by Justine Glenton
An Ashtanga & Zen Yoga Teacher
A regular yoga practice offers many benefits including making you feel better about your body as you become stronger and more flexible, tone your muscles, reduce stress and improve your mental and physical well-being. But will it help you lose weight? Yoga is a known stress buster, but it's also one of the most effective workouts for fighting stubborn fat stores, especially the ones that crop up after age 40. Studies show that yoga lowers levels of stress hormones and increases insulin sensitivity - a signal to your body to burn food as fuel rather than store it as fat. Practicing any type of yoga will build strength, but studies show that yoga does not raise your heart rate enough to make it the only form of exercise you need. In order to lose weight, you must eat healthily and burn calories by doing exercise that raises your heart rate on a regular basis.
Yoga offers psychological benefits, it makes you more susceptible to influence for change – so if you are thinking you want to change your lifestyle, you want to change the way you think about food, you want to get over destructive eating patterns, yoga will help give you the spiritual connection to your body that can help you make those changes. Weight gain often brings with it a great deal of harsh self-judgment. Through yoga, we can counteract this by creating a safe, positive environment to reconnect with our bodies and quiet the counterproductive messages that often arise in our minds. Re-engaging in physical activity through asana practice can also foster a renewed sense of control over our lives, a quality that sometimes diminishes as one’s weight refuses to budge! Yoga forges a strong mind-body connection that ultimately helps make you more aware of what you eat and how it feels to be full.
In reality there is only one way to lose weight/fat: you must use more calories than you take in. On a physiological level, certain styles of yoga could be more appropriate for students who have weight loss as a primary intention: Vinyasa flow style class, where movement and breath link poses together, can build heat and potentially result in greater calorie burn. Ashtanga primary series is very athletic and includes a lot of sun salutations and vinyasas, again generating a lot of heat in the body. There is also power yoga and hot yoga too that you could consider for weight loss aid. The style of practice could supplement other aerobic exercise that you’re involved in, such as walking, running, biking, or swimming. Take it slowly, though. Something as intense as the Primary Ashtanga series may not be the place to start if you haven’t been physically active for a while. Begin with a good introductory vinyasa class.
A good pose for reducing fat is: Crescent (High lunge - shown in the above image)