07 Jul Lose Weight with Yoga!
Forget fad diets, turn to yoga to trim that fat! Most people imagine that yoga is something gentle and mindful, not a form of exercise that will help shed excess pounds. But it’s also a fantastic way to get, and keep, the body you want.
There’s not just the anecdotal evidence of many yoga devotees who say it helps them stay trim and toned. Scientific research is increasingly backing up the link between yoga and weight loss.
The beauty of yoga is that it can be adapted to virtually anyone’s needs — so no matter what your age, shape or fitness level, you’ll be able to take part.
So how can it help you to lose weight?
For a start, there are several styles of yoga that are highly vigorous. If you want to join a class specifically with the aim of burning calories, look for Ashtanga yoga classes — a series of fast-paced postures — or Bikram yoga, a sequence of 26 postures performed in a room heated to around 40c (104f).
It’s estimated Ashtanga yoga, for example, can burn 300 calories in half an hour — that’s more than tennis or swimming.
But even if you choose a less demanding style, such as Hatha yoga, in which postures are performed at a slower pace, you may be surprised by how much of a workout you feel you have done. With regular practice you will become toned and flexible. Your energy levels will be raised, too, motivating you to take on other forms of exercise.
Yoga also helps to reduce back and joint pain, so many people find it enables them to get into, return to or try out more physically demanding sports and activities.
And there are less obvious ways in which yoga helps to boost weight loss. Those who are overweight often suffer not only physically but mentally. They may have low self-esteem or be depressed. This chronic dissatisfaction can trigger the body to produce elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which has been shown to encourage stress-related eating.
Cortisol also increases blood sugar when you’re feeling under stress, to ready the body in case extra energy is needed for ‘fight or flight’. But with our more sedentary lives this excess glucose becomes stored as fat.
And where does this fat most commonly get stored? Why, round the abdomen, of course, as any menopausal or post-menopausal woman will tell you. These stubborn deposits of fat are known as ‘toxic fat’, not only because they are so difficult to shift, but because the ‘apple shape’ that women acquire is known to be linked to cardiovascular problems.
For me, one of the most pleasing aspects of taking up yoga as a post-menopausal woman (and eating a healthy diet) was that my waistline shrank by a couple of inches for the first time in years.
Yoga promotes relaxation, lowering levels of cortisol, and so diminishes the desire to eat and the body’s instinct to store fat. Another benefit of regular yoga practice is that it encourages you to be more in tune with your body — more aware of its requirements and of physical and mental changes.
This helps people to understand better the underlying reasons why they overeat, whether it’s emotional issues or because they have developed destructive habits over the years.
Recent studies have suggested people routinely deceive themselves about how much they really eat. As you refine your ability to tune into your body (this happens very quickly in yoga), you may realize you are eating not out of hunger but simply out of boredom or emotional neediness.
Yoga is not only a great tool for weight loss, it will make you more toned and flexible too (picture posed by model)
As a bonus, many people I know who do yoga find themselves craving fruit, vegetables and grains, rather than hamburgers and chips. All that stretching, bending and focusing on the body seems to kill the appetite, leaving a desire to eat healthily.
As someone whose first waking thought is often ‘What’s for lunch?’ I can testify that if I do my yoga practice in the morning, lunch no longer seems quite so urgent.
Yoga can give you the skills you need to maintain weight loss. Make it a regular fixture in your life, persist with the breathing exercises and postures, and you will be less depressed, less stressed and more aware of the reasons you may be overeating, which in turn will enable you to break unhealthy habits. You’ll also become more toned and far more flexible.
Finally, practicing yoga will do something even more important — it will help improve your self-image and make you happier.
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Address: 107-40 Queens Blvd. #206, Forest Hills NY 11375