If I said you should not practice yoga for weight loss, would you turn to aerobics or the boot camp at your local gym? I hope not (unless you enjoy those activities), because if you need to lose weight, you probably will probably if stick with your yoga practice.
Yoga is a lifestyle. It doesn’t just force you to burn more calories than you expend. It teaches you to be in your body in a healthy way. And if you’re overweight, that means you will lose weight.
Why Yoga for Weight Loss is Better Than Diet and Exercise
Most people focus on diet and exercise—that is reducing calories and increasing physical activity—when they are trying to lose weight. While that approach works, it can also lead to new problems such as overexertion, injury, or malnutrition. Often that’s because the goal becomes more important than the journey to the goal.
The Yogic Journey to a Better Body (and Mind)
Yoga is about the journey. It is a practice of effort and surrender. We stay on the path, but we don’t worry about the outcome of our efforts. This practice of non-attachment is liberating.
Non-attachment doesn’t mean we don’t have healthy goals. But yoga offers tools for focusing on our entire being, not just how our bodies look in our yoga pants. With such a rich practice, we’re bound to have positive results.
Principles of the yogic lifestyle based on Patanjali’s eight limbs contribute to weight loss indirectly while enhancing the experiencing of living in other ways.
Here’s how yoga for weight loss can work, even if you never think about the number on your scale:
- We are kind to our bodies through the practice of ahimsa. When we are kind to ourselves, we are less likely to overindulge in food that isn’t good for us.
- The practice of brahmacharya helps us to refrain from overindulging.
- Through saucha—the practice of purity—we also attend to our bodies in a positive way. For example, we may focus on pure and healthy foods as a source of nourishment.
- Asana, the physical practice, can help us burn calories, especially if we have a physically challenging practice like power or vinyasa yoga.
- Asana practice can also help build a strong core and strong muscles. Since muscle burns calories more efficiently than fat, fit yogis have better metabolisms.
- Learning to practice pratyahara gives us the ability to withdraw from sensory overload so we are less tempted to eat every tempting food we see!
- Meditation, especially the practice of mindfulness, helps us gain clarity on what we need to maintain good physical health. When we’re mindful of our eating habits, it’s more likely we’ll notice when we’re eating for reasons other than nourishment.
- Faith in a higher power can help in situations where eating disorders and food addictions interfere with the ability to lose weight.
So, rather than making weight loss the goal of your yoga practice, focus on a healthy lifestyle. You’ll end up with more than a thinner body!