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?

Consciousness in yoga will encourage you to be more conscious in all areas, including eating.

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.

Learn about Yoga Tune Up at home.

Find a Yoga Tune Up class or workshop near you.


[Reprinted with permission from Gaiam Life.]

Jill Miller

Jill Miller, C-IAYT, ERYT is the co-founder of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide and creator of the self-care fitness formats Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model® Method. With more than 30 years of study in anatomy and movement, she is a pioneer in forging relevant links between the worlds of fitness, yoga, massage, athletics and pain management. She is known as the Teacher’s Teacher and has trained thousands of movement educators, clinicians, and manual therapists to incorporate her paradigm shifting self-care fitness programming into athletic and medical facility programs internationally. She has crafted original programs for 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox, YogaWorks, and numerous professional sports teams. She and her team of 500+ trainers help you to live better in your body with an emphasis on proprioception, mobility, breath mechanics and recovery. She has presented case studies at the Fascia Research Congress and International Association of Yoga Therapy conferences. She has the rare ability to translate complex physiological and biomechanical information into accessible, relevant moves that help her students transform pain, dysfunction and injury into robust fitness. Jill is the anatomy columnist for Yoga Journal Magazine and has been featured in Shape, Men’s Journal, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, Yoga Journal, Self, and on the Today Show and Good Morning America. Jill is regularly featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network. She is the creator of dozens of DVD’s including Treat While You Train with Kelly Starrett DPT and is the author of the internationally bestselling book The Roll Model: A Step by Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility and Live Better in your Body. Based in Los Angeles, CA, she is a wife and mother of two small children and is currently writing her second book.

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Claire Miller Murphy

Sorry, Typo- that should read Physical SHIFT, NOT SHIT. (Although, I am sure the latter could apply as well).

Claire Miller Murphy

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.

Rachelle Gura

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.

Melissa Tilley

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… Read more »

Luke Sniewski

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!

Amanda

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… Read more »

Christy

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… Read more »

Barb Voss

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!

Lana

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… Read more »

nicole

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!

Renate

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.

Cindy

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… Read more »

Margaux

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!

Joanna Bond

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.

Erin

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.

Emily Faurholt

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.

Victoria

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… Read more »

Annie F.

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.

Amanda

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… Read more »

Charmaine

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.

Lauren

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… Read more »

Victoria

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… Read more »

Linda Webster

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.

Christine

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… Read more »

Susanne

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.

Lisa

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… Read more »

Hilary

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… Read more »

Becky Marshall

This is extremely helpful information for those students who have doubts that yoga is true “exercise” that can help with weight loss. Thanks!

Dolores Little

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.

caroline b.

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… Read more »

Jen

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.

melanie

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… Read more »

melanie

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.

Darcy B

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.

saharah ali

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

saharah ali

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.

saharah ali

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!

Tiffany C

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… Read more »

Jen

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.

Carol

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.… Read more »

Andrea Penagos

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.

Millie

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… Read more »

Alexa

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… Read more »

anh chi

“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.

Kimberly

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 🙂

Erika O

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.

Caroline M

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.

Alissa Aboud

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!

Haley

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… Read more »

Sherry Matwe

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… Read more »