyasa flow that focuses on synchronizing movement with breath, or hot yoga that improves flexibility and blood circulation.
How yoga helps with weight loss
Aside from eating a balanced and nutritious diet, regular movement can support your physical health and management of your weight. While a cardio or cycling class may help you shed pounds, yoga is a great physical activity that can enhance your weight-loss efforts by toning muscle and repurposing the weight in your body.
Yoga is made up of a series of asanas, or poses, that stretch and tone the muscles in your body. A basic sequence that is at the heart of vinyasa yoga is called the sun salutation. This includes poses like downward-facing dog, which opens everything from your hamstrings to your shoulders, and chaturanga, which tones your core muscles and helps you build strength in your back and arms. Each of these movements are connected by the breath, facilitating a mind-body connection that brings more awareness to your body and how it feels in space.
Because of this increased awareness, a yoga flow can help you gain strength in the tiny muscles in the body, improving your balance even when you’re not on the yoga mat! Envision coordination while walking, and being able to catch yourself if you trip or slip.
A typical flow will also include a variation of weight-bearing poses, like plank, chair pose, cobra, and warrior I, II, and III, improving balance and muscular strength, and increasing bone density. This can help prevent any injuries that may come from other forms of exercise, such as weight training or running, or even during your daily routine.
If you’re looking for a yoga practice that challenges your body and burns excess calories, a vinyasa, Bikram hot yoga, or power flow are great options:
- Vinyasa yoga – a fast-paced sequence of movements that builds on each preceding pose, raising your heart rate and increasing flexibility and muscle tone
- Bikram – a set of 26 postures performed in a 100°F room. It sounds intense, but the benefits can include increased blood flow and a healthier heart. The heat can increase the range of motion in your practice and lubricate the joints, building stronger bone density.
- Power yoga – focused on strength building, power yoga challenges you to move at intentional speeds through each sequence, as well as encourages holding certain poses for a longer period of time. This is a great way to build lean muscle mass, which can boost your metabolism.
How often should you do yoga?
As you become more familiar with, and confident in, your practice, you will start to see the benefits of yoga on your health and your weight-loss efforts. There’s no specific, recommended amount of times that one should do yoga each week, but a good way to start reaping the benefits is to add it into a rotation mixed with other workouts in your week. This could mean squeezing in a yoga session 2–3 times a week when you are first starting. You may even find that a quick yoga flow is a good way to cool down and stretch after a vigorous weight-training session or bike ride outdoors.
Yoga can help you find connection between the mind, body, and spirit, making it a personal and transformational practice. It may take time to get comfortable with the sequence of movements, so be patient with yourself. Just as with starting any other exercise regimen, results will not occur overnight, and you may not see the toning and weight-loss benefits of your practice immediately.
The benefits of yoga typically require a long-term investment, but yoga can provide immediate benefits in grounding your thoughts and providing stability in the moment. You’ll likely find comfort in returning to your mat and moving through a familiar sequence of movements with increased flexibility and strength.
The benefits of yoga transcend toward all areas of your health.
Your physical and mental health are intertwined, so when one area feels out of focus, the other area may suffer as well. A regular yoga practice is an opportunity to reduce stress and find strength from within. A good yoga instructor can help you learn how to breathe into any uncertainty or stress that may cloud your thoughts.
A yoga practice encompasses the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of your being, and so does a holistic approach to managing your health. When you take all the areas of your life that could impact your health into consideration, such as your relationships, spiritual practice, career, and environment, you begin to understand that becoming your healthiest, happiest self is only possible when you nurture all of these areas together along with the food you put on your plate.
When you nourish these areas of your life – what we at IIN like to call primary food – you'll have more energy, keep off excess weight more easily, and feel your best both physically and mentally.
Interested in learning more about holistic health? Try our Sample Class today to gain more knowledge on the nutrition and lifestyle changes that can improve your overall well-being.