Last week we looked at what yoga is (and isn’t). Let’s look at how yoga may (or may not) help with weight loss.
First, when we are asking if something is good for weight loss we need to be clear what we mean by that. Many things can be good for making the scale go down, but not necessary “good” for the reasons you want the scale to go down. As we mentioned last week, there are many different ways to “do yoga”. Some burn a lot of calories, some not so much. But we also have discussed that for any exercise to truly help with weight loss, it needs to be about much more than burning calories.
Most people are looking weight loss to make them feel and function better. Feeling and functioning better is truly how exercise helps you reach a weight loss goal. When we feel better, we are more likely to eat better. When we function better we are able to enjoy more physical activities with ease. When any form of exercise makes us feel and function better, it creates an upward spiral that is “good” for weight loss.
Yoga is unique in the ways it helps us feel and function better. First, it requires mindfulness. Yoga is set up to help us pay attention to our body with a mindset of being kind to it, listening to it, learning how it functions best. So yoga can help us develop a healthier relationship with our body; a relationship that may be “strained” from years of weight loss efforts.
Yoga also moves your body in ways it might not do in daily life. Since we only get to keep the movements we do often, moving in a wider variety of ways means you are more likely to have more, rather than less, freedom of movement as time moves on.
Yoga can reduce the effects of stress on the body and brain, helping with anxiety, depression or just the normal life stress that can sabotage our best intentions with eating healthy. This can lead to less stress or emotional eating, better quality sleep, and more resilience to stay on track.
As with any form of exercise it is only good for weight loss when it is designed to work with your body’s abilities right now. The challenge with yoga is that because it is so different from other forms of exercise and daily life activities, it can be more straining than stress relieving. If the form of yoga you try does not feel right for your body, it won’t help you reach your weight loss goals. If yoga leaves you feeling worse about yourself it is definitely not good for weight loss (nor it is really yoga).
Fortunately there is chair yoga! I love chair yoga because it allows us to gradually get used to poses without strain (and embarrassment). Now, if you have an image of chair yoga as nursing home yoga, think again! Chair yoga is great even if you have been practicing for a while. There are many great chair yoga videos free online that are worth a try.
So yes, yoga, when it is done in a way that works with (not against) your body, helping you feel and function better, can be a unique resource for helping you reach your healthy weight.