I am often asked whether or not yoga can help with weight loss. Moving into my late forties I can understand how quick we can be to judge ourselves when the bulge appears to grow. But judgement gets us nowhere.
Yoga encourages us to move beyond the popular expectations around body image. It gets to the source of our movement and eating rhythms. It helps us unravel and observe those behaviours that may be stopping us from feeling at home with ourselves. And it helps to reduce the health risks associated with being overweight including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers. So how can yoga play a part in weight loss?
What the experts say about yoga and weight loss
A recent study published in the Journal of Alternative Therapies by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, Seattle, found that regular yoga practice may help to prevent middle-aged spread in normal weight people and may promote weight loss in those who are overweight. The results of the study proved the test hypothesis: that yoga’s emphasis on body awareness and physical discipline supports the adoption of healthy dietary and exercise habits and thus indirectly affects weight control.
Another study at the University of California, San Diego, found that restorative yoga in particular helped to reduce subcutaneous fat in overweight women. This is perhaps because yoga reduces cortisol levels, which rise during times of stress and are known to increase abdominal fat. Unlike more intense forms of yoga, restorative yoga does not feature challenging poses and instead focuses on relaxation and movement with an emphasis on breath. Restorative poses are often performed in a reclined or seated position, with the body supported by bolsters and blankets. So it’s a gentle way to ease into yoga for those who may feel daunted about starting exercise.
Cultivating your inner strength through yoga
Yoga cultivates a form of gentle inner strength. As inner resources develop, a connection is made between our emotional needs and our external responses, and it is through meditation in combination with stronger asanas (postures) that we gain the strength of mind and confidence to let go of old habits that may be influencing our eating behaviours or lack of motivation to move.
Paradoxically, relaxation is the first vital key to achieving a healthy body awareness and weight management. The more relaxed you are, the more you cultivate patience in a world that expects results straight away, resulting in fewer feelings of guilt and failure along the journey.
If it’s your concern that you won't be able to ‘keep up’ in yoga, because of your age or ability, then think again. Aging brings its benefits. It offers a deeper relationship with ourselves, as we come to understand our behavioral patterns and resistances and know they don't have the same power over us.
Yoga helps us to examine our attitudes and how they play out in our lives. It can clear the dust off so that we can see how often we habitually behave and react to life and those around us rather than consciously responding ... especially in difficult circumstances.
Getting your prana moving
According to yogic tradition, asana practice also gets the prana (vital energy) of the body moving, which can be helpful for you if weight gain, decreased energy and sluggishness have appeared together. Reengaging in physical activity through asana practice can foster a renewed sense of control over our lives, a quality that sometimes diminishes as one’s weight refuses to budge!
Come along to Yoga RELAX and enjoy all the benefits of restorative yoga in a friendly and supportive group class.