“Practice, practice, practice, and all will come.”
Patthabhi Jois, a famous Indian yoga teacher, repeated this mantra his whole life. If “all comes” with practising yoga, can yoga also reduce stress and help you lose weight?
If you have already tried every one of the tips and tricks for losing weight, you can’t keep to a diet for more than a few weeks and you are desperately looking for exercises that will help you lose fat, yoga can help you develop strategies for sustained weight loss.
Here is everything you need to know about yoga for weight loss.
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Studies show that 68% of UK citizens are overweight (a BMI of more than 25) and one out of four are obese (with a BMI of more than 30).
Despite individual campaigns to helps fight obesity such as The Responsibility Deal for more transparency on the calorific and fat content of food products, or Jamie Oliver’s Feed Me Better campaign to improve the healthfulness of school dinners, obesity continues on the rise.
Fast food, saturated fats, pre-packaged meals – Britain’s population eats more and more unhealthily and cook less wholesome meals. At the same time, they are becoming more sedentary: one out of two adults don’t engage in any physical activity whatsoever.
The WHO suggests a minimal physical activity corresponding to 10,000 steps a day – which most Britains never come close to. The most troubling element is that young people are the most affected by this inactivity.
Those between 18-24 are less physically active than the 55-64 year-olds. More work happens behind a desk, more recreational activities take place in front of a screen, there is less walking… This evolution does not bode well.
For an excess of body fat can have far-reaching consequences and provoke many pathologies: cardiovascular illnesses, diabetes, joint problems, respiratory problems, depressions, several types of cancer (notably of the liver, uterus or breast).
So how can you lose weight and burn fat if you don’t like doing sports? Learning yoga can be a good alternative if you want to lose fat in your thighs and hips and work toward your ideal weight.
This is THE most important question to ask yourself before starting on a diet.
Do you want to loose weight or do you need to lose weight?
It’s not the same thing.
Indeed, your idea of ideal weight is probably probably influenced by society’s dictates. The image in your mirror doesn’t correspond to the photoshopped models in the magazines – and so you consider yourself too fat and want to lose weight.
The second is a major health issue. You need to lose weight because your health is at risk.
To give you an idea of what applies to you, it is important to calculate your BMI, or Body Mass Index.
There are sites that let you calculate it by simply entering your height and weight.
Here is the official classification of the WHO (World Health Organisation):
As long as your BMI is situated between 18.5 and 25, your weight is normal. No need for draconian measure if you want to lose a few pounds. Simply practising physical activity will help you keep in shape.
If your BMI is higher than 25, you are overweight – to a greater or lesser extent. Consulting a doctor and/or a nutritionist is the best first step to understanding where your excess weight comes from and how to remedy it. Surplus weight can have several causes:
So, can yoga help you get rid of superfluous pounds?
Broadly speaking: YES.
Yoga consists of a sequence of physical poses (asanas), more or less tonic and done at a more or less rapid rhythm depending on the type of yoga. So, as you will be moving, toning and exercising your muscles: yes, yoga can help you get back into shape or stay fit.
One aspect is very important when trying to lose weight: pleasure. If you don’t enjoy practicing yoga, you won’t be motivated, will skip yoga lessons or home yoga sessions which means you won’t attain your weight-loss goals.
Yoga helps tone and sculpt your body. It can be very useful for a flat stomach, for example. But yoga is much more than a simple physical exercise.
Yoga classes offer gentle exercises that can help with weight loss. Photo credit: Fat Yoga via Visualhunt.com
If your weight problems are very grave, yoga courses alone will not be enough. You will need an activity with cardio elements to help burn your fat reserves. But yoga can help relieve stress and learn to feel good in your body, so that change can come from within rather than without – help on a mental rather than physical level.
If you want to lose more than 20 pounds, it’s important that you get help from a medical professional in weight loss to monitor the physical effects and suggest what strategies are best for you. But yoga can be a great help together with a more intense physical activity.
Though it cannot make you lose weight fast, the benefits of yoga for losing stomach fat, building abdominal muscles, improving all-round muscle tone and reducing cellulite are real.
In combination with a balanced diet, the gentle muscle exercises provided by yoga can lead to significant results in weight loss.
Search for a yoga class here: Yoga near me.
There are several different types of yoga. All forms of yoga are based on deep breathing and harmony between mind and body.
But if the slower aspect of the more traditional yoga forms turn you off, there are more dynamic styles such as Ashtanga or Vinyasa yoga that are particularly well suited to burning calories and toning your body.
These yoga styles are also good for eliminating toxins and teaching you to listen to your body and its signals for hunger and fullness.
Additionally, many yoga poses help modulate the adrenal and thyroid glands which help regulate our metabolism.
You can also try Bikram Yoga if there are no contraindications in your case. It is basically a form of Hatha Yoga (the most common yoga style) executed in a room heated to 40°C and with 40% humidity to facilitate the evacuation of toxins.
A Bikram Yoga lesson generally lasts 90 minutes and is made up of 26 poses and two breathing exercises. You should definitely consult a doctor before practising Bikram Yoga.
Though you shouldn’t do more than two Bikram Yoga classes a week, if you want to lose weight quickly, daily home yoga routines can help.
These daily home yoga sessions can be rounded out with studio lessons or with a private tutor for:
Together with a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, fibre and very little fat, yoga can help lose weight and especially stomach fat.
Be mindful of your general state of health before doing the following exercises. If you are unsure of your ability to do them, consult a yoga specialist who will teach you how to do them without injuring yourself.
Here are some exercises particularly good at burning stomach fat.
Stop as soon as you feel any pain!
Not for those suffering from cervical or back problems or hernia.
This pose strengthens the abdominal muscles and reduces stomach fat. It also strengthens the spine and back.
Contraindications: back and cervical problems, hernia.
This yoga pose reinforces the abdominal wall. It activates the digestive system and is a good way to stretch your back.
One of the best poses for a flat belly. It is also good for the digestive system and strengthens the back and legs.
Countraindication: shoulder injury
Then best pose to keep a flat stomach and tone your whole body. It sculpts arms, shoulders, back, buttocks and thighs.
The Plank Pose is great for losing stomach fat. Photo credit: Fat Yoga via Visualhunt.com
This pose helps with lumbago while regulating the acidity of the stomach. It tones your abdomen and hips.
If you practice these five poses regularly, you should start seeing results soon! Here are some more poses to help you lose weight.
Counter-indications: fragile ankles, knees or shoulders
Doing the Eagle Pose regularly in yoga sessions can reduce cellulite. Photo credit: solidariat via Visual hunt
Better than any anti-cellulite cream – I present to you: Eagle Pose! It strengthens the deep thigh muscles, but does so gently. It stretches and tones the calves, thighs, hips and ankles. It stretches and loosens the arms and shoulders.
This pose also augments your concentration and balance.
And because it is a bit more complicated that the other poses explained here, here is a video that shows you how it’s done.
Rapid weight-loss is not the only advantage to pracitising yoga: you will feel liberated!
The benefits of yoga are numerous (not just to keep in shape):
1. Become more flexible
2. Manage stress
3. Learn to meditate
4. A physical activity you can do at home
5. Increased concentration
Yoga helps you manage stress – while some people lose their appetites under stress, others find their appetite increase. They eat because they’re stressed, and so they gain weight. Regular practice of any form of yoga helps decrease stress levels. Being more relaxed, the munchies disappear.
Yoga also helps improve sleep patterns. Sleep problems are intimately linked to stress. Some meditation or yoga exercises just before going to sleep can help reduce stress levels and improve the quality of sleep. Having less trouble falling asleep and sleeping through the night, you won’t be as tired when the alarm rings.
Beyond physical activity, yoga is above all a philosophy and introducing it into your life can fundamentally change you. You will feel better in your mind and thus in your body.
Trying out yoga means incorporating it in your lifestyle. You’ll see – though you might say “meditation is not for for me” or “yoga is too slow, I really need something more energising” or even “I don’t really like all that spiritual stuff”, and yet, with the right yoga teacher, you will soon find yourself slowly adopting all the facets of yoga into your daily life.
Basically, you are aiming for harmony between mind and body. Even if you need to lose more than 20 pounds, you will find that, after a few yoga sessions, those pounds that were ruining your life now seem meaningless.
Yoga is not a competition, as any yoga teacher will tell you: neither against others nor against yourself. The ultimate goal is not to master all the poses, lose X pounds or test your limits – the point of yoga is to make peace with yourself and learn to accept your body.
Of course, you can do home yoga but if you are just starting out you might need a little motivational help.
Is the secret to eating less and healthily to be found at the feet of a yoga sports coach?
Hiring a yoga-oriented sports coach can be a good solution if you need to:
The advantage of a sports coach is that they have training in something besides yoga. If he or she decides you need more energetic physical exercises to lose weight fast, they can give you advice on other sports, such as skipping rope, cardio exercises, weight lifting, pilates or other muscular reinforcement sports in addition to yoga.
A yoga-oriented personal trainer will have the advantage of both understanding how the body works and being open to other alternatives than your average sports coach. This is why we suggest you try and unite these two aspects – yoga teacher and personal trainer – in one person.
If you can, make sure your personal trainer also has a good knowledge of nutrition. He can give you advice on how to eat healthy to lose weight, such as:
The stress relief that practising yoga brings helps you stick to a healthy diet. Photo credit: foodswings via Visual Hunt
In addition to tailoring your sports programme to your individual needs, they can help you define the right diet to aid you on the road to your dream body – as you define it.
A sports coach is also a good motivator. Alone at home, there is a tendency to abandon all your good resolutions fairly quickly, while a personal trainer who will be giving classes once or twice a week won’t let you skimp. No way around it – they will make sure you do the exercises.
Avoid fad diets! Hyper-protein, Dukan, cabbage-soup diets… none have proven themselves in the long run, and all are catalysts for the famous yo-yo effect. The key is a balanced diet, not too fatty, not too poor either, and regular physical activitiy.
Ask our personal trainers if you don’t believe me!
Be careful not to hurt yourself when doing yoga poses. Don’t hesitate to contact one of our superprofs and take yoga classes to learn to do them correctly.