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The practice of yoga being an effective use for weight loss has been questioned for years. Can you really lose weight with yoga? The answer is YES, and with a lot less effort than you think. In this article we will discuss the science backed effects yoga has on the body that will help you meet your weight loss goals.
What is Yoga?
I’m sure by now you are aware what yoga is, but may not exactly know what type of exercise it provides.
Yoga is a body-weight based workout that involves different postures that engage different areas of the body in combination with breathing techniques.
What this means is, you are using your own body weight to provide resistance against your muscles. This is what gives people who practice yoga regularly that slim, toned look.
But that doesn’t mean you will become immediately chiseled after doing three classes. How often, and what type of yoga you practice greatly impact how fast you lose weight and get to where you want to be.
What Types of Yoga Are Best For Weight Loss?
There are so many different types of yoga, when getting into it, it may be very overwhelming which one is the best for you. I go over this more in our Yoga for Beginners article, but if you are specifically looking to meet weight loss goals, these are the ones that will be most effective.
This type of yoga consists of 26 postures that are done in the same order every time, in the setting of a 105 degree fahrenheit room.
The poses are done in combination with two different breathing exercises, and are meant to get you into the present moment by getting into the flow of this moving meditation. But it is definitely not only beneficial for your mind. You will SWEAT in a Bikram yoga class. Each class consists of 90 minutes, so make sure to drink a lot of water before and bring a towel!
Here’s an example from Michelle Goldstein’s Youtube channel Heart Alchemy Yoga
This is very similar to Bikram yoga, but is performed in a heated room, and the postures done are different.
This is definitely a physically demanding practice, and you will see results fast because of that.
I definitely recommend becoming accustomed to the basic yoga poses before getting into Ashtanga yoga, because it is a highly structured practice where proper alignment and knowledge of each pose is expected. The effort is definitely worth it!
Jessica Kass on Fightmaster Yoga has a great Astanga yoga class that you can watch below. Notice how precise each movement is and how alignment is a big focus.
Vinyasa yoga is one of the most popular styles of yoga in the United States, and with good reason. It is a fun, dynamic practice that offers a great workout both mentally and physically.
All movements are paired with the breath and are designed to get you into a “flow state”. You are constantly moving so you’re heart rate will definitely get up there if you put your all into it.
When practiced consistently, this is a great practice for all levels to build strength and lose weight.
Erin Sampson from Five Parks Yoga has a great video that shows just how great of a workout Vinyasa yoga can be.
This is a broad term that includes different styles of yoga, but seems to be most popular with Vinyasa yoga in the western population, unless of course you go to a Bikram class.
The only difference between a Bikram class and a “Hot Yoga” class is that Hot Yoga classes are shorter and offer more variety of poses.
I have been doing this type of yoga for three years now and have seen a substantial difference in my strength, weight, and overall body composition. Just like Bikram, you will completely sweat out everything inside of you, so definitely come prepared with a towel and water bottle.
Is Yoga More Effective For Weight Loss Than Other Exercises?
You might think spending an hour on the elliptical 5 days a week is helping you lose weight because you see the 600 calories you’re burning on the screen, but this isn’t always true.
When you do the same exact movement every single time you work out, your body adapts to it, and the workout becomes less effective, meaning you will burn less calories and won’t be getting the physiological benefits that come with that workout.
In yoga, you are doing a bunch of different dynamic movements for a period of time that build muscle while giving you a cardio workout, without becoming adapted.
How Does Yoga Help You Lose Weight?
It Lowers Cortisol Levels.
Cortisol is the infamous stress hormone known for causing that unwanted belly fat around your midsection.
Increased cortisol levels lead to increased insulin levels, which leads to weight gain.
When you are stressed, it often promotes overeating and eating of comfort foods that tend to be high in fat and sugar, also leading to unwanted weight gain.
Elevated cortisol levels also causes less testosterone to be released, which lead to a decrease in muscle mass, which slows down your metabolism. No one wants that!
A study was done on 54 patients to test the effects of yoga on cortisol levels and depression compared to medication use. The patients that only used yoga as treatment saw significant drops in their blood cortisol levels compared to the patients using medication.
Yoga compared to other aerobic activities can also count as less stressful on the body. People that overdo it with high intensity exercise are actually shown to have higher cortisol levels do to the stress they are putting on their body.
So if you are going to the gym five days a week and not seeing the results you want, it may be because you’re just working too hard. Try replacing a few of those days with yoga and reap the mind and body benefits it provides.
It Changes Your Eating Habits.
Yoga promotes mindfulness, which when practiced regularly, can lead to better eating practices and stronger impulse control.
Studies show that meditation practices, including yoga asanas, work the prefrontal cortex of your brain, which is responsible for your impulse control. So when I say you are working out your body and mind in yoga, I mean it literally!
By practicing yoga regularly, you will develop healthy habits and have a stronger sense of willpower along with it, causing you to consume less, eat healtheir food, and lose weight.
It Builds Muscle.
Yoga is a body weight workout, which I explained before means you are using the weight of your own body to create resistance. This is one of the best types of workouts you can do to build strength and muscle.
Have you ever noticed how toned and frankly, jacked gymnasts are? Well, all they do is body weight workouts!
Compared to weight lifting, body weight workouts build lean muscle without the stress on the joints. In fact, yoga is extremely beneficial for the joints and is often advised to people that have joint related ailments such as arthritis.
The more muscle you gain, the more calories you burn at rest. This is because muscles use more energy than fat does. 10 pounds of fat is said to burn 20 calories at rest, while 10 pounds of muscle burns 50! That is more than half!
It Boosts Your Metabolism.
This is tied in with all of the points above. Stress, fat percentage, and level of activity all directly impact your metabolism.
Yoga has a great impact on the adrenals, which are responsible for producing cortisol. When your cortisol levels are low and you aren’t in “fight or flight” mode your body isn’t constantly in survival mode and doesn’t think it has to conserve fat for later.
The more muscle you gain, the faster your metabolism becomes, meaning the more calories you burn, which is needed to obtain a calorie deficit to burn those stubborn pounds.
Jumping on an elliptical for an hour everyday has been shown that although it may help with weight loss initially due to calorie deficit, it is not beneficial to your metabolic rate long term. That is because of the point I explained earlier that your body adapts to the stressful motion that you are doing and it becomes less effective.
So yoga can help you destress, eat better, gain muscle, increase your metabolism, and all while performing fun dynamic movements that improve joint mobility and are loaded with tons of other benefits? Why not try it?
Ally is the co-founder of GroundedPanda.com with her fiance Victor. She began practicing yoga at the beginning of her career as a Registered Nurse to cope with the physical and mental stress it put on her, and fell in love with it. Her goal is to help beginners develop a fulfilling practice without the intimidation. Besides managing this website, she loves hiking with her loving fiance and cuddling with her two silly cats.