Yoga has long been known to increase flexibility, reduce stress and improve well-being. But does all that “OM”-ing and bending have a significant impact on weight loss?
Losing weight is simple in theory but much more challenging in practice. To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume — in other words, eat less and exercise more. Practicing yoga certainly qualifies as the exercise component of this strategy, as yoga is a terrific calorie-burning exercise that strengthens and tones every muscle of your body, waking up deep muscles and using more of the body more intelligently than many other exercise modalities.
Yet while the math is clear on paper, once you begin your yoga practice with yoga techniques for weight loss in mind, your mind can turn to a thousand other distractions to pull you from your weight loss goal.
This is precisely where the mental benefits of yoga step in to help weight loss. Practicing yoga helps to increase your sensitivity to your inner signals such as hunger and cravings. There are physical components to both of these sensations, but true hunger to feed our body’s basic needs is a totally different experience than craving foods that do not nourish us. Yoga helps to slow you down mentally so that you can learn to distinguish between the urge to eat and the emotional impulses that sometimes drive us to eat to quell our feelings. Yoga can help us discern what we are truly hungry for, and knowing what makes us tick internally can help us lose weight by making better food choices.
Because yoga also helps you be totally present, it also helps you eat more mindfully — so you pay more attention to the taste of food and learn how to savor each bite instead of wolfing food down unconsciously. Yoga teaches you to feel true satiation instead of eating until you feel stuffed.
Couple that with the breathing and meditation techniques yoga teaches us, and you have a system that acknowledges your total health every time you practice. Stressed out bodies are overloaded with cortisol, which packs on intra-abdominal fat. The stress-reducing properties of yoga help you relax more effectively so that fat cannot accumulate.
The physical changes from conscious movement yoga are evident immediately: Your muscles burn, you break a sweat, you feel loosened up and relaxed for hours afterward. But it’s the mental transformation that really makes lasting weight loss through yoga possible. A mind tuned in to the body’s deeper thoughts and feelings about itself is a mind that is no longer willing to accept extra weight or excess mental baggage.
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[Reprinted with permission from Gaiam Life.]
Jill’s comments about the mental benefits of yoga influencing our body’s action of holding on to fat (too much stress increases cortisol) in addition to the psychological benefits of being more connected with our body, calmer in our minds, and then not needing to eat (neurotically) is thought provoking
I always lose weight when I practice yoga consistently. Of course slowing down, breathing, stretching and strengthening will help boost metabolism! When I am more relaxed, I really do make better food choices. Sometimes we think we are hungry but really are cells just needed some oxygen!
Since many people struggle with will power when it comes to making healthy decisions, mindfulness and awareness that yoga gives us is huge. The benefits of slowing down, being more mindful, breathing and relaxing sometimes outweigh the benefits of what we think of as exercise.
I underestimate the lasting mind-body benefits of yoga. I always noticed I felt better for up to two days after class, but I will now pay attention to the influences it has on my behavior. Thanks for this post!
The component of yoga I am finding related to weight loss/ eating for me is sankalpa. With the intention to feel physically and emotionally well when I eat it is really impacting both my food choices, and how much I eat. My sankalpa during asana is simply, to feel. Putting the pressure of burning calories/ weight loss was too much for my yoga practice, it took me too far away from my initial intuition, to feel. I now do exercise outside of yoga to work on those parts.
Such a great article! I also feel when my practice helps me become more mindful I make better choices!! That is the dilemma often the “busy” in life shushes the internal voice that leads to being able to listen to the internal knowing that becomes evident once I can slow down to hear the signals.
This is an area which has challenged me much of my life. At 40, I finally feel fit and comfortable in my skin, but I have to stay conscious about how I feel and what’s happening in my life. In addition, with a surgery coming up that will leave me without the use of one arm for quite some time, my biggest concern, rehab? Nope, how much weight will I gain from moving less, from having another glass of wine – which usually leads to more chocolate. I am trying to strategize now so I won’t fall into my habitual patterns.
Truth!! I love this! Mindfulness in all that we do and in all that we are. A true yogic state. Thank you.
Thank you for the explanation of how yoga is a stress reliever to stop the build up of cortisol in the body and abdominal fat accumulation . This is a great A-HA moment !
Thank you Jill
I simply love this perspective on ‘yoga for weight loss’. While I agree there is a physical/exercise component to the practice, the bigger benefit comes mentally. Personally, I believe that 80% of losing and/or maintaining a healthy weight comes from a proper, healthy diet, not running for hours on a treadmill to CNN. Since many of us (including myself) struggle with will power when it comes to making healthy decisions, the self-control, mindfulness, etc that yoga gives us is huge. I can’t wait to carefully share this with my students.
I really appreciate this article, Jill. I am a personal trainer, and often clients come to me with the goal of weight loss, wanting me to “kick their butt” so they can burn off extra calories. Yet these same clients arrive at a session entirely stressed out, exhausted, achy, on a few hours of sleep. I feel I am doing them a disservice if I spend an hour working them to their limits. With their cortisol levels already spiked, an hour of hard exercise is going to make things go even more haywire, which in the end will undercut their weight loss efforts. The benefits of slowing down, being more mindful, breathing and relaxing sometimes outweigh the benefits of sweating it out on the gym floor. This is one major reason I took the YTU Teacher Training- thank you!
Thank you for this article. So many people enter the yoga realm with weight loss in mind- which is fine! However, there’s so much more too it, and so many more important things to think about, like our health. It’s true that when I started doing yoga more regularly, I lost some weight, but it was actually totally unintentional. I was just so focused on my practice, being around like minded people, and aware of what made me feel better, that I naturally was eating properly and exercising a lot. It’s so much better to start doing something because you enjoy it with the intention of becoming healthy and happy and then to have all those little factors just fall into place.
Great idea. I feel more mindful and less likely to eat junk food when I practice yoga as well. Another thought is what would it be like if you actually tried to om while in boat pose. Would it help hug the abdominals in?
I havent lost any weight from yoga, in fact I’ve gained weight. That being said yoga has taught me to appreciate my body in a way that I never have before. The number on the scale isn’t very important to me anymore. I’m more concerned with how I feel and what I’m able to do!
Thank you for a beautiful introduction to mindful weight loss. Mindfulness includes turning toward versus away from places where we get stuck. It forces us to look at the habits of the mind-body including cravings, as well as our relationships with our bodies and food. I believe, however, that there is a paradox here in using yoga as a strategy for weight loss if one of the foundational attitudes of mindfulness is non-striving. In mindfulness, we are not trying to get anywhere. Perhaps, weight loss is in the same category as relaxation – a by product of being present. Thanks for putting in bold, the mental benefits of yoga and the importance of being present.
What a great way to address yoga and weight loss. I know so many people that think that they are going to lose weight just from taking a vinyasa class once or twice a week and still maintain their not always exemplary dietary habits. The real message here is, as while any type of movement is great and better than sitting around doing nothing, yoga is more, as stated at the end of this piece, ” it’s the mental transformation that really keeps the weight off. A mind tuned in to the body’s deeper thoughts and feelings about itself is a mind that is no longer willing to accept extra weight or excess mental baggage.” By being in tune with one’s hunger ques, eating habits and making smart and healthy choices when it comes to dieting, a person is more likely to see results. Using yoga as a way to come into your body and understand how to be in tune to it is a great way to connect yoga and weight loss.
I have found in my practice that taking my yoga off the mat and applying the principles of the asanas helps my body to tone all over all day long. For instance, sitting at a desk or standing in line at the grocery store, I am constantly listening to my body and feeling tadasana in the stance. The feeling of being overfull on your mat also helps me to be mindful when choosing my diet.
I wish there were more blog topics on this one. There are statistics of yoga helping people feel better about their body, but not actually loosing weight. Loosing weight is a combined effort of exercise and diet. Without proper attention to both, it will not heed the expected results. I was 152lbs when I started yoga again after a long year of travel and eating everything as a cultural exploration and not exercising more than the daily walking of site seeing and transporting myself from city to city.
I started hot yoga, and I found myself not eating/wanting the “unhealthy” stuff because i knew how painful it would be once I got into the hot room to work it out. I now am at a healthy 124lbs, and in just a matter of months.
The yoga works, but its the tuning in to what your body really wants that is key.
More blog posts on this one, please! 😉
I am asked this question a lot. My answer is yoga helps you care for yourself and that will pour into all other parts of your life on and off the mat.
As someone who has struggled with their weight and maintaining healthy eating habits, mostly due to stress, I find this post a friendly reminder of the strides that I have made since delving into my yoga practice and completely agree with the sentiments shared. There is something about what happens on the mat that keeps us going back. Stress reduction is a KEY component for me. I have found that by doing yoga and releasing tension and pent up stressors, weight being one of them, my eating habits have shifted for the better and my weight is no longer the focal point but rather developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It’s a beautiful thing!
I am so surprised that there is only one thread on Weight Loss, since it is something most of us struggle with.
I have really worked hard to be ‘present’ during my practice, but it soon fades after I leave the mat. I even grant myself a few more cheats when I practice more regularly, which doesn’t make any sense. I do need to bring that mindfulness to my eating and nourishment. Thanks for bringing this up for discussion.
This post is the epitome of what yoga is and the powerful transformation it can create in one’s life. Like most women, I came to yoga for the amazing workout, but I fell in love with it after realizing how it was changing my life in every area- especially nutrition. Being in the YTU class right now, it’s even more transformational becoming even more self-aware and in tune with your own body. Thanks!
I love the combination of emotional issues hormones stress reduction the topic of weight loss. I hear all the time working with athletes that one week they need to slim down… the next week they need to bulk up… the following class they’re mentally exhausted and want a restorative class. There is so much pressure to slim and look like a model on the cover of a magazine, but not all bodies are meant to look like that; while the more we’re “out there,” the less we’re tuned into the inner signals of the body and mind. Jill, great article! I’m going to pass this one on to everyone I teach to !
In our society, most people gravitate towards the practice of yoga for exercise. It’s a great way to get more people excited about the practice and hopefully they discover something deeper about themselves. I, like many others, got into yoga as a way to lose weight. Sometimes this external goal can keep you from exploring the other spiritual aspects of yoga. I’ve only recently begun to discover that the ability to lose weight comes from the strength and will within and not from external pressures. I have yoga to thank for that.
Yoga has helped me to find balance in my life in all areas: I eat better, relax better and sleep better. Yoga has made me acutely aware of my bodies needs and limitations. Losing weight has just been one of the many benefits.
I figured this blog would have a lot of comments! Yes weight loss is such an asked question for new students coming into class. I have always said “not really” to my clients, and asked them to up their cardio a bit more. However the stress reduction is so important, and probably the number 1 reason for out of control eating in this country. There is some sort of reward system that sets in and I always here things like “oh, I’m going to have a tub of ice cream, I am so stressed out.”
However there are some people like myself, who loose their appetite when stressed out and I tend to loose weight. Is there another hormonal reaction that can happen? or is it just cultural? In India I don’t here people rewarding themselves through food when under stress.
Thank you for posting this. I have been advocating mindful eating and have broken it down to a simple plan for friends and family. 50% leafy greens (there are many greens that exist other than broccoli), 25% whole grains and 25% protein (beef, chicken, fish) You do not have to be completely vegan or vegetarian so long you stay consistent with a proper diet in combination with exercise. I also remind my friends to eat healthy and exercise for health as the #1 priority and weight loss as the last. Somehow it seems to get reversed. Sigh…
I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for the past 14 years but have suffered from food cravings since childhood. I think something is starting to click as my personal practice has gone deeper and now I’ve been teaching for one year 🙂
You are so right about the endless gifts that the physical practice of yoga as well as the philosophies can help you cultivate a healthy relationship with yourself and your food. I try to practice gratitude and set an intention before meals and I use to eat until I was stuffed. Now most times I know when I am satisfied and I like leaving that space (I think there is a term in Ayurveda for this).
I’m working on the mindfulness of meals, it’s hard when we have to eat on the run. One of my favorite experiences was when I did a 10-day Vipassana Mediation retreat and since we couldn’t talk or make eye contact with anyone, we had so much time to focus on the beauty of the food and really know when we were full which was so much quicker!!
Still working on the food cravings but try to pick better options like fruit, dark chocolate, and the occasional coconut ice cream.
I couldnt agree more. Stress is harmful in so many ways, and we even get more stressed of ‘not loosing the weigh’ and the vicious cycle of cortisol and stress continues like a snow ball.
Breathing is a key we often forget in daily life, If we don’t breath properly, means we are holding back or rushing forward either in breath or in our minds, and of course this means also that we are not present in our bodies either, so we cannot align properly and be aware of posture. When we breathe all of a sudden is like opening a door to a parallel universe. We start to rediscover our body -just as I am doing with Yoga Tune Up! – and what we will find will be nothing but love and the true.
Just observing ourselves when we are going thorugha challenging/dark/weird situation- our breath, our posture, our food choices and mental chatter is totally different than when we are in a very bright and happy one. Love this thank you for the reminder 🙂
I have always been a voracious eater. I love the way way food tastes, and in the past, I have had the bad habit of overreating simply because I could, and because I liked the feeling of being full. As I delve deeper into my yoga practice, I see myself becoming more aware of what I put into my body and the way that it makes me feel. It’s amazing because I’ve always wondered what it would take for me to practice restraint. Yoga makes me want to respect myself more. When I put bad food into my body, my body tells me what it’s feeling because of how in tune I now am.
As a long term healthy eating vegan I am still undecided about yoga and wegiht loss. Over the years my diet has remained consistent. What has changed many times is my excercise cycle. I go through phases – yoga and weight training, yoga and cardio, yoga only, weight training only, weight training and cardio,, all 3…and i find that while i am happiest when i am only doing yoga, its just not enough for me to maintain the weight I want to be. If I dont cut calories when only doing yoga, pounds creep back on, and since I make loving choices when it comes to my eating, I have no plans to ever be on a “diet”. Then again, the lowest weight I have ever been was during my 30 day bikram challenge, so I am undecided. Whats most important to me is being happy and healthy, weights much further down on my list, but it is something interesting to think about.
I had an interesting experience with yoga and how it played out on my eating habits. It wasn’t the awareness – I already knew when I was eating when I wasn’t hungry (and yet still doing it!), it wasn’t the physical exercises, breathing or movement, or even the relaxation and it’s effect on my nervous system and digestive functioning. It was much more so the yoga philosophy. I realised through yoga I had a lot of anxiety issues, which I dealt with yet exacerbated by being an adrenaline junkie, extreme sports nut. Coming to yoga years of that gave me the time and space to recognise I was an anxious girl and I can still say it is a state I can slip into easily. After movement, my next chosen medication was food and i could easily see that I was eating to calm the anxiety.
One day in a yoga therapy class someone mentioned anxiety was simply fear of the future. I mulled over that and it made total sense, especially since I loved to live in the future.
What yoga philosophy has provided me with is a framework to choose to feel safe no matter what the future holds; to choose to believe in abundance and that I will have enough; and that everything will work out exactly as it should so I don’t have to panic or fear what is coming. Making those connections, not only to the emotions and behavioural patterns, but also making a better connection to the time/space continuum around me (or the universe, if you will) has meant that where I may have gone to put something in my mouth at the first sign of low-level anxiety, I now trust that everything will be ok and will turn out perfectly.
From all of this a simple but effective equation: No more unnecessary calories in = no need to look for ways to lose weight!
Yoga has helped me become a healthier person and more aware of my body. I have become much more present and listen to my body’s needs. I have struggled with my weight and found that a regular yoga practice has motivated me to be more conscious of what I put in my mouth. I also like feeling “light” when practicing so it all goes hand in hand. I feel as though, I have less “bad” cravings after practicing and have the desire to eat healthier.
As Jill says yoga helps us consciously down regulate. Being in a contant state of low level stress, be it physical or emotional, triggers our fight of flight response. Our body interprets this as it being an emergency, a time of lack and scarcity of food. It doesn’t feel safe so it slows down our metabolism to conserve energy. This stress also produces cortisol which makes us store more interabdominal belly fat. When we breath deeply and do yoga we turn on our rest and disgest response, the parasympathetic nervous system. It is here the body feels safe. It interprets our environment as being abundant and plenty. It worries not about its next meal and trustingly turns on your metabolism and burns more fat. It is in this plane that yoga does its magic both mind and body.
Yoga is a practice, but your life is not. Allowing space for healthy choices is my current practice, both on and off the mat. On the mat, I am making healthier choices for my joints and overall stability. Off the mat, I am only beginning to honor my body instead of making faster, easier choices and using more readily accessible options to fuel my fire!
As someone who has struggled with weight all my life, I can definitively say that adding yoga to my regimen is a crucial component to my weight loss goals. It is not the be all end all, of course, since my Kapha body type demands a rigour that yoga on its own simply can’t provide. Where yoga shines for me is in how deliberate it demands its practitioners to be. Before yoga I was all too eager to use momentum in my workouts in a way that didn’t serve me. I used speed and inertia as a crutch instead of making my muscles, bones, ligaments, and joints do the hard work and engage fully from the start of movement to the end. Weaker muscles or those that felt challenged figure out ways to piggyback onto the stronger and more adept muscles, resulting in bodily imbalances like powerful legs but a weak core.
Now, having gained the mindfulness that yoga lends, I make those muscles earn their reward to health instead of giving the weaker ones a free ride on the stronger ones. This means I’ve lost some of that power I once possessed in my legs but now my core is slowly getting stronger.
I love the approach of this article. Many athletes that I work with that are trying to lose weight will ofter increase the intensity of their training and lower their caloric intake. I’ve argued this with them, as it can actually create a counter effect, putting more stress on the body. Introducing the meditate effects of Yoga to them as describe in the blog, is a digestible approach for them. It has the physiological effects of lowering the cortisol, heart and breath rate, releases stress in the muscles, and brings emotional awareness to triggers and feeling about their relationship with their body and what they do with it. Thank you!
It is truly amazing what a consistent yoga practice can do with your mindfulness of nourishing your body. I have found that the more I practice yoga, the more empowered I feel to listen to and take care of my body; eating when I’m hungry, staying hydrated, steering away from bad food and health choices and getting enough rest. That right there has helped me lose weight, almost subconsciously! I love this article, it made me remember what it felt like when yoga first began to make a huge difference in my life.
I’m a little surprised to see only one blog on this topic, but thank you for writing about it. I think weight loss is why MANY woman first come to yoga. I know thats one of the reasons why I started my practice years ago. Little did I know that I was also looking for something deeper. As a teacher, I think this can help me connect with my students who come to my classes with weight loss in mind. As your mention, weight loss is mainly the result of practicing awareness and consciousness through yoga. Sure, you might physically shed a few due to the physical exercise, but truly, it comes with making mindful decisions.
Practicing yoga raises our awareness over our body, therefore, we become more aware of what we eat and what nutrients our body needs. In fact, when we eat healthy, we are practicing NIyamas and respecting ourselves.
Sorry, Typo- that should read Physical SHIFT, NOT SHIT. (Although, I am sure the latter could apply as well).
I think and feel n my body that the mental shift and the emotional shift is key to the physical shit. There are MANY reasons why a body is holding on to excess. Yoga helps to first uncover the issues contributing to the weight issues. The physical comes along for the ride.
I read somewhere that if you do something new and different each day it results in weight loss, wait a second…that was in the YTU manual!
Yoga for weight loss probably started out as a marketing tool and while it does happen, it’s just a bit different than what the general public expect. They expect to sweat and move but don’t anticipate the mental shift that happens with a yoga practice. It’s great to see an article that reveals the truth behind this marketing concept.
This article really hit home for me. I began practicing yoga four years ago after a substantial weight loss (then 100lbs). With a goal of being present and to heal. My practice unlocked many things I was able to better understand and let go of. These mental benefits were the missing pieces to my puzzle on this weight loss journey. It took me from “If I am thin, I’ll be happy” to “what is going on and why am I doing it x,y and z).etc etc. Realizations from those questions allowed me to create new and sustainable patterns and feel the meaning of ahimsa for myself for the first time in my adult life. Thank you for sharing your perspective on this process!
I 100% agree with your assessment here. Fat loss is a complex topic, with many variables contributing to the cumulative fat loss equation. One’s mind and mindset is often neglected and forgotten in this equation, but it is probably the most important consideration for anyone seeking weight loss as a goal. Thanks for the great share!
I really enjoyed reading this article and I am very happy I came across it. I am living proof that yoga can help you loose weight. While I was pregnant with my daughter I gained 70 pounds and was terrified of how I was going to loose all the weight. While I have been practicing yoga off and on for over 15 years I did not think that yoga was going to be my answer. I eased in to yoga as a way to do an activity with my daughter by taking her to mommy and me yoga, little did I know that the class was really geared toward the moms while the babies lay or sit in front of you. The mommy and me teacher recommended that I attend the Momma Core class which again, was aimed for mom’s trying to get their figures back and get their core strength back, so I started going on Saturday’s to the Momma Core class and was seeing a difference in not only my body but my attitude as well. I then began going to 3-4 yoga classes during the week and I really started noticing my weight loss. Yoga has also made me realize to be happy with who you are and what you look like and has me believing that imperfections are beautiful.
After high school when I went off to college, I stopped doing most of the activities I was used to, mostly track and running. The one thing I sporadically stuck with and then made a deliberate effort to sign up for was campus yoga. Although this yoga was not what I had been practicing before, mostly yoga, it was just what I needed to stay grounded and clear in my body and mind. I look back and honestly don’t know if I would have made the same choices I did, had I not practiced. From that place my life truly unfolded and my dream to teach yoga was more fully realized and convicted. Yoga has helped me in so many areas of my life, from emotional grief and depression to healing relationships with people and myself. This respect and understanding I continually cultivate for myself and others truly helps me live a healthy life, and I owe so much of it to yoga. Thank you Jill for creating a brilliant method that helps me connect on multiple levels of my being. My sankalpa: trust my process and allow shift to happen.
Yoga has allowed me the ability to develop a mindset which is not governed by my ideas of body imperfection and fat fears. It allows me to look beyond my perceived imperfections and to feel gratitude for the body that supports my being. In this society, where body image is so overly emphasized, yoga is the balance that brings it back into perspective. I am thankful everyday that I am no longer controlled by that gnawing fear of weight gain and have learned to live comfortably in my own skin!
After years of looking into holistic medicine, working with reiki practitioners and hypnosis, and experiencing stress related weight gain and stress related weight loss first hand, I think that there’s a plethora of reasons as to why we gain/lose weight. Yes, eating fewer calories definitely helps. Then there are genetics (this is probably the easiest issue to overcome though…speaking from experience), bad habits (like eating late at night, not chewing well etc.) and stress. When I practice my yoga and remember to breath (Darcy mentioned Max’s book – I love it too), I don’t turn to food for comfort. I find great comfort, peace, happiness and self-confidence in my yoga.
I love the reminder that calories in <calories out = weight loss– we get so obsessed with the 'best' techniques for weight loss when it's really such a simple formula. However, the mind/body connection that is achieved through yoga is a powerful tool for being mindful of what we put into out bodies, and reminding us to honor our bodies. Not to mention the reduction of stress!
Oh, I just had to click on “weight loss” (and it appears I’m not the only one). Yes, I agree the sense of presence yoga brings to our life can make a difference. Then again, I still find it hard to keep the weight of. And an unfortunate side-effect of aging is that my metabolism slows down. Good thing that yoga is also teaching me to live with and cherish a less than perfect body.
Working at a yoga studio, I get asked alot which style of yoga will cause one to loose weight. I always respond that it is up to their metabolism, basically it does boil down to calories burned and consumed. When I think of burning calories, I mainly think about excercises that keep the heart rate up, which is opposite of what I think of when one practices yoga. Part of my sankalpa during Jill’s teacher training is to be mindfull, this article reinforced my intention and gave me something to focus on during the rest of this training. When Jill said that we will loose weight in this training, my thought was we were going to do some intense practices. But as she said we are a student of our practice, which really holds true as we analyze and break down each asana. But to really be a student, we must recognize how we feel throughout our body. So maybe with fully practicing my sankalpa, I will loose weight, but more improtantly I will learn to listen to my body and what it needs.
Excellent reminder. As you point out, weight loss is as much control over cravings and our emotional impulses as it is about breaking a sweat. Instead of wasting money on the newest book, diet, or personal trainer….this article reminds us that the power of checking-in with ourselves, can be more impact-ful. Thank you for sharing!
SO glad to have you say all of this. I have so many students ask how much they will sweat and how fast they will lose weight. I tell them it depends on how much they pay attention, and that they should come to the gentle class and meditate more.
Although I don’t practice yoga for weight loss, it has helped me be more conscious of my food intake – I want my body to be able to practice and eating unhealthy food (or too much of any food) simply gets in the way.
I started yoga for the weight loss benefits… because it was exercise. I had no idea the impact it would have on my mind and being mindful and present when I was eating… Awareness, realizing what we are doing when we are doing it, is one of the many benefits of yoga and carries over to our eating life.
Jill, you posed an amazing question. I’d start of saying that you definitely see a correlation between OMing and doing yoga, and weight loss. I use to be the fast eater, so proud I can down my meal in 5 minutes flat. Now after a few months of practicing yoga daily, I chew more, and slower, allowing me to truly appreciate my taste buds and enjoy EVERY bite. Due to me eating slower, I eat less, which in return saves me from chopping down on unnecessary calories and makes me more aware of what my body needs to sustain my hunger. All the cravings I use to have all the time for junk food have dramatically decreased, treating your body like a temple is one of the most important things you can do. Thanks again for your wisdom!
Yoga has given me a clear mind. I love the feeling. I think I do more thinking about what I put in my body than when I just focused on exercise. It’s calming.
I have to admit that the active part of the practice is what initially turned me on to yoga. I was a runner before I was a yogi, and so I initially got into yoga when dealing with a running injury. At the end of my first class I felt the amazing benefits of yoga, but didn’t realize at the time exactly what was going on within me to make me feel so calm and relaxed. I thought the feeling was akin to runner’s high, but alas it was definitely something much greater! As I started to practice more and more, I began to see my physical body change and become stronger. Yet, much more profound was what was going on inside – internally I was experiencing good digestion for the first time in my adult life. I was also feeling, well, sparkly! Like the inside of my physical and emotional body were sparkling from the inside out. This has continued on in my practice and in my life. In closing, I came to yoga for the physical benefits in the beginning, and I stayed because I connected to my inner self, my spirit, through the practice. And I continue to do so!
I definitely am more conscious of what I eat when I practice yoga; I no longer want french fries and other not so great for you foods. Instead, I try to eat more clean.
I really appreciated reading this article. I will admit full heartedly that yoga is my primary form of physical exercise, and, as a recovering anorexic, I look to this practice to keep me physically fit and looking good. I need to start with this statement before I turn to some of my complaints. I feel that the vanity aspect of yoga as a form of weight loss or a beauty regime has hijacked many studios and classes nationwide (specifically in New York, LA, and Miami). This emphasis seems to be in contradiction to the truth of the practice in its highest form. I go to yoga not only to take care of the physical, but to stop the mind-stuff, to find stillness, connection, and happiness irrespective of my body shape. I look for a healthy, nurturing environment to do this in and hope for fellows that are also healthy. It bothers me to be in a studio or with other yogis that are emphatic about the physical. But I suppose the yoga for me here is learning to put my judgements aside. The more esoteric benefits surely seep in to a person no matter what, and for those that are generally overweight, I am certain that this will help them to make smarter food choices, to eat more mindfully and to cut down on cortisol (as mentioned). This will in turn lead to more holistic health and wellness. I guess my question is and interest is, how does a teacher deal with sick students, be they underweight or overweight. Is it appropriate to discuss weight in yoga at all?
Such a simple article yet so powerful and so true. with the diet industry being a billion dollar industry. It’s like yoga and the act of being mindful specifically mindful eating is the best kept secret. also when looking at the reason why people over eat, there are many but commonly people over consume to fill a void and through the art and practice of yoga and breath individuals practice going to that present moment place and can create awareness around true hunger and eat when hungry and stop when comfortable. It has helped me tremendously with maintaining a healthy body weight.
Jill, this is so true. When we become aware mentally and emotionally we are no longer willing to be anything other than our authentic selves. We make smarter food choices and decisions about the directions in our lives. In this way it is easy to lose weight as the body seems to right itself and take in only what it needs.
It’s two days after Thanksgiving, and yes I did indulge in those special foods that normally aren’t part of normal daily diet. Ie. PIE!!!! But as your article stated my yoga practice has me more aware of when I maybe indulging too much. In the past I used food unconsciously to mask feelings that were unpleasant. My practice has helped me be present and eat moe mindfully. I have practice many years but it wasn’t until recently that my family and I started a vegetarian diet. As a teacher I try and get across to students that once you start to slow down and quiet the mind you will discover how much more sensitive and aware you become in and of your body. You start to reach a comfort level that is beyond what is seen in the mirror and feel more within core of you being. You don’t want to nourish your body with things that will supply you with a temporary high. We’re more aware now of our vibrancy and want to eat accordingly. Great article and food for thought!
It’s funny – I never made the connection until I read this article, but i noticed that, over the last year that I have taken my yoga practice to my next level, I eat very differently. I eat far less unhealthy stuff, smaller portions, and much more balanced. I can recognize when I am triggered to eat for other reasons than actual hunger. It’s pretty cool – I can better manage my diet because of yoga.
Thank you Jill for your article on bringing awareness to the mind body connection yoga brings to its practitioners and how valuable that is to weight loss. I committed more time to my yoga practice this year and as a result have lost 20 lbs – all of which had accumulated around my mid-section as a result of stress, poor food choices, and a lack of a consistent physical practice. Bringing consistency to my yoga practice led to making a whole host of changes in my life one step at a time as a result of my increased awareness around the choices I had been making in my life previously. Making one tiny decision to make it to my mat more frequently opened the door for many positive changes to come in.
Great explanation of the many aspects of yoga that intertwine to produce changes in our bodies. I have noticed changes in my physical body from consistent yoga practice, yet never had a precise answer for it. This is a concise way to understand and explain. I love how you explain that so much of it has to do with getting in tune with ourselves and what our bodies truly need. I used to eat the amount I thought I needed post-workout, rather than what felt good, etc. Before yoga I basically battered my body in exercise, always exerting and never listening to it. I now realize I can get the body I want through pushing it, bit always listening to it. Great comments above as well. Very helpful.
This is extremely helpful information for those students who have doubts that yoga is true “exercise” that can help with weight loss. Thanks!
Weight loss is the #1 reason my female students start yoga … I will definitely print this article and quote from it in future class that I teach.
While I respect the spiritual practice associated with yoga, as well as the mental clarity it’s brought to my life, the physical intensity of my Ashtanga-based, vinyasa practice is very dear to me. Weight loss is not an active goal of mine (regardless of whether it should be), but the state of my naked self is very dependent on my practice, as it is often my sole form of “exercise.” Interestingly enough, I’ve learned two things about the correlation between weight and yoga in my years of transitioning from runner to doer of yoga. First, regardless of the number on the scale, yoga can reshape your body. Whether your body is building muscle and displacing fat or lengthening your muscles, it’s very common to notice that the number isn’t different, but the way your clothes fit and the way you feel about yourself is very, very different. (I’ve often said that I’d rather be 160 pounds of yoga than 160 pounds of couch.) Secondly, you begin to see your body as a power machine with parts. As you master poses that require a great deal of quad strength, you start to view your “stupid thighs from your mother’s side” as something different. They become a part of you. My stomach has been the impetus for many a one piece, but as my practice grew and I learned how hard my belly was working to pull me in, lift me up, and stabilize me in crazy inversions, I started to love her. She’s no looker and I don’t love walking around in a string bikini in front of crowd, but when it comes down to it, my body isn’t perfect, but it works incredible hard for me. And it’s owed some love and gratitude.
I am the ultimate yo yo dieter. Recently I got out of a relationship in which I had put on good 30 pounds. I got lazy and sad. So I decided afterwards enough was enough and I started practicing again. I am no where close to where I would like to be but at least my yoga practice has allowed me to slow down and realize that with consistency and mindfulness of what I eat I will achieve my weight loss goals.
after many years of wacky dieting adn unsuccessful attempts to manage eating, i came to find that yoga has given me the support to make changes. by beginning the day with morning classes, i set the tone for the whole day and find myself healthier adn feeling fit for the first time in a long long long time. so to those of you out there struggling with eating and body issues, just keep at it- the benefit of feeling great will help maintain the changes and you will find that feeling good is the new habit, not eating in a wacky manner. good luck to all who are attempting this change.
yoga has given me the emotional support to lose quite a bit of weight that i have been carrying for many years for many reasons.
I’ve been reading Max Strom’s book “A Life Worth Breathing”. He goes right along with all the things you’ve pointed out, Jill. When I’m able to practice my yoga, all is well with the world. But for me, the food thing is an issue that keeps rearing its ugly head. Fortunately, I know I’m not hopeless AND yoga shows me is that where I’m at right now is where I’m at. If I keep breathing and practicing things will change. Being happy and having peace of mind right now is my yoga.
I’ve had some problems with my hands being very stiff and sometimes painful upon waking in the morning. I notice sometimes it is more painful a day after a hard yoga class. So I decided to do the Yoga Tune Up Shoulder program. To my suprise the pain lessen and I notice my hands felt stronger and stretched out. Because of this I have become aware of my shoulder blockage and how to keep everything aligned and open. Yoga Tune Up Balls GReat
I have noticed in my practice that sometimes after class I feel like I might have over strecthed something. But since I ‘ve read the blog about stretching, I am very mindful of listening to my body and pull back from that feeling of this stretch is good. I now will uses a prop to help me stay mindful of intergration, not over strecthing. Thank you Jill, great information.
I found that after a good yoga class my body and mind only wants good things. I don’t know it might just be me I find that food taste better and the fresher the food the greater is taste. Also my sense of smell is very kin. The power of yoga is so amazing!
Since I’ve started viewing yoga more as a philosophical/spiritual practice in addition to a physical practice, the emphasis on physical appearance has decreased and I have a new appreciation for not only how my body feels and performs, but also how well I want to treat it for being so good to me. Learning about the anatomy in YTU class this weekend gave me a whole other level of appreciation–for the first time I thought about what was underneath my skin and how magnificently all the ‘parts’ of the body function to create a synergetic whole. Thanks for writing about yoga being so much more than the physical practice.
I love yoga, but after experiencing many different type of classes, I realized that some were more effective in helping me lose/maintain my weight than others, such as Bikram, Hot Power Yoga and Yoga Barre. It’s a great total body workout and really helps me to sweat out all the toxins from my body. It is definitely more challenging and have noticed a huge difference in how I feel and look.
Yoga is a practice and when we don’t practice as consistently it affects all aspects of our being. Due to an injury, I had to severely curtail my practice of asana. Over the year, I gained 10 pounds and find myself sluggish and unable to do many of the poses that were available to me before my injury. Reading your blog reminds me that I should be more diligent in practicing what I can because the ancillary benefits of the asana are a mindfulness and awareness of my body that will help me curb my overeating and reignite my fire. Thank you for this reminder.
Being part of the Latino community, I’ve discovered that healthy, thriving, active people come in all shapes and sizes. While in past I’ve focused on what I wanted my body to look like, now I’ve shifted my attention on how I want my body to FEEL. YTU has given me tools to understand my body intimately and transform the places where there’s pain, instability and weakness. For me, achieving a pain-free, mobile, and vibrant body is the end goal and I’m grateful to embody a practical roadmap to be able to get there.
I like the explanation of cortisol levels and storage fat around the mid section, and I will add this to my vocab explanations to the peri and post menopausal women I work with frequently who complain about the spare tire that continues to grow ‘there’. When I begin assessing I delve into their habits and lifestyles and the common thread is that they are ‘stressed’. When I ask how many hours/week they work it’s often well over 50, and they don’t love their work! Just trying to introduce the possibility of change to a less stressful lifestyle is often met with reasons why they cannot… no time, too much work, family responsibilities, etc. I give them the lecture about cortisol (now I have a fresh and concise way to explain it), always suggest yoga, but also I ask them how many years of their life will they give to that job that they don’t love if it is sucking the life out of them. By the look on the face staring back at me, I know my words are sinking in, so I am hopeful the thought processing will begin to joggle them and keep growing until they make a change and start helping themselves.
I haven’t had to watch my “weight” since I stopped eating meat and poultry over ten years ago. However, I have had issues with energy levels and flab from time to time. During the recent 4 days of YTU teacher training, I noticed that I needed or wanted less food than ever despite the 2-3 hours of exercises each day. Even when I did experience hunger, my body insisted on eating things that were nourishing and healthy. No urges to eat even french fries – and I normally love all forms of fried potatoes! Perhaps the extended yoga, the concentration on how we affect and may improve our bodies, these activities directed calmed my less healthy impulses. Jill’s energy is also amazing. A completely focused laser of enthusiasm.
“Yoga helps to slow you down mentally so that you can learn to distinguish between the urge to eat and the emotional impulses that sometimes drive us to eat to quell our feelings. Yoga can help us discern what we are truly hungry for, and knowing what makes us tick internally can help us lose weight by making better food choices.” Thanks Jill. The next time a student asks about weight loss, I will tell them about this.
As a personal trainer & yoga instructor clients ask me this question all of the time. It is wonderful to read not only about calorie burn but also balancing our lives and systems. Asking someone to turn inward and notice what may be going on internally is sometime difficult but necessary to facilitate real change & yoga allows this to happen.
As I read more about balancing hormones & how stress affects our ability to lose weight I find myself using yoga with my clients more & more. Thank you Jill for this article 🙂
I couldn’t agree more with this article. Especially when regarding the psychological aspects of yoga with meditation. It really does help keep the entire being happy, healthy, and most importantly more present and appreciative in their own life.
Any physical movement will burn calories but yoga also massages our internal organs to stimulate them into good working order, making them function more efficiently but I agree that the difference between yoga and say an aerobics class is the mindfulness, not only of what we are eating but how our bodies feel and with a glimpse into feeling really good, relaxed and strong, we begin to crave more of that. It is in this way that yoga leads the path to a hot sexy body, a greater desire to feel good in it.
Thanks Jill! I am so glad you pointed out that yoga truely can relate to weightloss and not thinking as much of the physical component, however the many mental benefits that it provides. I haven’t thought of weight loss in this way even though I’ve had many students ask me if yoga can help them lose weight. This is great for helping them and myself understand our connection with food, our bodies and feeding them with nourishing foods as opposed to the quick and easy cravings that we can often get!
I enjoyed this article because I never thought about yoga and exercise corresponding with weight loss in this way. Yoga is a practice where you learn to pay attention to detail and thinking about it after I started practicing yoga consistently I would eat more carefully and appreciate every bite more than I used to. Something interesting that I learned today from Yogi Charu was that humans are supposed to fill 1/4 of the stomach with water about five minutes before eating then only fill your stomach with 1/2 food and leave the other 1/4 of the stomach just with air, most importantly was to not drink anything for about an hour after your meal.
Well so many posts on this topic – I don’t like extra weight for many reasons some as simple as I am too thrifty to buy new clothes and others to the fact that yes Yoga has made me sensitive enough to know I that weather it’s weight, bad food, thought, drink makes life harder and less enjoyable. Love being this scensitive – surely we can do Asana to burn calories – combined with ‘will power over food choice and to do Asana daily. What I’d like to chat about is ‘will power’ we should view the will power like a muscle, as I have heard many people I care about “I just don’t have will power” there for I don’t … or I eat… or I have a bad attitude…- I just want to shake then hug them and say “like a muscle you must flex this with good mindfull inention” You can care for your will power muscle condition in let it rest, nuture it with positive forces or you can let it deteriorate and get mushy like a muffin top or a defeatest attitude. – Just an opinion. But Kelly McGonigal PHD may change your mind with some of her great health research – she is worth the check out as she is into all things health, science, and Yoga – something us YTU yogi’s can appreciate.
I had an interesting epiphany regarding weight loss a few years ago. I had been practicing and teaching Ashtanga yoga for years, which of course is the perfect style of yoga for driven, goal oriented people who like to work hard and sweat. I was also someone who struggled with my relationship to food. I’ve always been one of those people who feel like if I could only lost 10 pounds, my life would be dramatically improved and my self worth and confidence unshakable. (What I now know is that our self worth can only be temporarily altered by changing external circumstances. A permanent change can only occur if we experience a shift within). Anyway, I had this belief that the more I ‘sped things up’, the better chance I had at losing weight. Whether this meant drinking lots of coffee, eating on the go, taking metabolic enhancers, or moving through my practice at a quick pace with an aggressive breath, I was convinced this is how I would find a solution to my weight and eating issues. Then one day I came across a yoga video that promised, on it’s cover, to be the best kept secret in weight loss. When I eagerly turned the cover around to discover this gem of a secret, there were just a few word spelled out: Learn to Slow Down. ‘That’s it??’ I thought. ‘What a scam!’. I put the video down, but something about the moment stayed with me and began to percolate. I realized that my speedy approach was not only not working, it had NEVER worked! Maybe it was time to give this crazy notion of slowing down a try! I am still in the process of healing my relationship with my body and with food, but my motto is now ‘slow down’ in everything I do. Not only has it helped me eat mindfully and enjoy food more, it’s improved my relationships, my teaching and even my driving!
I have always been enthusiastically active to attempt to balance out my eating habits. Although i tend to eat healthier foods i know i eat portions that are too large, i eat unconsciously at my desk at work or the couch at home and gulp things down much too quickly. My mother used to tell me to slow down or people would think she didn’t feed me regularly. Recently, a waiter commented that i had really “ploughed through” my dish. I usually brush this off as just a personality quirk. However, your words hit home. I need to apply the mindfulness i practice on the mat to all areas of my life – including food! I
This all makes complete sense to me. The less stress less cortisol, the mindfulness, “we know better and we do better” . I believe that yoga really opens us up to what we are doing both on the mat and off in more ways than I ever imagined. Before yoga I think I probably obsessed over my weight and body image but after I started doing yoga everthing shifted on its own. I wasn’t even trying to loose weight or have a better body I was just trying to feel better over all and feel integrated as a person. The combination of understanding the big picture of how our bodies work and feel as a whole along with the variety of movements and exercises ( asanas, pranayama, meditaton,etc.) to help us function physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually is the secret to what our beings need to function optimally. We keep this up and it’s smooth sailing from here on out.
I appreciate the points made in regard to yoga and weight. Truely what is key is the mental transformation in the practice that really keeps the weight off as well as reducing or eliminating other unwanted behaviors. Irina’s points are really good too -stress is a factor not often considered with weight problems. How often we see others trying to sweating it out at the gym and going on unhealthy diets which in the long run only add to the problem. Clearly from the point of view that the main benefit of yoga is stress relief it can be a main tool for weight loss.
What an awsome quote Jill conculdes with: “A mind tuned in to the body’s deeper thoughts and feelings about itself is a mind that is no longer willing to accept extra weight or excess mental baggage”.
I never considered yoga as a means for weight loss, but more for stretching, core strengthning and de-stressing. For the past several years I have incorporated Yoga into my almost daily work-out routines and could not be more pleased with the results.
However, in the past two years I underwent a ton of stress and watched my weight increase to a place I’ve never seen before. Needless to say, this weight gain stressed me out more than the original sources of stress!
I just finished a yoga teacher training course and figured that I would have lost weight while emersed in the program, but further from that truth i think i gained weight. I am realizing that for weight loss and total body health, a variety is important. Yoga is absolutely important for my routine because it is relaxing along with toning and a bit aerobic. I love my yoga practice, and I am looking forward to relaxing this summer and enjoying a healthy weight loss routine. Yoga will now be at the forefront of this routine! Thank you for the helpful article, and all the former blogs were also helpful!
since i began yoga 11 years ago, my body feels great. i have muscles i never had even in my 20’s! I’m 38…and proud to proclaim that #, and feel stronger and healthier than ever! I completely credit my yoga practice for this healthy way of life.
One of the major cause for being overweight is stress. It sends our brains the signals to release the hormones and puts our bodies into fight-or-flight mode, but at the same time it shuts down the digestion and our bodies start to store fat in case of emergency. Even if you are sweating it out at the gym and monitoring your diet like a nutritionist but still remain stressed out your body holds onto fat.
The main benefit of yoga is stress relieve and from this point of view yoga can be considered as a great tool for weight loss, and for some of us – the main one!
We as a society are constantly bombarded with body images of the super slim and beautiful. it’s no new subject that women are surrounded with so many weight issues and looking for ways to reduce weight or maintain a body beautiful.
So taking yoga into this arena is so positive as it changes your perception of SELF This can only be beneficial as a way to change weight from the inside out.
This is so important and something I discovered accidentally by practicing yoga. Its so true that reducing stress helps us not gain weight and eat when we are hungry not to satiate emotions. Over the years I hear this many times from my student too. They stopped overtraining, practice yoga mindfully and to their surprise their body didn’t “go to pot”
i agree dinneen. It’s living a yogic way… from the inside out. Mindfulness in all we do…
For many people yoga is also our first introduction to the concept of Plant-Based Nutrition. Not all, but many yoga teachers speak about the yogic principle of Ahimsa or non-harming and not of the translations of Ahimsa may be “not eating animals”. New yogis begin to feel their body in new ways as they practice, they become more mindful of their hunger signals, but they also get turned on to taking better care of themselves overall. And for many people yoga is a great introduction to the concept that one need not eat meat, fish, poultry and dairy for protein intake at every meal. Once we are freed from these turn-of-the-century associations with protein and we begin to focus more on phytonutrients, the new food choices will start to “crowd out” less nutritious dietary choices. Eventually we become more in tune to the positive energetic effect of fresh fruits and vegetables on the body versus heavier foods. Then it’s all going on!
I totally agree with the tenets of mindfulness. I have been weight training 2x/week for 6 months, and reached a plateau in my weight loss (after baby #3). After starting Yoga teacher training, something has kicked in, and my metabolism seems to have jumpstarted again. I am sure it’s from the mindfulness, but the physical poses and new challenges I’ve put my body through have woken up my metabolism. Yay!
When I started yoga five years ago, it was to improve my overall fitness and mental well being. After practicing a while I saw my body change but also believed my yoga practice would improve if I lost weight. That in fact happened. It’s much easier on the shoulders when I weigh less!
At first I thought I had to do a power practice to gain the benefits of yoga. Now I realize that there are benefits to a slower practice which holds poses for a longer time.
The mindfulness also led me to a healthier diet and I began to study nutrition. All this has contributed managing my weight, general health, and mental health.
Great article about such a relevant issue in today’s world! We race around at such high speeds that stress and its consequences part is a regular part of everyday life. Anyone who has found peace of body and spirit in a yoga class, knows how much better it feels to have this sense of well-being and calm that the frantic, stress-filled pace we set for ourselves. My personal yoga journey began as a way to combat the stress from working in the finance industry for over 7 years. I was very unhealthy — living on 5-6 hours of sleep, coffee, energy bars and running 6 miles a day. As my mind was breaking with the pressure, my body began to break from my unhealthy choices. After fracturing my pelvis due to over-use and poor nutrition, I knew something had to change. I just didn’t know how to change it. My first year of yoga classes were torture. I could not slow down at all. I was “bored”, anxious and thinking about all the things I should be doing instead of being on my mat and breathing. But something made me keep coming back. Those first glimpses of truly being absolutely okay with just being me on my mat were life-altering. Now, three years later I teach Pilates, and I am studying to be a yoga teacher. My body is healthy, and my mind has peace. I smile at how far I have come when I think of my broken, stressed-out self from the past who did not want to have to breathe.
I have a coworker that said she didn’t like yoga because it made her sick. She stated she always ate a heavy meal before so she wouldn’t be hungry while practicing. I told her that was her problem. It was yoga that made her sick, it was over eating.
I find that one must be extremely mindful of what they eat before and after yoga. And if you practice everyday, there are at least two meals of the day that are conscious. 🙂
In my experience people who have never taken yoga only think about it as a means for relaxation and stretching. Four years ago I decided I wanted to honor my body more by making changes to my physical self. I started out by doing what was easiest at the gym, cardio. The concept is pretty easy to understand – less in more out. Then, I started seeing a personal trainer. Things were going really well, but I was missing something. After 1.5yrs, I decided to give yoga a try, just to become more flexible, to stretch. What I didn’t anticipate was everything else it brought me. I started to become much more aware of my body, of what i ate, how i felt about it, during and after. It helped me lengthen the muscles i was strengthening. The overall experience made me aware of the importance of being well rounded, not only to loose weight, but to become more physically and emotionally fit.
I’ve been actively practicing yoga for year and a half. I can see constant progress, slow but steady. First, my lower arm lost unnecessary weight. Now I can see my tights and glutes taking a desired shape.
I have never really been over weight but i did gain a bit of weight when i first went to college (freshman 15?!?!) – that coupled with the stress and anxiety i felt when my father passed away. It didn’t take me long to realize that i needed to take care of myself; body and mind. Correction – mind first then body. That is what first brought me on to my yoga mat 8 years ago. It is SO important to understand the mind body connection in a persons approach to anything in life – in this case body weight. You can’t achieve something to its full and maximum potential if your mind isn’t calm and relaxed. Yoga definitely strengthened my belief in this as i managed to lose that weight gradually whilst practicing pranayama and asana. I became mindful about what i put in my body as my internal organs were massaged and stimulated daily by my daily practice.
Last year i had a baby boy, i was practicing on my mat literally till the night before i delivered, i was conscious of my mind and my body which resulted in me having a healthy normal pregnancy without too much weight gain or rather, with controlled weight gain. I returned to my practice again 6 weeks after i had the baby and before i knew it i was back in my pre-pregnancy jeans which in fact today, are a couple of sizes too big for me!!!
So aside from the spiritual and mental benefits of yoga – om’ing and backbending most definitely can help you lose weight and be totally present in your mind and body – you just need to understand the connection.
The year before last I gained a lot of weight due to stress and “eating my feelings” and have spent the last year exercising and dieting to take it off. Yoga has made me much more mindful and aware of my body and of my hunger levels. It has additionally decreased my anxiety levels substantially so that I am not “eating my feelings” as much. While I was at first reluctant to use my precious workout time for yoga as it didn’t burn as many calories as an aerobics class or hitting the treadmill, the psychic benefits of yoga have probably been far more beneficial to my weight loss as they extend far beyond class time!
I gained a lot of weight during my pregnancy 8 years ago. This article really speaks to me. I already eat pretty healthy, I am vegetarian but I was never able fully to loose the weight I gained in pregnancy. Being also an entrepreneur my cortisol level were completely out of control due to stress. I started a full time yoga practice in 2009 and my cortisol level are back to normal and I have been steadily loosing weight. Yoga helped me to deal with stress and after a crazy day I look forward to coming to my mat.
Weight has been an issue with me since I was a child. Throughout my life, I tried almost everything out there…from starving, slim fast, atkins, fancy scientific, mathematical formulas, it was insane. I was always in my head, not feeling, not paying attention to what was going on INSIDE. When I found Yoga and started practicing, I felt good pretty much right after my first class. Within a year, I had lost over 50 pounds! And I can tell you that I did not spend anytime calculating or figuring anything out with my foods. I learned with my practice, to feel and observe…and its been amazing.
What’s funny is that I stopped my physical practice for a while and guess what? The weight crept back up. I’m now back on my mat, happy and excited to feel again. To pay attention to my body and feel yummy and nourished from within.
This is really enlightening. I have found myself turning to yoga recently to relieve stress, as to attain the ethereal relxation afterwards. But I’ve never thought about how this ties to weight loss, aside from the obvious benefits of physcial exercise. I am a stress eater and have battled self-image issues for most of my life. Realizing that yoga has transformed people’s mentality towards stress/food is really intriguing. Every day I learn of more and more benefits of yoga. Now that I am aware of this connection, i am excited to see if I notice similar benefits as I dedicate myself further to my yoga practice.
Piggybacking on what Jill said about cortisol adding belly fat, I’ve found that when my self-image is low and I’m sending rays of hate toward my belly as I sweat and puff on the elliptical machine at the gym, I tend to not see results as quickly as I’d like. Conversely, when I go through more carefree phases of my life, and just stop caring as much about a few pounds, I find I’ve lost the weight simply because I’m less stressed or I’m not emotional eating or some combination. Yoga, for me, accomplishes both for me. My overall level of stress is significantly lowered and I also, like Becky and Jess, want to put the best foods in my body when I’m regularly practicing yoga.
The de-stressing effects of yoga have changed my life. With steady practice you naturally make healthier choices, not only with food but with other addictive substances as well. I love to hear this “consciousness” concept from Jill , because that is really what yoga is all about. Learning about anatomy adds another level of awareness to this consciousness. Thinking of how close together all of your organs are and how the body works together as a unit makes me want to nourish myself with the purest food possible.
I often notice that when I am regularly practicing I am much more in tune with when I am actually hungry, not just bored. I also find that I just stop eating when I am full, and don’t mindlessly eat.
Practicing Yoga was an amazing turning point in my life-I had food problems for years,which created despair,isolation and lot of frustration.Since embracing the practice of Yoga I was able to accept myself as I am,embrace my emotions as they arrive and become more embodied in my own self.Yoga is transformational,Yoga truly heals.
Most people say that yoga isn’t a good workout because often times you don’t sweat (well I always do!) but in reality is a fantastic workout, not only for mind and body. Its the mindfulness that is so important to me, I am a mindless eater, especially when sweets are in front of me! But this idea of being mindful of what I am eating is such a great way to a more balanced approach to my eating lifestyle. Its helped me so much personally.
After reading this, the relationship between stress and increased appetite seems obvious, but I had somehow managed to miss it. A good explanation for how I’ve lost half of the 30 pounds I gained after I quit smoking (another result of yoga and reduced stress).
Cheers to a continued mental slowdown and overall patience and peace within.
Truly living a yogic life makes one more mindful of eating “clean”. Why do everything to keep your body in shape if you’re not going to be mindful of what you put into your body to fuel it? If you eat mindfully, weight will not be an issue. Thanks for the reminder!
I recently read about a study that showed that people eat significantly more when they have more food on their plates. Seems like a no-brainer but it really speaks to eating (and living) mindfully. People simply ate more because there was more on their plates. Thanks to Yoga we can start to put just what we need on our plates…both with respect to food and our metaphoric plates…
I feel the same as Ariel. After strength training or cardio I feel famished and ultimately overeat (though I suppose I have “earned” it). After yoga, especially pranayama, I am fueled by the practice. I do not mindlessly eat to compensate for my lack of energy.
I agree with the mental and physical benefits of yoga helping to lose weight. I am noticing an obvious change in my muscle definition, and I do notice that I am more mindful of the foods I choose to eat. Yoga makes me feel good mentally and definitely makes me want to only put good healthy foods into my body.
I am a firm believer that every weight loss program should include yoga, meditation and pranayama. These tools help people learn to adopt heathly habits to lose weight and keep it off.
Love your distinction between hunger and craving. Obviously hunger for what our bodies need and craving foods that aren’t good for our bodies are very different, but I’m not sure how many people truly think about that distinction. I definitely appreciate the reminder – thank you.
Wow, I was just at a conference and a woman on the panel with me was with the USDA involved in food in schools programs. She talked a lot about what we’re feeding kids. I wonder how teaching them this viewpoint could affect child obesity rates…
I definitely agree that practicing yoga makes one more mindful when eating. You are much more in-tune to your body and what it needs.
This article really touches on the basis of the whole weight lose issue. It really truly is mind over matter. Physically you get in shape but you have to make more conscious food decision that will regulate your diet and daily work-out regimen. Before I started practicing yoga, I was a collegiate swimmer where I swam about 4-5 miles a day and was either too tired to eat or just ate whatever was available. When my collegiate swimming career ended I tried to stay in shape but found it hard because I was so worry about my work out plan then my food plan. When I started practicing yoga, I noticed that I couldn’t eat a cheeseburger for lunch and then practice yoga for two hours, I was fatigue in the first 20 minutes and felt out of sorts. I love this practice, so I just made the conscious decision to research what foods will make me feel better before and after class. And every since, I haven’t turned back.
I also find that I feel so good and clean after practicing yoga that I want to only put foods in my body with high prana.
Ever since I started practicing yoga I saw a big change not only in my body but my mental state too! I am aware of what I put in my body and my cravings are more controlled. Twisting poses are great for digestion so whenever I’m noticing discomfort after eating a meal, some simple twists to give my internal organs a massage. This is a great article for anyone who is just starting out and curious about the health benefits of yoga. You have to love yourself before you can love others.
This is so true! Since I started practicing yoga, I have naturally become more and more mindful in just about everything I do (including how I fuel my body).
What a great Blog entry! People think it is important to have a positive mental attitude when trying to lose weight, but they may not even think to consider the benefits of pranayama and being mindful. Your article is a good introduction and inspiration for anyone trying to maintain proper body weight balance for their height, proportions and age,etc…
It can be very stressful to think about what to eat and what not to eat all day long, stopping to do simple breath work such as the Om pranayama is a wonderful solution.
After lifting weights or working out in other capacities, I always eat more. However, even after a rigorous yoga practice, I don’t crave a post workout meal nearly as much. Why exactly would this be?
I came to yoga in a severely deconditioned state. Weight loss was not so much on my mind as was getting physically fit and having more energy. I was delighted to discover lasting weight loss through yoga. I think in general, yoga makes you want to be healthier in all ways, I have found I do not want to put as much junk in my body as I used to! This is a great post because some people think you cannot lose weight through yoga because it does not appear to be “active” enough!
I am a stress eater. Very disiciplined most of the time but a little stress can lead me straight to the pack of Oreos. I have definitely experienced the benefits that yoga has had with helping me cope with stress. I no longer feel the need to stress eat because yoga has given me other tools to deal with stress.
Thank you for this blog. Some things here I did not know and am eager to be able to pass on this info. esp. to my gym based classes, where the focus seems to be mostly on losing weight.
The stress and the cortisol are particularly interesting.
As I get older it is harder to lost the last 5 lbs. I know I am a stress eater. I think using yoga and meditation will help slow me down. I like the idea of being more mindful!
Totally agree on how the mindfulness that yoga helps us to attain is applicable to our relationship with food. Specifically how we we learn to be more in tune with what our body needs, or doesn’t need, with respecting to our eating choices (when, what, and how much).
I love this approach. As a teenager (and in my early 20’s), I was challenged by an unhealthy body image which resulted in a serious eating disorder. Interestingly, I took my very first yoga class while experiencing a severe peak of anorexia. (I recovered, but for years I struggled with bouts of relapse). Since I have deepened my yoga practice in the past couple of years, I have new respect for my body – and know now how to give myself true grace. (I used to go low- cal-cardio-crazy; now my physical practices and diet are balanced). Thanks greatly to yoga, I know I will never hurt myself this away again. Yoga philosophy has helped me realize just how whack and unreal my body image obsession was.
(I’m in teacher training, and one day I would love to share the practice of yoga as a tool for anyone struggling with an eating disorder/unhealthy body image).
“Stressed out bodies are overloaded with cortisol, which packs on intra-abdominal fat. The stress-reducing properties of yoga help you relax more effectively so that fat cannot accumulate.”
Interesting. Did not know this and am so glad I do now!