Will yoga help me lose weight?
This is a BIG question and the answer is not as simple as you may think! The short answer is – yes. Here’s the long answer:
Despite the fact that it has been shown that yoga decreases your metabolism, there are numerous scientific studies and countless case studies of people who lose weight when they start a yoga practice. This is fascinating stuff!
Fellow yogi, Dr. Kim Innes, wrote a comprehensive review of studies looking at yoga and metabolic syndrome and found a connection between yoga and weight loss. In the 13 studies of body composition and yoga, the practice of yoga reduced body weight by as much as 13.6 percent. Although we don’t know exactly why people lose weight from yoga, there are many solid reasons that may explain this physiological anomaly. Let’s take a look at the top three reasons why getting your downward facing dog on is a wonderful way to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
Yoga reduces psychological and physiological stress.
Yoga allows us to push the pause button and turn on our parasympathetic nervous system. And by lowering our cortisol levels, we can reduce our belly fat. This also indirectly leads to weight loss, reducing stress-related eating and making it less likely to over-eat or crave the foods that we inevitably crave when we’re stressed.
Yoga can suppress your appetite
Yoga has been found to increase leptin, which is known as “the satiety hormone.” In one study which independently evaluated walking and yoga for weight control over a 15-day period, both yoga and walking resulted in a significant decrease in the waist and hip circumference of the research subjects. However, one of the biggest differences between the two groups was the significantly increased serum leptin levels in the yoga group. This is great news for those of us on the heavier side. Being overweight or obese can lead to leptin resistance, resulting in the need for more food to feel satisfied (despite an iron will and good intentions). Therefore, on a purely physiological level, elevating leptin levels through yoga can lead to feeling more satisfied with less food.
M. Chaya, a physiologist who has been practicing yoga since the age of 10, says, ‘Yoga affects the mind – and desire… so you eat less. Yoga thus has the effect of better controlling our physical and emotional appetite for food.”
Yoga is an awesome keystone habit
Keystone habits are AMAZING if you want to live a healthy, happy life. Charles Duhigg brought awareness to these gems in his book, “The Power of Habit.” He says these are the habits that “matter most…they start to shift, dislodge and remake other patterns.” A keystone habit is essentially a habit that has a positive domino effect on your life, since it results in other positive habits.
Here’s how yoga meets the three requirements to qualify as a keystone habit:
Showing up on your mat creates ‘small wins’ that will result in feeling empowered and accomplished, making other habits that lead to weight loss easier to follow.
Yoga establishes a solid foundation for good habits, such as mindfulness and mindful eating. The meditative quality of yoga builds the framework for mental strength and discipline, leading to better food and lifestyle choices.
Yoga sets you up for success, so that you can have the energy and motivation to commit to a healthy, authentic life, which, in turn…yup, you guessed… leads to weight loss.
This article celebrates all kinds of yoga but of course the more strenuous forms of yoga, provide all the added benefits of physical exercise. Physical activity naturally contributes to weight loss, thus offering yet one more reason why yoga helps with weight loss goals.
In conclusion, it’s highly probable yoga will help you lose weight and meet your goals… With that being said, what have you got to lose?
1 Long term effect of yogic practices on diurnal metabolic rates of healthy subjects.’ International Journal of Yoga Vol 1, no. 1 (Jan – June 2008), pp 27 -32.
2 Some examples include: ‘Yoga: Managing overweight in mid-life T2DM.’ Journal of Mid-life Health Vol 6, no.2 (Apr – June 2015), pp 81 – 84. ‘Effect of yogic practices on lipid profile and body fat composition in patients of coronary artery disease.’ Journal of Complementary Therapies in Medicine Vol 19, no 3. (June 2011), pp 122 – 127. ‘Effects of yoga exercise on serum adiponectin and metabolic syndrome factors in obese postmenopausal women.’ Journal of Menopause Vol 19, no.3 (March 2012), pp 296 – 301.
3 Risk indices associated with the insulin resistance syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and possible protection with yoga: a systematic review. The Journal of the American Board of Family Practice. Vol 18, no 6. (Nov, Dec 2005) Pp 491 – 519.
4 A comparative controlled trial comparing the effects of yoga and walking for overweight and obese adults. Medical Science Monitor Vol 20 (May 2014) pp 894 – 904.
5 William Broad The Science of Yoga (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012) pp 95 – 98.
6 Charles Duhigg The Power of Habit (Random House, 2014) p 101.
A nutrition coach, registered yoga teacher and IIN (Institute for Integrative Nutrition) ambassador. Certified as a holistic health practitioner by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners; Kamala is passionate about sharing the art and science of what we put in our bodies and how we live, as a conduit to lasting transformation.