Diets are everywhere. You can’t watch TV, browse social media, or listen to the radio without being bombarded by the latest and greatest fad diet.
It’s hard not to dwell on easy ways to lose weight when so many outlets are telling you they have a get-skinny-quick scheme, but the horrible truth is these fad diets just don’t work. If they did, would anyone really be overweight? You can drink shakes, pop supplements, or eat frozen meals all day long, but these are never going to be a sustainable way of living.
Losing weight and maintaining the weight loss require a total lifestyle change, and I might be biased, but yoga is the perfect way to fully embrace your shiny new lifestyle change. If you’re skeptical, let me try and convince you!
#1. Reduces Stress
I know I’m not the only one who heads straight for the carbs and/or chocolate when I’m stressed out. Stress is one of the biggest contributors to tight pants, and you know this all too well if you live a chronically stressful life.
We certainly make a beeline for less-than-healthy foods when we’re stressed out (who wants a salad after a really bad day?), but it’s also our hormones doing some of the work.
- When you stress, your body releases three hormones: adrenaline, corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH), and cortisol.
- Your body doesn’t realize you aren’t a caveman anymore, so when the initial rush of adrenaline is over, it insists you need to replenish your energy stores with carbs, so cortisol is released to spike your appetite and encourage you to eat.
- You don’t need to replenish your carbohydrate stores when you’re simply stressed from work or crying children, so heading towards fried food or baked goodies is not nutritionally necessary.
How does yoga help you reduce stress and the ensuing “must have french fries” response?
- Holding (or even attempting) challenging poses helps you manage the flight or fight instinct, teaching you to handle stressful situations calmly.
- Breathwork. Learning how to breathe through hard and uncomfortable poses gives you the tools to handle stress with the same breathwork.
#2. Yoga Improves Your Digestion
A lot of people don’t realize that having less-than-optimal digestion messes with your ability to lose weight. Digestion allows your body to absorb the nutrients you need and get rid of the stuff you don’t. If it isn’t working all that well, the digestive system isn’t able to soak in those vital nutrients, and empty nutrition certainly contributes to weight gain.
Breathing is an integral part of a yoga practice, but did you know that breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which in turn kick starts your digestion? The better your digestion works, the more efficiently you use and burn calories.
Besides stimulating the parasympathetic section of the nervous system, increasing the blood flow to the digestive organs is also beneficial. Twisting and folding poses massage the abdominal contents, stimulating blood flow and increasing the intestines’ movements (known as peristalsis).
#3. Improved Self-Esteem
Research has proven time and again that there is a direct correlation between weight gain/loss and self-esteem. People with low self-esteem typically weigh more than their peers with a higher self-esteem. But low self-esteem is also a contributing factor to eating disorders, so it isn’t about weight gain but about creating unhealthy eating habits that cause unhealthy weight gain/loss.
All of that sounds great, but how does yoga tie into this principle? First, it’s important to know that any kind of negative self-talk makes it really difficult to initiate and maintain change (i.e. healthy eating), and losing weight requires the ability to make changes.
When you regularly practice yoga, you quickly realize perfection is impossible to obtain. That’s really frustrating at first, but slowly, you realize it doesn’t bother you as much as it did a month or a year ago. Instead, you see your practice making progress, and the progress becomes enough to make you happy.
When you drop the idea of perfection, you stop the negative self-talk when perfection seems unattainable. Instead, you accept where you’re at (whether it’s your weight, your yoga practice, or your job) and realize where you’re at is more than enough.
#4. Yoga is a Combination of Cardio and Strength Training
A well-rounded exercise routine should include cardio, strength, and stretching. Lucky you; yoga encompasses all of those things in one tidy little practice! Personally, when I have a passion for something, it’s really hard for me to focus on anything else.
When I was a runner, I was really bad about cross-training. When I finally did start cross-training with yoga, I fell in love with yoga and out of love with running. This may not be true with you, but it’s applicable to a lot of people. If it isn’t your attention span, it could be a lack of time, location, or budget to join a gym and do a variety of activity.
What types of yoga encompass the most cardio and strength?
- Vinyasa flow is the best for cardio, but with all of the chaturangas, you’re getting a good balance of cardio and strength.
- Ashtanga yoga is mostly strength, but the pick-ups and jump-throughs are going to give you some massive cardio opportunities.
- Hatha is pretty “slow burn”, so don’t expect a ton of cardio. There will be lots of long holds in poses, perfect for building and toning muscles.
#5. Full Body Health
Combining the total body effects of yoga truly shows you how good this practice is for you! Not only does it lower your stress, strengthen your muscles, and aid in digestion, there are so many other qualities that make your practice much better than a short-term diet.
What else does yoga offer besides toned muscles and reduced stress?
- Improves your flexibility to reduce joint and muscular pain
- Improves your posture, resulting in less back pain and better core strength
- Prevents debilitating diseases like osteoporosis, arthritis, and high blood pressure from developing
Losing and maintaining weight isn’t just about calories in and calories out. You truly need a well-functioning body to lose or maintain a weight. When your body is working properly, it’s going to absorb and utilize the nutrients necessary for total body health.
Dieting is just a short-term solution. Not only are you likely to gain the weight back, but you’re going to feel frustrated and disappointed in yourself. It’s also likely you’ll go back to unhealthier living and put your lifestyle change off even longer.
Yoga is the perfect mixture of getting you in shape and helping you learn to truly love yourself no matter where you’re at it in life.