I was recently asked by a friend whether yoga is a good way to lose weight. My answer was a resounding yes! While you will definitely want to incorporate cardiovascular exercise (such as dancing, jogging, cycling, or aerobics) to rev up your metabolism, a yoga practice can be a welcome addition to a weight loss routine, providing both physical and emotional balancing, strength, and joy.
The physical benefits of yoga are numerous:
- Many types of yoga, such as the vinyasa, power, and kundalini styles, are dynamic and flowing, bringing some cardiovascular exercise into the mix.
- All types of yoga help to build lean and long muscles, especially in places you might not have thought to work out, building a more balanced body as you lose weight and helping to burn calories, even when at rest.
- The flexibility yoga brings to the body is amazing. An added benefit when engaged in strength training or aerobic exercise that can tighten the muscles, leading to injury.
- Many yoga poses, such as twists, back bends, and shoulder stands, can balance the endocrine system, especially the thyroid, which can definitely aid in weight loss. Certain kundalini kriyas, or exercises, are intended solely for weight loss.
- A steady yoga practice can also stimulate and balance the digestive and elimination systems, allowing for optimum assimilation of nutrients, elimination of wastes, and reduction of water weight and bloating.
- Yoga puts a lot of focus on breathing correctly, which can release many toxins from the body, allowing all of our systems to function optimally.
Mentally and emotionally, yoga is a great match for someone trying to change patterns and habits. When losing weight, it is just as important to pay attention to the emotional body as to the physical. Much obesity and weight gain comes from being out of touch with the body and overwhelmed with emotions and stress, which allows us to make bad choices in what we eat, how much we exercise, the amount of sleep we get—how we take care of ourselves in general. Devoting yourself to a practice like yoga, which is all about awareness of the body and the breathe lets us get in touch with ourselves, what we want, how we feel, and ultimately why and how we eat. And as with all exercise, yoga can help balance the bodies neurotransmitters—such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine—low levels of which have been proven to increase hunger and cravings for sugars and simple carbohydrates as well as cause depression.
Yoga can also bring much spiritual joy to your life, letting you feed and take care of yourself in a way that has nothing to do with a dependence on food. It allows us to feel lighter, freer, and in touch with the world in a way that is less complicated than most things in this world.
When starting a yoga practice, I recommend taking classes, as a teacher can correct your postures in a way that can’t be done while watching videos. Like having a personal trainer when exercising, having a yoga teacher can make your learning curve that much less steep.