Can you lose weight by doing yoga? This is one of the most common questions I get as a yoga teacher.
The short answer is yes, yoga can help you lose weight and what’s also important – maintain a healthy weight for a long time.
In this blog post, I explore how different aspects of yoga can help you reach and maintain your ideal healthy body weight.
When we talk about yoga nowadays, most people immediately think of asana(yoga postures), pranayama (breath control), and dhyana(meditation). These are 3 of the eight limbs of yoga that are usually associated with modern yoga practice.
When we are only talking about asana, the physical yoga practice, it’s clear that like any other form of physical activity, doing yoga requires burning calories. How many calories you burn during a yoga session depends on the yoga style you practice. Fast-paced, physically challenging yoga styles like Vinyasa, Ashtanga and Power yoga are the best if your goal is to burn as many calories as possible.
On the other hand, slower and more gentle yoga styles like Hatha and Yin yoga can also be beneficial for weight loss, but in a different way(more on that later).
What do you need to do to lose weight?
To lose weight you need to spend more calories than you consume. Sounds pretty simple, right? On the physical level, losing weight is not so difficult. You just need to maintain a balance between the food you eat and the physical activity you do every day. If the process is so simple, why is it so difficult for many people to lose weight?
Think for a moment, what caused you to gain weight in the first place? Do you feel stressed every day and eating sweets or unhealthy food makes you feel better temporarily? Does your job require you to sit in a chair for the whole day and you are not being physically active? Are you so busy that you order food every night instead of cooking something healthy at home? Was your weight gain caused by your lifestyle or maybe because of taking certain meds or physical conditions? The reasons for weight gain are unique to each person. So naturally, to make the process of losing weight easier, you need to go to the root of the problem.
Here is where I think the real power of other aspects of yoga as meditation and breathing comes into place.
Practicing meditation encourages you to listen to your body and improve the body/mind connection that is so often lost in our modern world. You become more aware of yourself and your surroundings. You learn to listen to how your body feels and what it needs. As a result, you become more mindful of your actions and how you treat yourself.
Have you ever taken a moment before eating your food to notice if you are really hungry? Are you reaching for a snack because you are hungry or just bored? Do you stop eating when your plate becomes empty or when your hunger is satisfied?
In my personal experience, practicing yoga allowed me to learn how to listen to my body and taught me to notice how different foods affect my body and mind. It became so much easier for me to resist unhealthy foods and quit emotional eating. I just couldn’t be lazy anymore and not give my body the treatment it deserves. For me it meant taking time to learn how to cook, learning to notice and stop eating when my hunger is satisfied, taking effort to move my body more during the day and find time to exercise regularly.
After you do this long enough, eating a healthy balanced diet and maintaining a consistent exercise routine becomes a habit, your second nature. And this is enough for most people to stay healthy and fit.
So while physical yoga practice helps you burn calories, other yoga practices like meditation and pranayama help you become more mindful about the way you take care of your body and contribute to successful weight loss and weight maintenance.