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What Can Yoga Add to Your Weight Loss Journey?

It’s easy to get stuck in a traditional sense of what constitutes “exercise" - especially when weight loss is our goal.

We want to make our time and effort count. We don’t want to settle for “less than” in our fitness endeavors.

Our commitment to weight loss, however, doesn’t have to be the unrelenting grind we sometimes envision it to be.

Getting healthy is about living more vibrantly in our bodies. This includes building strength and cardiovascular endurance through appropriately intensive exercise, but it also means working with a foundation of ample movement each and every day as well as cultivating stress management and self-awareness.

Would it surprise you to hear that yoga can offer all of the aforementioned benefits? Read on to learn how the extensive varieties and benefits of yoga practice can support your weight loss and transformation journey!

Potent Stress Relief

You might know that yoga is a great source of stress relief. What you may not know is that managing your stress is one of the most important factors during a weight loss journey.

Not only do numerous bad habits creep in during stressful times (e.g. binge eating, emotional eating, erratic sleep schedules, excessive sleeping, inactivity, etc.), but on a physiological level our bodies actually store more fat when we're stressed – specifically belly fat.

Every day brings some kind of stress our way, and our bodies adapt to that stress by increasing cortisol (a hormonal response to stress). When we engage in the mindfulness of yoga, our stress levels can actually decrease and thereby slow the production of cortisol. Better management of stress and cortisol levels, research suggests, can help decrease subcutaneous fat.

A Challenging Way to Move More

Although yoga may not seem like your typical cardio routine, depending on the kind of yoga practice, it can be a tough workout that will raise your heart rate and push you on a number of fitness fronts.

The gradual stretching and bending required to move into positions as well as the strength and flexibility to stabilize in those positions can challenge even those who consider themselves very athletic.

The ability to move through the practice at your own proficiency, however, allows for a somewhat individualized workout. Nonetheless, look for a variety of yoga styles and a level that feels doable but challenging for where you’re at currently. Even if you select a less intensive program, it can be an excellent addition to your daily movement, the core of a good fitness program. 

Lengthening and Strengthening of Muscles

Looking for more muscle tone and definition? Are you aiming for strength and flexibility? Yoga helps with it ALL!

Yoga routines challenge all muscle groups and are designed in such a way that they can appeal to people of all ages and abilities. During a yoga session, which is typically anywhere from 30-90 minutes, participants move into stretching poses – some of which are held for longer periods of time to intensify the stretch and enhance flexibility over time.

The increase in blood flow to those areas of the body not only aids range of motion in your joints and muscles but also helps deliver nutrients to cells all over the body. For those who have overdone it in previous exercise endeavors, yoga can also serve as a great workout to stretch and safely regain strength in those sensitive areas. 

Enhanced Self-Awareness

I would wager that this benefit can offer the most profound impact in a weight loss journey.

In addition to the physical advantages, yoga cultivates mind-body awareness. At what other time do we devote an hour to simply following our breath, clearing our minds, and focusing on how our bodies are feeling?

A regular yoga practice can shift how you relate to your body. For example, it may help you see the correlation between a sluggish sensation and eating certain foods or staying up an hour later, which can help motivate you to make better food and lifestyle choices.

Some research has shown that self-monitoring habits are associated with greater weight reduction and better weight control. If you haven’t already, try a yoga session and experience for yourself the serenity that can be found in mind-body connection!

More Efficient Detoxification

Our bodies are built to naturally detoxify themselves via various systems (e.g. circulatory, digestive, and lymphatic). Movement supports these systems and their natural detoxification processes. Yoga, with its focus on stretching and compressing nearly every part of the body is well-suited to encourage optimal function and detoxification of these systems.

Additionally, the rhythmic breathing of yoga practice helps lower stress levels as well as helps increase oxygen flow to cells and clears out carbon dioxide from tissues. Give your metabolism a jump-start, and feel the change from the inside out that yoga creates in your body!

Have you tried yoga? What classes or practices have you incorporated, and how has it served your weight loss journey? Offer your thoughts and feedback. Thanks for reading today, everyone!

In health, Becca Hurt, MS, RD, Program Manager of Life Time Weight Loss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.


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