Yoga and weight loss

Weight loss has become a major issue in the modern society. The various benefits of yoga are well known, but many now want to know whether the discipline can be used for weight loss. Recent research shows that while yoga does not help you to burn any extraordinary number of calories, it creates a sense of awareness and reduces stress so that a slow but sustained weight loss is noticed. Moreover, there are several yoga postures which help to promote fitness and tone the body so that even if you have not shed actually weight, you appear fitter and trimmer.

Yoga is a form of physical discipline that relies on certain poses and exercises to achieve the perfect balance between mind and body and relieve stress. It is a form of self discipline, though it should always be practiced under the guidance of a qualified yoga instructor. Most practitioners believe that if you are looking at short term quick weight loss, then yoga is not for you. However, it is a form of physical discipline that gradually increases the mental awareness. Hence, slowly but surely toy will lose weight if you practice yoga.

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The science behind yoga and weight loss

The equation of weight loss is actually very simple. You must burn more calories that you eat. In that case, automatically you will lose weight. Now, there are several physical exercises where you burn calories faster and in greater number as compared to yoga. For example, a person weighing 150 pounds will burn 150 calories doing yoga for an hour. However, if you walk for an hour at the speed of 3 mph, you will burn 311 calories. Aerobics is a much more intense way to burn calories. In this regard, it is necessary to know about a study conducted on yoga and weight loss.

The study was conducted in 2005 by medical researcher and practicing Yogi Alan Kristal with funding from the National Cancer Institute. The study was carried out at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle where a trial involving 15,500 healthy, middle-aged men and women was carried out. The study was controlled for factors like diet plan, age and other physical activities that could influence weight. It was found that those who regularly practiced yoga for 4 years or more are less likely to gain weight. Overweight people who practiced yoga for the study period (2000 to 2004) lost an average of 5 pounds while those who did not practice yoga gained an average weight of 14 pounds.

Kristal pointed out that the actual scientific reason behind this weight loss remains unclear because you do not burn enough calories with yoga to bring about significant weight loss. He explained that the reason probably lies in the concept of mindful eating. Put simply, you become more aware of the relationship between your mind and body. So, when you desire a weight loss, your body automatically adjust to a diet pattern which helps to promote it. Three explanations have been offered to explain how yoga leads to weight loss. These are as follows:

  1. Yoga helps to detoxify your body. There are particular yoga poses which cleanse certain organs in your body and get rid of the toxins. Accumulation of toxins hampers normal function of the organs and this allows your body to hold on to excess weight.
  2. Stress is a major factor behind gaining weight. Yoga is, first and foremost, a relaxation technique. It helps to get rid of the accumulated stress in your mind and body which ultimately helps in weight loss.
  3. Finally, the problem of obesity has a strong emotional component. Yoga allows you to become more aware of your body, its needs and demands, so that it can help you to release the stuck emotions. This helps you to lose weight.

Yoga poses that cleanse your body

Yoga does not directly help you to lose weight. However, there are certain yoga postures that stimulate particular organs of the body which ultimately help in weight loss. Some of them are described here.

Organ Role of the organ Yoga poses Benefits
Liver
  • Powerful detoxifier
  • Utilize fat effectively
  • Store glucose
  • Manufacture several enzymes
  • Bhujangasana (cobra pose)
  • Dhanurasana (bow pose)
  • Chakrasana (wheel pose)
  • Matsyendrasana (spinal twist)
Helps to release the vital force of liver and allows its optimum functioning.
Thyroid gland Secretes enzyme that affects metabolism
  • Sarvangasana (shoulder stand)
  • Matsyasana (fish pose)
Helps to correct hypothyroidism.
pH balance of blood Excess acidity prompts the body to store fat. Accumulation of visceral fats leads to cardiac problems.
  • Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend)
  • Janushirasana (head to knee pose)
Promotes alkalinity
Nervous system Imbalance between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system leads to stress and weight gain.
  • Savasana (corpse pose)
  • Viparita Karani (legs up the wall)
Corrects the imbalance between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
Nervous system Creation of internal heat helps to lose weight
  • Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend)
  • Anjaneyasana (lunge)
Creates internal heat
Colon Food matter blocks the colon and makes you appear and feel bloated, leading to obesity.
  • Utks'epa Mudra (bellow’s pose)
  • Agnisara Mudra (fire pose)
  • Mayurasana (peacock pose)
  • Nauli kriya
Cleanses the colon and allows proper functioning of the gut.

Related Link → Benefits of yoga and meditation

Regular practice of the above poses allows you to create a balance in your body that ultimately helps you to achieve slow and sustained weight loss.

Some yoga poses for best posture

Here is a list of some yoga poses aimed specifically at toning your body and improving your posture:

Yoga posture Utility
Twisted chair
  • Boosts digestion
  • Improves circulation
  • Uses every muscle of the body
Locust pose
  • Strengthens muscles of leg and lower back
  • Opens the chest
  • Revs energy level
Bow pose
  • Stretches and strengthens muscles
  • Boosts metabolism
Eagle pose
  • Energises the body
  • Strengthens leg muscles
Crescent lunge pose
  • Increases metabolism
  • Increases heart rate
  • Strengthens legs and hips
Bridge pose
  • Opens chest
  • Massages the thyroid gland
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