Can yoga really help you lose weight quickly? It sure can! Let’s dive into some of the details on how and why!
You’re trying to lose weight—again. This time, you have vowed to fully commit.
You pound it out on the treadmill. The harder, the better, right?
The weight doesn’t budge. Plus, your intense gym sessions leave you starving afterward.
You think you’re doing everything right. You count calories, you eat healthy foods, and you consistently push your heart rate to the max.
You’re sure that you’re burning more calories than you’re eating, but you still aren’t losing weight.
Most weight loss exercise programs involve burning more calories than you take in.
I’ve been there, y’all! I picked up running in college, and I ran almost every day for eight years straight. My weight went from overweight to underweight to everything in between.
Everyone always said that running was the best way to lose weight, right? And how could it not be when you feel completely exhausted afterward??
I never really felt like I found “my thing” and the thing that actually worked for ME! That was until I found yoga.
I always completely discounted it as far as weight loss goes, and I thought it was just a bunch of light stretching and heavy breathing.
Boy was I wrong.
Yoga creates shifts in your brain cells, lifestyle patterns, and hormones that can help you shed weight like no other exercise program.
Yoga Calms You Down
You probably know that yoga is relaxing. So when you’re trying to lose weight, do you avoid yoga in exchange for a more heart-pounding workout?
It’s not surprising that you feel like the more breathless you get, the more calories you burn (remember what I said about running earlier?). But it’s not necessarily the calorie burn you get from yoga that helps you drop pounds.
The stress-busting characteristics of yoga are what can help you lose weight.
Yoga makes the hippocampus and parietal cortex areas of the brain larger. The hippocampus is responsible for regulating stress, and the parietal cortex controls your ability to focus.
Research consistently shows that people who are more stressed out tend to have poorer diets (1). Over time, this can trigger your brain and body to fall into a pattern of compulsive behavior, including compulsive eating.
Your stress hormone, cortisol, can wreak havoc on your body when it comes to diet, sleep patterns, skin health, and how you feel overall. These are all interconnected when it comes to living a healthy and productive life.
Try these yoga poses for stress and anxiety!
Yoga Encourages Mindful Eating
Researchers have found that people who eat mindfully weigh less than people who aren’t mindful while taking in calories (2).
What does that mean, exactly? Well, you know how you often stuff food in your face when you’re in the car, watching TV or looking at your smartphone? (We’re all guilty of this, let’s be honest!)
It’s likely hindering your weight loss efforts.
When you eat mindfully, you’re taking in nutrients according to your body’s signals. You eat when you’re hungry—as opposed to when you’re feeling sad, bored, or anxious—and you stop eating when you’re full, not just when your plate is clean.
Mindful eating also involves:
- Awareness of the food’s taste, texture, and smell.
- Focusing on the act of eating instead of other activities or stimuli.
- Eating in response to internal as opposed to external cues.
Yoga encourages a mind-body connection in other aspects. When you hold a difficult pose, you focus on it in a calm, non-judgmental manner.
I’ve actually noticed this a lot more recently as I have really increased my flexibility with yoga. When I’m touching my toes, my eyes are now nearly on top of my shins…
It’s quite a strange feeling thinking, “Wow, I’ve never actually seen this part of my body this up close before…“
Perhaps I’m weird, but you see what I’m getting at. Yoga teaches you far more awareness of your body than any other physical exercise because of the level of focus involved.
This teaches you to be observant and accepting in challenging situations. This translates to mindful eating when you’re faced with the challenge of whether you should eat because it tastes good even when you know it may not be appropriate or healthy at the moment.
Mindful eating encourages people to have a healthy relationship with food and their bodies.
Training Too Much Can Increase Stress Hormones
If you push your body to the limits every day without giving it adequate time to rest, you activate the release of cortisol, a stress hormone. Researchers have found that people who aren’t as fit release more cortisol when they’re exposed to multiple physical and mental stressors, like an aerobics class, than more athletic individuals (3).
Cortisol isn’t all bad; it actually helps your body handle stress from exercise, emotional or physical strain.
However, according to muscle-science expert, Jerry Brainum, cortisol can encourage the release of myostatin, a compound that deteriorates muscle fibers. It can also promote fat storage in the body, especially around the abdomen.
People who aren’t used to exercising a lot won’t necessarily benefit from jump-starting a new workout routine. The new workout could send their cortisol levels into overdrive.
Yoga is a gentler way to move your body while reducing cortisol levels whether you’re new to exercising or not.
Yoga Helps Reduce Sugar Cravings
Studies show that yoga helps improve insulin sensitivity. Insulin is like the key that unlocks your body’s ability to use sugar from the foods that you eat (4).
If your body is resistant to insulin, it doesn’t get the energy it needs from your diet, and extra sugar gets left in your blood.
This can lead to a host of health problems, including weight gain. When you do yoga, your body responds to insulin more efficiently, according to research (5).
Yoga Can Help Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels
Sugar and insulin resistance are often responsible for weight gain. According to a 2011 study, people with type 2 diabetes lost weight and stabilized their blood sugar levels by doing yoga for three months (6).
People in the control group, who did not practice yoga, experienced weight and body mass index increases.
Yoga Helps You Maintain a Healthy Weight
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2 out of 3 adults are overweight or obese (7). Research shows that conventional medical therapies aren’t that effective at helping them lose weight (8).
One of the most well-known studies of yoga and weight loss found that yoga prevented people from gaining weight in middle age, and it helped overweight individuals lose weight (9). This study looked at more than 15,000 people in their 50s.
People who were overweight and did yoga just once a week consistently for four or more years lost about 5 pounds on average.
Do you know what happened to the people who didn’t do yoga? They gained an average of about 13.5 pounds.
People who started practicing at a healthy weight were more likely to maintain it by doing yoga.
Do Yoga Consistently for Continual Weight-Loss Results
As long as you keep up the yoga practice, the results seem to stick around. However, your unhealthy lifestyle patterns might creep back in if you stop practicing.
One of the best things about yoga is that it’s easy to adopt as a practice. Even if you just have ten minutes a day, you can follow along with a yoga routine on your smartphone or laptop.
You don’t need special equipment or clothing, and you can do it in the comfort of your own home.
Many people who regularly do yoga claim to feel like something is missing if they don’t make time for their daily yoga practice.
If you have been busting your butt to try to lose weight through crazy cardio and nothing is budging, try doing yoga. It sounds counterintuitive to do something more relaxing in order to lose more weight, but the evidence points to the contrary.
If you are looking for more tips and beginner poses to transform your body with yoga, my Yoga Fat Loss Bible for Beginners is a great place to start!
It comes with everything you need to get started, including a complete 12-week workout plan, a flexibility guide, and a beginner’s guide to meditation!
It’s a great solution around for those looking to lose weight, get more flexible, and relieve aches and pains with a calm yoga practice.
It will show you exactly how to melt away stubborn body fat with a regular yoga practice and has the top 50 fat-burning yoga poses every beginner should learn.
If you liked this article on how yoga can help you lose weight quickly or have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below!