The Surprising Way Yoga Can Help You Lose Weight
Losing weight goes way beyond moving more
You know that part of losing weight requires increasing your daily activity levels.
Then there’s the other important component of weight loss: diet. Much of the weight loss advice we read today talks about exercising more and eating less or eating better (e.g. nutritious whole foods), yet we hardly ever hear about how to achieve the mindset that can help us succeed in doing so, which is surprising because it often involves practices that are much easier said than done.
Of course, practicing yoga can help you lose weight by adding to your daily activity levels and increasing your muscle strength, yet what you may not have realized is that it can also help improve your mental awareness, which according to Beth Shaw, a fitness expert and the president and founder of YogaFit, is a helpful weight loss tool, especially for those who struggle with food cravings.
Related: What is Mindful Eating?
“Yoga can actually help you stop food cravings, and help you achieve dietary goals,” says Shaw. “By incorporating breathing exercises, regularly practicing yoga can strengthen the mind-body connection. This establishes high levels of mental awareness, which can help you tap into the emotions involved with food cravings.”
In addition to developing better mental awareness, Shaw also notes that a regular yoga practice comes along with a whole lot of other health and fitness benefits like reduced cortisol levels (a hormone that is associated with stress and immune system suppression), improved cognitive function and a reduced risk for injury.
“You can also become a lot more alert and improve your memory by practicing yoga. Studies have shown that those who practice yoga 3 to 5 times a week tend to sleep better during the night,” says Shaw. “They don't wake up as many times during the night, and sleep through their entire cycle. This leaves the person energized to take on the next day when their alarm goes off.”
Another component of health that isn’t mentioned as frequently as diet and exercise when it comes to weight loss is stress. Stress plays a significant role in the balance of your body’s hormones, and high levels can hinder weight loss goals (see: How Stress Can Cause You to Gain Weight). Shaw recommends yoga as an effective form of relaxation for reducing stress.
“Americans push themselves to the limit. Whether it is at work, at the gym, or even partying, I see people exerting themselves to the point of exhaustion,” says Shaw. She says that yoga is an excellent way to unwind and recover so that you can work your hardest when it really counts.
“But it’s also much more than that,” she says. “We only have one body, and taking care of it is important. Yoga helps to improve both your body and your mind. People often forget that your brain is very much so part of your body, and mental relaxation is just as important as hitting the gym.”