Let’s begin with a brief history lesson. There are references of yoga existing as far out as 10,000 years ago—long before anyone was concerned about their weight, muscle mass, appearance, or general body shape. It was a stressful time and their big concern was doing the work to get basic needs met, such as food, water, and shelter. They also spent time resting and connecting to spirit because most of what they needed perceivably depended on mother nature or higher power. So they sat and dedicated their time to purity of thought and reciprocation of the gifts (crops, water) they had received from her/him.
Fast forward to today. From right here in our yoga studio in Dayton, Ohio, it’s not hard to see that our circumstances have changed and so have our concerns. Now we spend time assessing how to solve all of our problems with one solution. That one solution tends to be sought after in either finances (make more money), acknowledgment (get noticed), or physical appearance (be thin and pretty).
We have very different problems and we’re constantly seeking answers to these problems, which leads us to the question at hand.
Will yoga help you lose weight?
Naturally, you want a clear cut answer. Don’t we all? But of all places to find a straight answer, you won’t find it in yoga. You will, most likely, find the answer:
Our body weight is simply just that—weight. It doesn’t become anything more until we decide that it means something. Something like we’re ugly, unpretty, unathletic, not enough, or *insert self-loathing reason here.* Our weight fluctuates for a number of reasons, all of which are most often not due to the reason you think—your food intake.
We often begin our weight loss journey by focusing solely on what goes in the body. We cut calories, eliminate certain foods like gluten or dairy, or increase things like protein and fiber. We seek out the solution via the foods we eat. However, here’s the cold, hard truth—NO ONE is successful solely by changing their diet.
Let’s look back to ancient times for a moment. Think of those yogis, just trying to sow their crops and haul their water. Their fear was not getting to eat. Most of us don’t have that fear nowadays, but we are still inclined to think that way.Their brain is your brain, just a little more evolved. It’s also the same brain that sends energy to your legs for running or freezes your body when you need to hunker down on a tight timeline. So imagine what your brain thinks when you deprive yourself of food or begin to stress about your diet—It thinks it needs to survive, so it holds on.
Now, you know that you’re life is not at risk from being a little hungry or from changing up your diet. You also know that who you are is not at stake if you don’t lose the weight. But that part is easily forgotten, so I’d like to repeat that one:
Who you are is not at stake if you don’t lose the weight.
This is the biggest misconception about weight loss. That when you lose the weight, your other 100 problems will go away. That is not true.
This is where yoga comes in.
Yoga can be an effective practice for weight loss for a number of reasons, but probably not the reasons you’ve considered.
How Yoga Can Help You Lose Weight
Here’s why it’s effective:
- You start to feel your body. When you feel your body moving, you become aware of it in other ways too. You may notice the subtle difference between “no longer hungry” and “full.” Or you may notice how you feel after you eat certain foods. Learning these subtle cues can have a huge impact on your weight loss journey.
- You relax. When you are stressed or freaking out, your body holds on. When you learn tools to relax, it lets go. Weight loss happens most effectively when you are in a relaxed state.
- You slow down. Many believe slowing down is detrimental to productivity. But on the contrary, slowing down plays a significant role in weight loss. First, digestion begins in your mouth. This is where your food, especially carbohydrates, is broken down. So you need to chew-a lot. Second, it takes 20-minutes for your brain to register that you’ve put food in your stomach. So eating slowly helps to reduce the amount that you actually eat.
- You become comfortable with discomfort. We mostly want immediate gratification and as little discomfort as possible. The mental benefits of yoga help you to distinguish when you’re actually hungry vs when you’re trying to soothe discomfort such as boredom, stress, or fatigue. When you can distinguish the difference, you can either strengthen your endurance for discomfort or find other ways to soothe your discomfort that are in line with your goals.
- Yes, the movement helps. If you haven’t been moving much, any yoga practice may help you toward your weight loss goals. Any style of yoga that increases your heart rate, stresses your muscles (aka strength), and improves respiration will provide a larger calorie burn than slower styles or no movement at all. So don’t hesitate to step into a more rigorous practice to assist with your weight loss goals!
PS – try live-streamed Power or Awaken classes to start your journey.
Always remember, anything that lasts takes time, consistency, and a willingness to shift from old habits to new ways. You’ve got this.
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