One of the most common questions I get asked as a yoga teacher is “Will doing yoga help me lose weight?” The answer is definitely, but not in the “weigh” one might think. The ancient wisdom of the healing system of yoga always addresses the root cause of health issues, not just the symptoms. Excess weight is the symptom of a deeper problem or rather an opportunity for improvement.
Yoga increases self awareness. When we are more in touch with our mental and emotional body, we now have more awareness of the reasons why we might emotional eat out of boredom, stress, comfort, or self-medicate with food. Yoga helps us on our journey to getting to the root cause of depression, or our past, or current deep emotional issues so we can free ourselves of using food as a way of escape or cover up those inner feelings of being uncomfortable. Most of us have a vice of choice to help us to cope with life’s stresses whether it’s food, drugs, alcohol, work, sex etc. Our challenge is to choose healthy coping mechanisms to help us skillfully master the inevitable ups and downs we experience on this roller coaster we call life. Empowered with this knowledge we distinguish the difference of choosing to eat only when our stomachs are physically hungry and not just when we are feeling empty, lonely or unfulfilled inside.
Yoga encourages mindful eating and better food choices. Once we start practicing yoga, we inevitably become more in touch with our body and especially our digestive system. Our body will begin to show us the difference in how you feel after eating a Big Mac, fries, and a 32 ounce Coke versus after a meal consisting of whole foods with fiber, minerals, and nutritional value. Foods from the earth help us to feel satisfied and energized, not sluggish and lethargic. So it becomes natural for yoga practitioners to notice these changes in their digestive system and thus begin to crave healthy food and reject highly processed, sugary, and fattening foods.
“Yoga is a self sustaining isometric system that incorporates physical exercise with deep rhythmic breathing and meditation.”
Yoga lubricates joints and reduces pain. Pain is one reason that many of us shy away from regular exercise. Joint pain in the knees or back make it difficult to walk, run and cycle to lose weight. Many of us who are overweight find ourselves in a vicious cycle of not being able to exercise comfortably to lose weight because the existing excess weight causes pressure and pain to the knee joints. But yoga is the perfect low impact alternative that can get us moving in a therapeutic way. Yoga can actually rehabilitate joint pain, so not only are we moving our bodies and burning calories, we are restoring our bodies to its optimal blueprint, which is pain free. When we have pain in our skeleton system, it is always a space or stability issue. Tight muscles, fascia, and connective tissues, can steal needed space in our joints causing impingement’s on our nerves within the spinal cord or joint sockets. When we stretch and breathe, we make more space in these areas hence reducing and eliminating this pressure, and of course the pain, associated with it. Yoga also creates strategic all over and core strength, which will maintain our skeleton in its natural upright and spacious position. Yoga restores our body’s optimal blueprint and naturally maintains the perfect balance of strength and flexibility in the body.
Yoga creates muscle mass and burns calories. Yoga is a self sustaining isometric system that incorporates physical exercise with deep rhythmic breathing and meditation, addressing the entire body, mind, and spirit. There are many styles of yoga, some aimed at total relaxation and others encourage physical activity. Not only does yoga elevate our mood, encouraging you to do more of it, but when we feel better from our yoga postures, we are motivated to move more and lead a more active lifestyle which of course, keeps the weight off. Flowing in and out of and holding yoga postures increases our heart rate, our body temperature, and our energy level. Yoga practitioners essentially lift, move, balance, and bench-press their own body weight while holding postures, which creates an immense amount of strength. The beauty of the body sculpting effects of yoga is that it creates the perfect amount of muscle mass for our own frame. Unlike body building, which can often overdevelop some major muscle groups more than others, creating muscular and structural imbalances, yoga creates an all-over lean muscle mass that brings perfect symmetry for the muscular and skeletal system. The more lean muscle mass we have, the more we burn calories during everyday activities, leading to an effortless fat burning lifestyle.
Start with baby steps. Try a gentle yoga class, a beginner DVD or a private lesson to learn some modifications that suit your body. Then you may choose to eventually explore a more physically challenging yoga practice to increase muscle tone and burn more calories. Any style of yoga, gentle or intense will benefit you on your journey. Change begins from the inside out and yoga is the perfect way to start our weight loss journey and keep the weight off. Yoga is a lifestyle change, which sets us up for success where many temporary diets, fads and diet drugs set us up for failure. When we address the person as a whole, not just the physical body, we get to the root cause of weight gain, which puts us one step closer to our weight loss goals.
Inner Peace Yoga owner Meghan Donnelly, E-RYT 200, began her yogic journey in 1997 and has taught over 7,000 private and group classes in Tulsa, Okla. since 2000. Her passion for continuing education has led Meghan to specialize in helping students who have pain, and her classes emphasize alignment, injury prevention and rehabilitation. Meghan focuses on blending the body, mind and spirit. Her passionate, authentic and light hearted style of teaching integrates breathing, meditation, mindfulness, balance, presence, and self awareness. Students are encouraged to listen to their bodies, adapt the postures accordingly, and play with their limits without exceeding them. Her hope is to facilitate students to improve their life by incorporating the life changing principals of yoga into everyday living. You can read some of Meghan’s other writing on yoga and stress management here.