Does Yoga Help with Losing Weight?

The health benefits of yoga are by now well known. Yoga has been around for about 5,000 years and it’s been studied extensively over the last century with researchers finding a host of benefits, from helping with depression and arthritis to easing chronic pain and improving post-partum recovery. One of the most important benefits of yoga is its ability to help you lose weight.

Yoga can actually help with your weight loss goals in a few ways. Even though most forms of yoga don’t produce the calorie-burning power of an aerobic workout, but it’s still exercise.

Yoga can also encourage mindfulness, a strategy that several studies have confirmed can aid weight loss. Here’s what you should know about turning to yoga to help you shed pounds.

Yoga Stimulates Weight Loss Hormone Adiponectin

The hormone adiponectin is often low in people who are overweight. This protein in the blood has anti-inflammatory and insulin-sensitizing properties with issues like type 2 diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and insulin sensitivity linked to low levels of adiponectin.

According to a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, practicing yoga for 10 days as part of a comprehensive program helped improve adiponectin levels. The team wrote in the paper that “even a short-term yoga-based lifestyle intervention” may help reduce the risk of heart disease and aid in weight loss for overweight and obese men.

Yoga & Weight Loss for Middle-Aged Adults

While aerobic exercise causes you to burn calories quickly, the weight loss through gentle yoga techniques aren’t due to common pathways. Despite this, research is very promising.

One ongoing study at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center involving more than 15,000 overweight adults in their 50s found that those who practiced yoga at least once a week for at least 4 years lost 5 pounds on average while people who didn’t practice yoga gained an average of 13.5 pounds.

Middle-aged adults who begin yoga at a healthy weight are more likely to maintain their current weight than people who never try yoga.

Hot Yoga for an Intense Workout

Most forms of yoga are very gentle, but Bikram or “hot” yoga offers an intense workout with the ability to burn calories while improving your strength and balance.

Hot yoga is performed in a room heated to 104 degrees with constant motion. This type of yoga gets your heart rate within the target for heart health and weight loss benefits and it’s a go-to fitness workout for many celebrities.

Reducing Cortisol Levels Aids in Weight Loss

Yoga is an excellent way to reduce stress which in turn lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol has been shown to affect fat storage, in particular it can lead to the accumulation of stubborn belly fat that doesn’t respond well to diet and exercise.

This stress reduction is one of the reasons people who practice gentle yoga are able to lose weight, even when they aren’t actively burning that many calories.

One of the most popular types of yoga for reducing stress is restorative yoga, a gentle type of yoga that does not have challenging poses or flowing movements. Instead, postures focus on relaxation and are held for longer than in other styles with the use of padded bolsters, blankets, and pillows.

Breathing practices are emphasized in restorative yoga. Despite its gentle nature, a study found women who practiced restorative yoga lost significantly more subcutaneous fat (or the fat just below the skin) than women who used stretching and were able to keep the weight off longer.

Mindfulness and Weight Loss

Mindfulness is learning to experience everything in the moment, an awareness that can give you a sense of freedom, perspective, and a sense of being connected.

Being mindful means having control over your attention and focusing on whatever task you are performing at any given moment with your undivided attention.

Yoga and mindfulness often go hand-in-hand. Yoga cultivates body awareness and teaches you how to be in your body and explore how your food makes you feel. It also teaches breath awareness to help manage stress, which can prompt your brain to think you’re hungry or lead you to stress eat.

A growing body of research suggests that mindfulness learned through yoga can help with weight issues and help you avoid unhealthy eating choices.

Known as “mindful eating,” this approach includes paying attention to the texture, flavor, color, and smell of your food; chewing food slowly; removing distractions while you eat; and coping with guilt about your diet.

Yoga has been found to help reduce binge eating as well. According to one study published in Qualitative Health Research, women who practiced yoga at home for 12 weeks ate less overall and had fewer binge eating episodes by cultivating awareness.

The Takeaway

These are just a handful of the ways in which yoga can aid in your weight loss efforts. Whether you sign up for hot yoga or more gentle classes at a local gym or practice yoga at home, yoga can be a part of any type of weight loss regimen regardless of your age, gender, or level of physical activity.

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