Weight loss is a journey for anyone who undertakes the task. The most common tools people look for when starting to lose weight are diet and exercise, but there are other considerations, such as mindset and stress management. To find peace and acceptance in their bodies, as well as physical exercise, many turn to yoga to supplement their weight loss journey. However, there are so many styles of yoga that it can cause confusion at first.
Yoga is a supplemental tool for an overall healthy lifestyle that has potential to aid in weight loss.
Vigorous styles of yoga such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa or Bikram are higher intensity and may contribute to a greater calorie burn.
Yoga helps create a positive mindset that may in turn help create a better relationship with food and oneself.
This article will explore the ways you can use yoga alongside other exercise to aid in your weight loss journey.
Habits impacting your lifestyle
Obesity is a global epidemic and many are turning to yoga to help manage their stress and lose weight. There are many lifestyle factors to consider when someone wants to lose weight, including: stress management, exercise regimes, improved diet and nutrition.
Stress eating is a common habit for overweight people and the mindfulness provided by yoga, coupled with meditation and breathing exercises can help overcome this habit. When mindfulness is applied to all areas of life, including our food choices, it can help lower the calories we consume in a day, which ultimately can lead to weight loss. In order to lose weight, one must be in a calorie deficit. Typically, only engaging in yoga without changing other habits or food choices will not aid in weight loss.
Staying active is an important part of maintaining a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle. Although it might be difficult to get out of bed in the morning, or hit the gym after work, everyday movement helps release endorphins which boosts your overall mood. Exercise burns calories and helps improve body composition, which can and should be used as a tool for weight loss.
To lose weight, the calories in the diet must be reduced, and/or the amount of calories burned per day must be increased. According to Harvard Health, the range of calories burned during a 30-minute Hatha yoga class range from 120–168 calories depending on three different generalized weight classes. It is important to note that more active styles of yoga that build strength can be more beneficial for weight loss rather than the relaxing styles of yin or restorative yoga.
Types of yoga for weight loss
These four types of yoga might possibly impact your weight loss journey.
Ashtanga is a traditional style of yoga that originates from Mysore, India. It is taught as a vigorous sequence that includes many sun salutations and vinyasa — which means flowing movement. Because of its rigorous pace, Ashtanga is a good candidate for weight loss yoga due to its focus on strength, especially in the arms and core. Additionally, this style of yoga is traditionally practiced 6 days per week and the entire sequence often takes 90 minutes to complete. The repetition of the practice combined with the continuous movement makes it a more athletic style of yoga that may be helpful for weight loss.
This style of yoga is named after its creator, Bikram Choudhury. He codified a sequence of 26 yoga postures plus 2 breathing exercises done in a 105-degree room with 40% humidity. Sometimes this style is called Hot Yoga or 26+2 instead of Bikram. The heat in the room may accelerate the heart rate and warm the muscles intensely, which can provide more calorie-burning activity.
While all styles of postural yoga are technically Hatha Yoga, many studios will also list Hatha Yoga as a class style. Hatha classes typically involve holding postures for longer periods of time and using props for alignment. It may consist of standing, balancing, and seated poses. There is no flow or movement in this style of yoga. It is great for beginners who need to learn a technique or for those recovering from an injury to learn how to modify it.
Vinyasa or flow-style yoga classes are derived from Ashtanga in the sense that they contain more movement, but it is not a set sequence like Ashtanga. These classes are usually fun and creative with an emphasis on standing poses like lunges, twists, and core work. Vinyasa yoga helps build power in the body.
Yoga and diet
For those struggling with obesity, a change in diet can be difficult to manage at first, which is why diet alone is typically not enough. True change must come from a dedicated mindset and a more active lifestyle, which yoga can help build. Research indicates that total BMI (body mass index) can be reduced through healthier eating habits and the physical activity that yoga provides.
Often, when someone begins practicing yoga regularly for the first time, they begin to feel the benefits of a peaceful attitude and self-acceptance which enables them to implement positive change in their eating habits. This could mean cutting back on calories, letting go of stress eating, or leaving the candy behind.
Eating tips to consider
Here are a few mindful eating tips:
- Smaller portions. Watch portion sizes, while emphasizing vegetable intake at every meal.
- Protein. Ensure you consume protein to repair and build muscle.
- Eliminate problem foods. Cut back on high calorie foods, such as high sugar and fried foods.
- Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water and if needed, supplement with electrolytes if practicing hot yoga or sweating a lot.
- Healthy snacks. Eat healthy snacks after a yoga class such as bananas or nuts.
Over time, the more you practice yoga, the more you'll be able to determine what combinations of food and exercise will suit your weight loss goals the best. Additionally, since most yoga classes also incorporate meditation and breathing, this helps bring the practitioner into the present moment to improve self-image and pave the course for a positive mindset that weight loss is possible.
Additionally, someone who practices yoga and meditation may begin to eat their food more mindfully, therefore changing their relationship with food and creating a more positive nutritional experience.
When starting a life-changing weight loss journey, it is always best to consult your doctor or other healthcare professional first to ensure the right diet and exercise regimen for you.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Simple math equals easy weight loss.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights.
- ScienceDirect. Yoga in women with abdominal obesity - do lifestyle factors mediate the effect? Secondary analysis of a RCT.