Is Yoga Just Another Fad, Or Is Their Real Weight Loss Benefits?
Do a quick search on the internet and you will discover hundreds of ‘new’ diets, weight loss programs, and fitness plans. They are added almost daily.
But yoga is one program that has endured the test of time. While new versions evolve regularly, yoga has been around for generations.
Before we get into how yoga helps weight loss, I want to lay the foundation of what it is, and how it can be used as a total body health program.
What Is Yoga?
The online Merriam Webster dictionary gives two definitions of yoga.
1) A Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind and will in order that the self my realize its distinction from them and attain liberation.
2) A system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being.
There are some who approach and practice yoga as a ‘theistic philosophy,’ but most Western culture use of yoga is based on the second definition. It is used for mind-body fitness control.
Yoga purist claim that those who practice ‘American yoga’ are not truly practicing yoga. To remove ‘hinduism’ as a religion from yoga is destroying what yoga truly is.
It’s not my goal to enter that debate. This article focuses on the idea of yoga as a mind-body exercise. It’s based on the second definition above.
For those who want to delve into the purist style of yoga, you will have to look elsewhere.
Where It Began
Yoga has its origin in the Hindu religions. It dates back to the 5th and 6th Century BCE.
It was introduced to the Western culture (in America) in the early 1900’s. It became popular in 60’s and 70’s as the youth culture of that era explored alternatives to traditional thought about medicine, religion and philosophy.
During the 1980’s yoga began to be used for fitness and health by the mainstream population.
For more information on the background of yoga click here.
For information on the religious aspects of yoga see this article.
Today, yoga is practiced by many different groups. Christians, Jews, Atheist, Hindus and Muslims. It has crossed religious lines and is mostly practiced as a fitness program. Especially by the majority of our Western culture.
Forms of Yoga
There are many forms of yoga.
DailyBurn has a great article on ‘The Beginners Guide To Every Type of Yoga Out There!’ It covers 9 Types of Yoga; here’s our summary:
6. Hot Yoga
8. Yin Yoga
Here’s another list:
Hatha yoga is the most practiced form in the West.
The term ‘hatha’ refers to yoga that focuses on physical postures.
Nikki Vilella is the lead instructor at Kula Yoga Project of Kula Williamsburg; she has this to say about hatha yoga:
It’s a practice of the body, a physical practice that balances these two energies. So, in reality, it is all hatha yoga.
Why Does Yoga Help Weight Loss?
According to those who teach and practice yoga on a regular basis, it does more than burn calories. It tones the muscles through stretching and strength conditioning. It also builds endurance.
But that’s not all. Yoga is designed to be a total body, mind and spirit practice.
Yoga enhances breathing making it an excellent form of relaxation and meditation.
Why Yoga Is So Appealing
Yoga is appealing to different people for different reasons. There are several common denominators that make it a great way to get in shape and lose weight.
1) It is Low Impact
High impact workouts have their place, but many times they can do damage to your body.
Yoga is a exercise because it is easy on the knees, back, neck, and key areas of your body.
2) You Can Practice Anywhere
There are very little ‘tools’ needed to practice yoga. A mat is helpful, but that’s about it. It is not a equipment heavy workout, making it great for people of all ages. And people on the go.
Because of this, you can practice at home, outdoors, on vacation, and even during breaks at work.
It’s the perfect workout/exercise routine for people who don’t have time for the gym or desire more solitude during their workout.
3) You don’t need a group, coach or others to practice.
A yoga instructor can be helpful, but there are many online resources that can show you how to do various exercises, and how to maximize your routines.
One of our favorite programs is INSERT LINK HERE FOR VIDEO PROGRAMS.
4) It is great for beginners
You don’t have to be an expert to benefit from yoga.
‘Easy’ is probably not the word to use with yoga (some exercises require the skill level), but it is something that even beginners can do. And they can see results quickly.
5) The cost is minimal (and even free).
Depending on how you want to approach making yoga a part of your life, the cost is minimal.
While you can certainly find many free resources online, we suggest that you use a program like (LINK HERE) because they are trained and certified practitioners. Sometimes the old adage is true, ‘You get what you pay for!’
6) It targets key areas of your body.
If you are looking for a high impact sports workout, yoga is not what you need.
It is great for a total body regimen. Here’s a short list of key areas of focus:
Arms and Legs
It also helps with flexibility and strength training.
Anyone who has done yoga before will tell you, ‘Don’t let the simplicity of it throw you…it is a workout!’
Dr. Melinda Ratini has this to say about yoga:
There are many types of yoga, from the peaceful hatha to the high-intensity power yoga. All types take your workout to a level of mind-body connection. It can help you relax and focus while gaining flexibility and strength. Yoga can also boost your mood.
Even though there are many instructional books and DVDs on yoga, it is well worth it to invest in some classes with a good instructor who can show you how to do the postures.
Chances are, there’s a type of yoga that suits your needs and fitness level. It’s a great choice if you want a holistic approach to mind and body strength.”
How Does Yoga Help Weight Loss?
Yoga is a phenomenal way to put you in touch with your body the way nothing else can, and yes, it can help you lose weight. – Dana Edison, director of Radius Yoga, North Redding, Mass. She is a certified personal trainer with the American College of Sports Medicine.
It may surprise you but it’s not all about the physical exercise.
Here are a few things yoga does to help you lose weight:
1) It forges a strong mind-body connection.
This helps you get more control over your appetite, and cultivates discipline in your life.
Yoga is not just a great physical workout. It is an excellent way to ‘get in touch with your body.’
Essentially, in yoga you learn your body is not your enemy, and the conscious awareness of the body that you gain translates into better appetite control. – Dana Edison
2) Some forms of yoga give you a great cardio-workout.
Kundalini form of yoga combines the traditional breathing exercises of ‘Hatha’ style yoga, with a more energetic, faster moving yoga.
It’s often called ‘Power Yoga’ because of this combination of movement, breathing and strength training. Thirty minutes of Kundalini will give you a better aerobic workout than many aerobic exercises.
How does this work?
The breathing techniques get oxygen to the muscles. Add this to the yoga poses and you get a rapid fire calorie burn. This is sometimes called, ‘The Breathe of Fire.’
3) It builds muscle.
Building muscle equals reducing fat.
Yoga poses not only stretch the muscles, but over time strengthen and build them. This is an effective way of reducing your body fat.
4) It builds discipline into your life
This is more important than you realize. One of the biggest issues with weight control revolves around ‘discipline.’ Or lack of discipline.
I hear it all the time from clients. “I fell off the wagon. I was doing so good, but I crashed this weekend.”
“I just can’t seem to get the discipline I need to say ‘No’ to certain foods!”
Weight loss is as much mental as it is physical. If you don’t get your mind in the game (so to speak), you will fail every time.
Yoga, because of its focus on the mind-body experience, is a great way to cultivate the correct mindset for success in losing weight.
Yoga is a great way to take small steps that have big dividends, because it creates the right atmosphere mentally to develop discipline.
5) It is a great way to release stress
Consumer Reports teamed up with The American Psychological Association to discuss weight loss. They surveyed 1,328 licensed psychologists. Each one was asked how they dealt with patients’ weight-loss challenges.
Seven out of 10 said the number one issue was correcting “dysfunctional thoughts that lead to unhelpful emotions and behaviors.”
Other factors were problem solving skills regarding exercise. For example, the busy professional who doesn’t have time to go to the gym after work. Solution: Go at other times during the day.
Finally, mindfulness training. Learning how to manage emotions and not dwell on negative thoughts.
Each of these issues identified by psychologist are mind-body issues.
Yoga is a designed to be a total life approach to health and fitness. Many who practice yoga experience success in areas where they have failed before because of practicing yoga.Yoga is a designed to be a total life approach to health and fitness. Click To Tweet
6) It creates unity in your mind, body and emotions
One practitioner put it this way:
There are three bosses in your life. Your thoughts. You body. And your emotions.
Yoga brings these into balance. It is designed to allow your body, mind and emotions to get along. To work in sync.
As your mind, body and emotions become unified, you experience more peace, pleasure and purpose in life.
This leads to a healthy perspective on all of life.
When you have a healthy view of life…a healthy view of you…you can relax, which removes unwanted ‘things’ from your life.
We tend to fill voids in our life with toxic behavior; like overeating. Once we are in unity with our self, this behavior stops.We tend to fill voids in our life with toxic behavior; like overeating. Once we are in unity with our self, this behavior stops. Click To Tweet
Making Yoga Work For You
Yoga is certainly not a cure-all. But it can be a part of your health and fitness routine.
Here are some tips from WebMD that might be helpful in using yoga as a part of your health and fitness plan.
1. Practice in a room without mirrors, and put the emphasis on your internal experience rather than your outer performance.
2. Learn to experience the sensation of movement, down to the tiniest micro movement.
3. Always try to find your “edge” — the place where your body feels challenged, but not overwhelmed.
4. Give yourself permission to rest when you’re tired.
5. Combine your yoga session with positive self-talk. Appreciate your efforts and praise your inner goodness.
6. Go to class faithfully. If you work out at home, set a specific day and time for your yoga session and stick to it.
7. Recognize that you are not only working on your body, but are also working to develop qualities like patience, discipline, wisdom, kindness and gratitude.
8. Look for a teacher (in a class or on video) who you feel offers a balance between gentleness and firmness, and who inspires you to practice.
9. Recognize that simply buying a yoga DVD or attending the class is a step toward creating a better you.
10. Realize your efforts are not just inspiring you, but also inspiring others as you become more attuned to who you are, inside and out.
Here are a few suggest programs we recommend.
Check them out and see if they work for you.
What about you? Do you use yoga as a part of your health and fitness plan?
What is your experience?