Is Yoga Good For Weight Loss?

Written by Liza Brunell

Adv Dip Health Science Naturopathy, Nutrition          Hi there, my name is Liza, I am a Naturopath, Herbalist, Nutritionist from Brisbane, Queensland. And I’m here to show you how easy good nutrition and healthy living can be.

June 4, 2021

The short answer is yes, yoga can likely help with weight loss. But yoga doesn’t always help with weight loss in the way you might think, but more on this later.

As it is important to recognise that exercise of course should always be a part of any weight loss regime, and for that matter it should be a part of everyone’s every day to incorporate ongoing movement for better overall health and wellness.

If you are exercising for weight loss and are keen to try yoga to help you lose weight, then it may be beneficial to do a little research on the different types of yoga available as this will be an important factor in your decision making. A common misconception about yoga is that some consider that you are not getting a good workout, however, certain forms of yoga can be quite challenging and give you quite an intense workout increasing your heart rate, improving cardiovascular health, and assisting in the prevention of weight gain.

Some studies also hint that yoga may also assist in maintaining weight. One study from the University of Minnesota in 2017 looked at more than 1800 young adults, with the results showing that those who were overweight and practiced yoga regularly didn’t see an increase in their body mass index (BMI) compared to those who didn’t do yoga regularly and tended to see increases in BMI.

Which Yoga is best for Weight Loss?

Yoga requires you to use your own body weight when moving through poses, this can help strengthen, stretch, and tone the muscles. When it comes to weight loss it may be best to opt for a yoga class that includes as much movement as possible.

Ashtanga, vinyasa and power yoga are examples of the types of yoga that are more dynamic and physical, the flow more challenging increasing your heart rate which may help contribute to overall weight loss. Vinyasa yoga for example offers a sequence or flow of set poses using quite fast-paced movements that run together which is great for burning calories.

Power yoga has become popular at health clubs and gyms, this fast-paced yoga brings with it the intensity of Ashtanga yoga to build strength and resilience.  Ashtanga yoga is a more vigorous style of yoga practice. Basically, you are expending calories at a faster rate during some of these more intense yoga sessions.

Bikram and hot yoga involve increasingly difficult positions with the addition of practicing in a heated room, allowing participants to burn more calories. Hot yoga classes are practiced in a heated room or studio. The actual temperature varies, but typically the room is heated to at least 90 degrees or more. Vinyasa yoga practice in a hot room ups the ante in that it guarantees that you will sweat heavily.

Yoga sculpt is another form of yoga that may vary in the exact technique but will often include light handheld dumbbells or other tools to add resistance to the exercise. Some yoga sculpt classes may also add bursts of intense cardio.

It may be beneficial to also consider yoga classes in which poses focus on large muscle groups to increase the calorie burn and reduce body fat.  So, which practice should you choose if you haven’t previously been to a yoga class?

Yoga workouts for beginners for weight loss

Yoga offers several benefits as your body becomes physically stronger, more toned, and flexible, it also reduces stress and tension and improves your overall well-being. These benefits are particularly attractive to the beginner yogi. If you are new to practicing yoga, gentler yoga practices like Hatha Yoga are not as strenuous as the other forms mentioned previously and focus on slow, gentle stretching, if you are new to practicing yoga this may be a great way to start a regular yoga practice. The gentler forms encourage meditative relaxation and enable you to work with a nurturing restorative yoga which will be beneficial to those unable to engage in more vigorous forms of yoga. Yoga allows you to open, stretch and is also a great recovery tool for more intense types of workouts, like running or weight training which is super important particularly for yoga beginners in reaching your weight loss and fitness workout goals.

Can yoga help you lose weight, if so, how often should I practice?

If weight loss is your ultimate goal, it is possible to practice daily by mixing up the more active intense practices with more restorative practice to balance out your activities.  As with any new exercise regime it is important to start slowly and gradually build on your practice.  This will allow you to build strength and flexibility and help prevent injuries.  Be sure to allow yourself 1-2 rest days a week.

I am a firm believer of mixing up your exercise regime so that your body does not get too used to a similar continual movement, you need to challenge yourself to gain strength and increase muscle which is super important when it comes to losing weight.  Adapting to different exercises such as weight training, cardio and yoga will enable your body to develop into better overall shape, fitness and flexibility. Additionally, the more muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolic rate which equates to burning more calories at rest.

Can yoga help you reduce body fat?

There are many factors involved when it comes to losing belly fat then just how much you exercise. These include what you are putting in your mouth, how often you work out and the intensity of the workout, your stress levels and how well you sleep.

A study at Yale University found that women who experienced significant levels of stress, although were otherwise “slim”, were more likely to have belly fat.

The hormone, cortisol plays a big part in this weight gain, during times of stress cortisol sends signals to your brain to crave sugar in order to combat low blood sugar levels. This can lead to overeating and weight gain. Yoga may help your body respond more effectively to stress by reducing your heart rate and blood pressure during stressful situations.

Another, often overlooked, factor when it comes to weight loss is sleep and research has shown that lack of quality sleep can sabotage your weight loss goals. One 2013 study found that people who practiced yoga reported having fewer sleeping disturbances compared to those who did not. Poor sleep increases ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite. Yoga can help you sleep better by helping you relax, reduce tension and keep stress levels balanced. Not to mention that reducing stress and anxiety makes it easier to follow through with your weight loss efforts by helping you make better decisions. This helps you tap into a much healthier mindset, which in turn will help improve your self-image and general sense of wellbeing.

Remember that there is no cure-all magic pill to losing weight, when practicing yoga for weight loss it is critical to be aware of what you are eating and how often you are exercising.  Overall embarking in a yoga practice encourages a much healthier lifestyle all round, if you add yoga to a fitness routine that includes more intense calorie-burning exercise you will see faster, longer-lasting results giving Yoga an exceptionally important role to play in a holistic weight loss approach.

Liza Brunell

Adv Dip Health Science Naturopathy

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