“Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.”
― B.K.S Iyengar
If you have ever tried to lose weight, I am sure you know how much cardio sucks, how the weight machines at the gym are confusing as heck, and how staying on a diet is just outright frustrating. Each of these things is made even worse because you desperately want to hit your weight loss goals. But, it feels like nothing is working, and you will never see any results.
So, what happens? You end up walking away from the gym membership you paid a hefty yearly fee for, and you end up going back to eating unhealthy foods because it’s just easier. I have been there before, and it never feels good.
With all the fitness hype around us, I am sure you have come across yoga at one point or another. You may have even wondered if yoga can make you lose weight. It absolutely can.
The best part about yoga is that not only does it help you lose weight, but it also enables you to see yourself in an entirely new and healthy way.
But before anything else, let’s be clear that losing weight is more complex than exercising, or dieting or both. There are other factors that play a role in losing weight, like sleep patterns, stress, age, etc. However, as a rule of thumb, we could simplify this concept by saying that to lose weight your body needs to consume more calories than you put in.
Now, let’s find if yoga can make you lose weight and how.
What Is Yoga
Yoga is a practice that has been around for over 5000 years. It is comprised of three main components:
- Physical practice
- Mental practice
- Spiritual practice
All three of these practices are intertwined together and used to revitalize the body and extend life.
The main focus of yoga is on the breathing paired with movements. By focusing on your breath, you are learning how to strengthen your mind to stay in the moment.
Yoga helps you strengthen your mind and stay in the moment, a great tool to lose weight and not gain it back.
For those of you who shy away from yoga because of the spiritual practice, please don’t. It’s more of a way to connect with yourself and be in touch with who you are than anything. If it really makes you uncomfortable, you can just ignore it altogether. The most important aspects for those who want to practice yoga to lose weight and stay healthy are physical and mental practices.
Physical Benefits of Yoga
Yoga, as a means of exercise, does some pretty amazing things. It increases your flexibility, strengthens your muscle tone and strength, and improves your respiration and overall vitality. It is also great at maintaining a balanced metabolism, has been found to cause a weight reduction, and is excellent for circulatory and cardio health.
Many of the yoga poses don’t just incorporate one muscle group. They more often than not include:
- Your core
It’s a total body workout when you practice yoga. And it can be gentle, so even those who suffer from injuries can still have a healthy yoga practice after adjusting a few things.
Yoga may not burn as many calories as running or other cardiovascular exercising styles do. Still, it does increase endurance and strength, which assists in weight loss and your ability to exercise over longer distances and more extended periods.
To some, this may sound like nonsense, but for anyone who thinks yoga isn’t an actual workout, I can almost guarantee you’ve never tried it before. Or at least, you’ve never tried hot yoga or an excellent Vinyasa flow; either one of these yoga types can make your heart rate soar and your sweat glands activate.
Yoga can be a gentle or a total body workout that can make your heart rate soar.
Even if the flowy types of yoga aren’t your thing, studies have shown you can slowly lose weight by creating a yoga practice. Your body’s metabolism will speed up, you will gain muscle, strength, and learn to be more in touch with yourself.
What we learn from practicing yoga is that it isn’t all about the calories we burn. It is so much more than that. Yoga increases our ability to be mindful. It teaches us to be aware of our surroundings, including what we choose to put into our bodies. Yoga is an entire physical and mental workout. You just can’t have one without the other.
Creating a healthier lifestyle makes you feel better about yourself. When you feel better about yourself, you want to continue doing the stuff that makes you feel good. So, you are burning some calories with yoga, but you are putting your mind in a headspace that will help you throughout your day.
Being in the correct headspace means you are more likely to make smart decisions about what you eat and about what you do. It also puts you more in touch with your body, so you are better able to recognize your body’s hunger cues.
Having a regular yoga practice can also decrease your stress levels. With a decrease in stress, you are likely to choose better foods, be happier, healthier, and be more ready to practice yoga than you would be when feeling bad about yourself. A decrease in the stress hormone, cortisol, has also been shown to decrease belly fat. There are just good things that happen when you do yoga!
Mental Benefits of Yoga
Just like the physical aspect of yoga can make you lose weight, so can the mental.
You are better able to handle stress, which affects your view on yourself and the world around you. Your outlook on life becomes more positive, the longer you practice yoga. It also helps with:
- Keeping your mind clear
- Helps with your overall calmness
- Increasing your bodily awareness
- Sharpening your concentration
- Keeping you relaxed
You become better at handling stress, forgiving yourself for messing up, and moving forward.
The more in tune you are with yourself, the better able you are to listen to your body and what it needs. The less stressed out you are, the more likely you won’t feel as much guilt the next time you mess up a diet. You will forgive yourself, move on, and start fresh the next day.
Yoga is a practice that teaches you how to forgive yourself for messing up. We all make mistakes. This is an important fact to realize when you began a journey to lose weight. Forgiving yourself is essential in being able to move forward. You will eventually see the results, and yoga can absolutely help you with losing weight.
It also doesn’t matter how overweight or skinny you are. There are benefits for all weights and all body types. Even having a calmer yoga practice like restorative yoga can be beneficial. You are still stretching and being mindful.
Restorative yoga can be an excellent choice for overweight individuals or those who aren’t quite sure if a yoga practice is for them. It doesn’t require crazy postures or an intense string of movements. It just requires you to be present, focused on your breathing, and start to learn about your connection with your body.
Best Styles of Yoga to Help You Lose Weight
There are two styles of yoga that help in the speed of weight loss.
- Bikram/hot yoga is a practice where the same 26 postures and breathing exercises are used in the same sequence. You are in a room where the temperature is 105 degrees (40.6 °C) and has a humidity of 40%. Each class is about 90 minutes long, and you can burn as much as 500 calories.
- Power yoga/Vinyasa is moving from one posture to another while linking your breathing. It is a fast-moving practice that generates more of an aerobic workout than other forms of yoga do.
As someone who has had a regular yoga practice for the past six years, there are some things I have found along the way that I feel are worth recommending.
- If you want to learn more about the process of yoga and how amazing it can truly be for both your mind and body, no one says it better than the book by B.K.S Iyengar. It’s a beautiful read by a man who is considered one of the most important yoga masters of our time. I can’t recommend this one enough. I have read it multiple times now and it always inspires me to keep pushing for both weight loss, strength development, and staying present.
- If you are starting out on your yoga weight loss journey, and aren’t ready for the classroom, I recommend checking out Yoga with Adrienne. She’s a great Youtube instructor and who I first learned yoga from and has a lot of different classes focusing on weight loss.
- If you want a rather advanced teacher, then you have to check out Leigha Butler’s videos. She makes some seriously challenging practices that will make you up your game and sweat the pounds off.
Some Final Takeaways
Yoga is a journey, and it will help you lose weight. But to get the most out of it, you can’t let yourself be self-conscious. You have to give yourself entirely over to what yoga is and stop thinking about what other people are thinking of you. They are probably so wrapped up in their own breathing practice that they don’t even know you exist.
I know when you are overweight or think you are overweight, going to the gym can be a daunting task. But, the thing with yoga is, everyone is there for their own journey (whatever that may be.) Classes are very accepting of all shapes and sizes of people. That is one of the reasons why yoga is such an ideal choice for someone wanting to lose weight.
Remember, everyone starts somewhere. There’s no such thing as being bad or sucking at yoga. The entire process of yoga is a continuous journey. Even those who look like they can do every posture known in the yoga world still learn each time they step on their mat. We are all learning when it comes to yoga, so never get angry with yourself or beat yourself up because you can’t get a pose or keep up with the flow. One day you will be able to. Work towards that.
It can be difficult to keep up with a class, online or off, when you have a few extra pounds. But, don’t let that discourage you. Do what you can, take breaks when you need to, and just keep working towards your weight loss goals.
Yoga is for all shapes and sizes who wants to lose weight.
Yoga can help you lose weight as much as it can help you find yourself. Enjoy each moment when you step on your mat and remember to breathe.
She is a freelance blogger and editor who writes on psychology, sociology, the future, and writing. Connect with her here.