Something I hear a lot of is that people are coming to yoga to lose weight. While I applaud the efforts of those individuals and am happy that they’re finding a way to move their body in a way they maybe haven’t done before, I wanted to write a blog about the real way yoga can be used for weight loss. And in order to do this, I need to break a few hearts and tell you that yoga is not the best method for weight loss and you probably wont’ see results if that’s all you’re doing to lose weight. Here’s why and what you can do about it.
Weight loss is really just about energy expenditure. Without going too far down this rabbit hole, if you want to lose weight, I’m sorry to say you’re going to have to eat less. It’s that simple, but no one wants to hear it (myself included!). It’s a matter of burning more calories than you take in.
Again without going too far into the calorie deficit rabbit hole (if you want to learn more about that then I suggest you follow @syattfitness or @soheefit on Instagram or Facebook – that’s their thing), food gives our body energy. That’s the point of eating. If you’re not using all of that energy up, then it stays in your body and is converted to fat. So in order to lose fat you have to use more energy than you’re putting into your body. I’m a huge fan of calorie counting for this because we often underestimate what we eat, but that’s not always the right path for everyone (again, follow @syattfitness and @soheefit if you want more info on this).
So calorie counting is king. Next up is weight lifting. Long story short, the more muscle you have, the more energy your body has to expend to keep up with that muscle. So if you build muscle, you can eat more, but still be in a deficit. I’m not saying like a cheeseburger and fries every night, but the more muscle you have the higher your metabolism will be.
Next up is cardio. This is at the end of the list of the best ways to lose weight. Notice nowhere in here did I say slow stretches and body weight exercises and breathing (aka yoga). Unfortunately yoga is just not an exercise that burns a lot of calories. That being said, if you have a lot to lose, you may end up seeing more weight loss initially because your body has more it can get rid of and because often times yoga is more movement than a person has typically been doing.
NOW let’s get on to how to use yoga to lose weight, because I do think it is an important component for weight loss, but not in the way that most people expect or are hoping.
1) I think the most significant impact yoga can have on weight loss is its connection to mindfulness. Coming to yoga, and meditation as well, WILL make you develop a more mindful life. You’ll be more aware of your reactions, your emotions, your habits – whether or not that was your intention, this will happen when someone starts practicing yoga. As a result of using yoga to develop a mindfulness habit, you may start to slow down your habits, slow down your reactions, and slow down your actions.
So when you’re maybe eating because you’re bored – your mindfulness habit might kick in and you may catch yourself as you reach for the bag of chips and say, “hmm am I really hungry right now or am I just eating because I’m bored?”
Or, if you’re like me, and you struggle with just loving food so much that you want to eat everything in sight always 😂 you may find that you have more patience to pause in between bites and let your hunger signals catch up to your brain.
2) Another way that yoga can inadvertently help you with weight loss is that it helps keep you more mobile and flexible, which will allow you to exercise more comfortably. It will give you that range of motion to do an overhead press. It will give you the mind-body connection to hip hinge for a deadlift. It will help the flexibility and mobility of your hamstrings so you can go for a longer run or or walk.
If you feel better exercising, you’re more likely to do it. So if yoga helps you feel better and move better (which it most likely will), you’re more likely to have the motivation, and more importantly excitement, to start your workout.
So that’s it. If you want to lose weight, eat in a calorie deficit. If you want to use yoga to lose weight, think of it as cultivating a mindfulness habit that allows you to eat in a calorie deficit.
If you’ve been struggling with weight loss and have been told that yoga will help you and you’re not seeing results, I hope this post was helpful for you. If you’ve been wanting to lose weight but haven’t known where to start, I hope this post gave you an idea and maybe motivated you to start a yoga practice to help be more mindful of your eating.
I’m also a personal trainer, so if you read this and you have more questions about the personal training side of things, feel free to reach out to me. If you have questions about the yoga side of things, feel free to reach out. If you disagree with me reach out. If you agree with me reach out. I want to hear from you and help in any way I can!
Till next time,