There is an endless fascination with how to lose the most amount of weight with the least amount of effort.
The truth is, there is no magic system, shake, or pill that will make you slimmer and leaner. Quick fix diets don’t work. Expensive supplements don’t work. Spending hours in the gym doesn’t work. And starvation definitely doesn’t work.
There is no magic involved when it comes to weight loss.
There is just hard work, commitment, and a balance of self-acceptance and self-improvement.
And that’s where yoga comes in…
Yes, yoga is great for burning calories and increasing your metabolism, but the real power of yoga when it comes to weight loss is the indirect impact it has on your everyday diet and lifestyle habits as you become more in tune with your body.
How does yoga help you lose weight?
#1 Yoga helps weight loss by burning FAT!!
When it comes to fat loss, most people are obsessed with burning calories. Google will tell you that yoga burns anything from 189 calories an hour for a gentle hatha yoga class up to 594 calories for a dynamic vinyasa flow class. Like anything google tells you, you have to take these figures with a pinch of salt. Calorie burn depends on everything from your weight, body fat percentage, style of yoga, and how hard you are pushing yourself.
But yes, yoga does burn calories. And it burns fat too. How? Well, most fitness fans, yogis, personal trainers and yoga teachers think fat converts directly into energy. If this actually happened, we would all self-combust. What actually happens when you lose body fat (- known as triglycerides) is that these triglycerides are broken down into carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen through oxidation. Yoga (and other types of exercise) increases oxidation. The carbon produced through this oxidation is then released through exhalation. Research shows that you basically exhale 84% of your lost fat.
And, because high intensity yoga oxidises fat for a long time after your yoga workout in order to restore depleted energy and regain homeostasis in the body, you burn more fat than if you were puffing or panting your way through a monotonous hour on the treadmill.
#2 Yoga helps fat loss by increasing muscle mass and metabolic rate
A lean, athletic physique is not just about fat loss. You need to build muscle too. Building muscle is not about building bulk but what building muscle will do is reshape your body, improve your metabolism of nutrients to increase your metabolic rate and help your burn fat.
And you can build muscle without a dumbbell or cable machine in sight! Your body can’t tell the difference between gym equipment and your own bodyweight. When you challenge your muscles with yoga poses (- think down dogs, planks, and warrior poses!), your body will be forced to adapt by building more muscle and become stronger, leaner, and more defined. And, because muscle is more metabolically active than fat, more muscle means you burn more calories (and fat) when you’re doing nothing.
#3 Yoga helps fat loss by reducing cortisol
Some of our clients come to us because they are working out seven days a week – cardio, strength training, Olympic weightlifting, circuits, sprints… and they are still not losing fat. They are stressed, tired, and becoming increasingly demotivated. And this is where yoga comes into its own.
Yoga is great at burning calories and making you strong and flexible. But it is even better at calming your down, reducing your stress levels and burning fat indirectly. You see, most of us life pretty fast-paced lifestyles and when we add in intense exercise regimes we put our body into a state of chronic stress. This stress causes our kidneys to release a cascade of the hormone cortisol – the same cortisol that is always in the media for causing belly fat and weight gain. And the media are right, cortisol moves fat from storage depots around the body and relocates it to fat cell deposits in the abdomen. It causes baby fat cells (adipocytes) to grow up into mature fat cells, causes fat cells to increase in size, and increases appetite and sugar cravings.
So, we NEED to reduce cortisol levels if we want to lose fat. And yoga is one of the best ways of doing this. Research shows combing breathing techniques with gentle poses like those done in yin yoga (- there is a load of yin poses in Yoga Gym: The Revolutionary 28-day bodyweight plan for strength, flexibility, and fat loss) helps regulate activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and reduce cortisol secretion, which will support healthy fat loss.
#4 Yoga helps fat loss by improving body awareness
Most of us are so disconnected from our body that we don’t know when we’re hungry, when we’re tired, or when we’re injured. This means we overeat, or under eat, or eat food that doesn’t agree with our body, and then wonder why we can’t lose weight.
Yoga changes all that. It forces you to tune into your body and notice the subtle sensations you would normally ignore. As you become more in tune with your body on the yoga mat, you become more in tune with your body at the dinner table. You notice when you are truly hungry (not emotionally hungry or eating out of boredom), and when you have eaten enough and feel satisfied. Even though that cheesecake looks REALLY good, you become aware that if you eat it, you will feel uncomfortably full and it’s probably best to save for when you are properly hungry.
Become more aware of your body’s signals, eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full – weight loss isn’t all that complex.
#5 Yoga helps fat loss by increasing self-respect
The more you learn about your body on the yoga mat, the more respect you have for what it can do and how you need to look after it.
When you have respect for your body you won’t want to feed it junk or spend all week on the couch. Eating properly and exercising become a form of self-care. When you see working out and eating well as nourishment not punishment, fat loss doesn’t seem like such a chore. It’s just another way to express the respect you have for yourself.