Despite being a popular form of exercise, yoga is not commonly thought of as a past-time that can help contribute to weight loss, however it can actually be very useful for those seeking a leaner and meaner physique!

Below we have listed five ways that yoga can help you shift some stubborn pounds:

1. It Helps You Burn Calories

When you think of yoga you may picture slow stretching or simply laying on the floor, but this is far from the whole picture.

There are many kinds of yoga and several of these are active, calorie-burning forms of exercise.

Vinyasa yoga, for example, is a dynamic practice that blends dance-like flow with deep stretches in linked movements. Sub-categories of Vinyasa yoga include Ashtanga, Prana Flow and Power yoga. People participating in a Vinyasa yoga can expect to burn up to 600 calories in an hour-long class, or 900 calories in a 90-minute session.

Bikram yoga, where rooms are heated to up 42 degrees Centigrade and with a humidity of 40%, is even more intense and participants can experience water weight lost from sweating as well as calories burned.

The muscle gained from practicing yoga burns more calories than fat, leading to an increased metabolism for long term weight management.

2. It Can Help Improve Your Performance In Other Sports/Physical Activities

The emphasis on stretching in all forms of yoga is an excellent way to help improve the health of your muscles and ligaments, enabling you to push yourself further and improve in other areas of exercise.

Yoga has been found to be exceptionally beneficial to professional rugby players, whose sport does not involve stretching but does involve a lot of high impact and stress on the body.

There are even specific stretches for people involved in different kinds of sports – for example enabling a greater range of movement in arm muscles which enable rugby players to throw further and more accurately.

Runners will find that yoga decreases tightness and the risk of injury to leg muscles such as the achilles and calf muscles, and those who enjoy weight lifting can build up strength through yoga practice.

Yoga decreases the risk of injury by strengthening muscles and therefore increases the amount of time people have to participate in vigorous exercise. In this way yoga is contributing to calorie burning exercises and therefore to activities that will aid healthy weight loss.

3. It Reduces Stress

The stress hormone cortisol is at least partially responsible for weight gain, as it tricks your body into thinking that you have used calories to combat the stress, even if you haven’t.

Increased levels of cortisol causes higher insulin levels, which makes your blood sugar drop – the impact of this is that you crave sugary, fatty foods. Cortisol encourages us to comfort eat, because the body releases calming hormones in response to food, even if we don’t need it [1].

It also makes us comfort eat as a stress reliever and something to do, to give us a break from thinking about work or other commitments.

Yoga reduces stress through techniques such as mindfulness, slowing down and taking a break from the pressures of daily life, and improved breathing techniques. Deep breathing is one of the most underrated stress relievers – not only does it have a positive mental effect but slower breathing has been shown to stimulate the parasympathetic or ‘calming’ nervous system [2].

By reducing your stress through yoga you are reducing fat-building hormones as well as motivating yourself to good self-care practices.

4. The Yoga Ethos Encourages Participants To Consider Their Health

You cannot participate in a yoga class without thinking about your body, and the emphasis on wellness and wholeness often encourages people to think about their long term health, including their diet.

Eating a lot of processed, heavy, sugary or fatty foods will make yoga sessions uncomfortable, so eating smaller and lighter meals as well as switching to more whole-food based meals is common for people practicing yoga.

The desire to be more flexible and to make the movement of yoga flows easier may also motivate people to lose weight and improve at their practice.

5. It Alleviates Boredom & Helps Keep You Active

Yoga can be done anywhere and without any specialist equipment, meaning that people who may usually eat out of boredom can choose to spend time practicing breathing, stretching and flowing.

Improving at your practice may boost confidence and have a knock on effect on motivation to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Meeting other health conscious people at yoga classes may also help to encourage people to lose excess weight and keep it off.

Conclusion

As well as having numerous mental benefits, practicing yoga can help maintain a healthy body and aid in weight loss and healthy weight management. This is through a variety of benefits including improving muscle health, reducing stress and burning calories.

Hannah Canavan
Hannah Canavan
Researcher at DietProbe
Hannah is a health and lifestyle journalist with a passion for veganism and nutrition.
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