Is Yoga good for Weight Loss?

August 20, 2019

I have been asked this many times:

 

"can I lose weight doing yoga?"

Short answer is yes. Absolutely. 

 

In fact, I lost about 6 lbs in a month or so when I first started way back in the early 2000's...and for someone who is only 5'1.5", that is LOT!

Like, A. LOT. A LOT ALOT A LOT.

(see p.s. at the bottom...)

But guess what...there are things you need to consider.

 

1-How a yoga practice can help you "lay aside the weight" (Hebrews 12:1)

2-Consistency/Frequency of Practice

3-Type or Style of Yoga being practiced

4-The season YOU are currently in, and how it is affecting you and how God created YOU

 

First things first:


One of the amazing things about yoga---and right now I am referring to the physical practice or Asana practice of yoga, not the other limbs of yoga for those who know what I mean---


is that if you are using good Pranayama, or breathwork, it activates your Parasympathetic Nervous System. 

 

"WHAT????"

 

I know, I know. That is a long word that means nothing to most people. I get it.

 
Your parasympathetic nervous system is your "rest and digest" system. It's the system that tells your body that is is ok to chill, it is ok to let go of stress causing weight gain, it is ok to know that you are enough (& God's looking out for you) and you don't need to reach outside of yourself for another bowl of cereal/potato chips/nachos to feel fulfilled.

*ahem. talking to self?*


 

In today's world, especially in our Western Society, we are mostly operating in the OPPOSITE of that--

 

our Sympathetic Nervous System. That's the "fight or flight" system.

 

That's the "I am running from a Tiger!" emergency system, which is useful for guess what?

 

Emergencies. Not every day life. 


But we seem to be stuck in a loop with that system with every incoming text, email, or unmet expectation in today's fast paced world---and we don't even know it!

 

Hence, our bodies are constantly ramping up for unseen tragedies and never coming back down from the surge of adrenaline, cortisol, and other hormones that cause us to retain fat and want more comfort-something like food, drink, or other life-pain-reducing substances. I really simplified there, but that is the gist. 
 

So, the first way that Yoga helps us lay aside the weight, is by causing us to "rest and digest"...literally resting (physically and in Him) and digesting not just food, but experiences around us. Taking it all in and letting go of what does not serve us...

 

fun fact: How I remember Parasympathetic nervous system---I think of "au pair"...like, helper nanny, as in, "I need a little help here to get myself back to rest and digest". Au Pair/ para.... get it? Sigh. I know.

 

But let's face it---if your asana practice has any kind of strength component to it, you are also building muscle (metabolism booster) and increasing bone density as well. More on that in a moment.

Second Point:

 

So you love what yoga does for you...but how often do you let it?  The more you do something---let's say, on a regular basis, not just huge amounts in one day--the more impact it has on your life. 

If you practice yoga once a week, it is going to make you feel better that day and for a few days after perhaps...but it will wear off. Your "norm" is the rest of the week, not the one day of yoga, know what I mean? 

If you practice twice per week, great! Especially if those 2 times are spread out over the week. 
 

3x per week and beyond---that's what I call a more LIFE changing practice. 
And that can look a number of ways, with a number of styles, too---more on that below. 

Quite honestly, maybe I only have a full hour of practice for just myself a couple to 3 times per week...but I can still have 5 to 10 to 20 minutes of some kind of yoga tacked on to any other day as well, and man! I feel way more in touch, way better physically, and way more centered! 

And while I don't love the use of the word "magic"---I can't help but want to say...even just a little yoga each day seems to work like magic for me. I notice when I don't do any at all. I just don't feel right, and it starts affecting my other habits as well!

Look, I teach yoga throughout the week, sometimes practicing with students, sometimes not, so I have to monitor my own practice and physicality. And I like variety in my physical life! I love to ride my bicycle, go for walks, do walk/jog intervals, sometimes work out videos, and even some small strength training once per week---but having some kind of physical yoga practice most days if not every day, even if it is only 5 minutes--those are the times when I can see and feel a difference in my body. And sometimes it needs to be more passive than active, depending on life, which leads to...

Third Point:
 

What type of yoga are you practicing?

There are so many styles of yoga out there, even just within the Asana practice.

 

And by the way, the word "hatha" does not refer to any one style. It's *almost* like the generic word for "any kind of asana practice that uses sun salutations or standing poses"...so when you see that word on your local gym or studio's schedule, you might still need to gather info like, how fast? how slow? Gentle? Power? Flow? Non-flow? (I don't like saying "generic", but it is kind of the easiest way to put in lay terms)

 

So, you have Asana practices that are active, yang, fast, or slow. You have beginner friendly to advanced. You have restorative, yin, passive, or barely moving. You have practices with props. You have practices that use chairs. You have practices that are more meditation or pranayama (breathwork, movement of breath and energy) than physical movement. You have practices that get up and down a lot, and practices that are still quite active but remain on the floor. Some are in hot rooms. Some are in warm rooms. Hopefully none are in cold rooms (69 degrees or lower, IMO)---that is a challenge and not all that safe, depending. 

ALL. ARE. VALUABLE.                ALL. ARE VALID. 

and chances are, you really need a sampling of all of them. 

But it's hard to be perfect, amen?

 

So, your practice consistency may be a mix of a couple active classes per week and a restorative. Or vice versa. Or some other combo of things I listed above...

what matters is, what is right for YOU, in the season that YOU are in, in the body that YOU are living in, RIGHT NOW???  

guess what...that leads to my last point. yay yay yay!

 

#4--The season YOU are currently in, and how it is affecting you and how God created YOU

 

My practice ten years ago was different from my practice of 5 years ago and different from my practice NOW. I am different. The same can most likely be said about YOU. 

You were created in a certain way as a masterpiece by Your Heavenly Father, God. He gave you a specific frame with specific strengths and weaknesses, a specific constitution (ayurveda nerds, I feel you! me, too), specific likes and dislikes, specific tendencies...and while some of those can be changed by external circumstances and habits, some can't. 

Sometimes our hormones change. Sometimes our job situations change. Sometimes our schedule changes. 

One of my favorite things about my yoga practice is, that like Jesus, it meets me where I am, right now, if I let it. 

Which means, in some seasons of life it is appropriate for the majority of my practice to be a bit more active or yang, if you will...but I still need some of that good, slow down yin something or other as well.

 

In a super-charged season of life, it can be HARDEST to get myself to slow down, and I need it the MOST. So, by continuing to push through into a more active practice, I could actually be hurting myself and causing inflammation and flare ups of stress without knowing...and hurting my weight loss progress. 

If I were to continue down that pushing road, I might end up with Adrenal Fatigue or Burnout, and then I would have NO CHOICE but to choose a much more restorative practice for my own practice. Maybe even requiring Yoga therapy. 

 

If you are overcoming Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue, going to that Power Flow class 3 to 5 times a week is NOT going to be your healthiest option...and quite honestly, not even possible, eventually. You are going to need a slower paced option that does not make you worse...one that does all the good stuff yoga can do for you, but at the pace that your body and season of life require right now. 

Flip side:


sometimes we need to get off the couch and DO IT!


So, if there is not a physical/hormonal situation causing you to be so passive,

 

then you might NOT need 5 times a week of "hug your pillow restorative yoga"...

 

you might need some heart-pumping, sweat-producing, Vinyasa flows added to your week!  I can't tell you how many times in my life I felt super tired UNTIL I got up and made myself move my hiney. Blood flow and oxygenation do wonderful things, people. Suddenly you feel ALIVE again!


Certain body types thrive on a certain kind of practice. Seek teachers who know about Ayurveda---the ancient indian medicine/lifestyle sister science to yoga-- and they may be able to give you guidance about what your body might need. (I am not certified in ayurveda, but I have been studying it for such a long time and have taken several workshops, so I might be able to give you a head start insight, if you'd like help! and at least point you in a good direction)

And on that note--seek teachers who can give you personal insight, outside of class. We can only do what we can do in a large setting---but EXPERIENCED, ACCREDITED teachers can be very helpful in guiding you to how to honor your temple! It may cost a little extra to get that personal insight, but isn't it worth not being guided as just one of many, who are different than you?

 

Keep in mind, sometimes there are physical issues going on that may be hindering you, like Candida. Or inflammatory situations like ones listed above. The way the body reacts to certain things may slow your progress down...but yoga *can* help you become more intuitive about what you need, or more in tune with your body to know that something is going on

 

. --i am not a medical doctor, so I cannot make a diagnosis. Just stating from experience. You can be as physical as can be, but if something else is going on and you do not feel you are making progress, you might need to see a physician to find the underlying cause.

 

Bonus point--It does matter what you put into your bodies, as well. If all you ever eat is Twinkies, it might be a confusing message that you are sending your body...and can certainly lead to some of the syndromes listed above! Even if you choose high quality food, but 4 times as much as you need, that can be a problem...so this is another discussion. I do happen to be a certified nutrition coach, if you would like help there, too...

And then remember, GOD WANTS YOU WELL. Always has, always will. Otherwise, why would He send His very own Son to die on the Cross to take our sicknesses and disease? He is all for you believing in His finished work on the Cross as you take steps to take care of yourself. 

 

Let me know if I can help you in some way! By prayer or by practice!

in His love,
lil Robyn

 

 Ps, cuz I promised...I should also clarify that when I first began practicing yoga, it was not as if I had not been doing anything else physical. At the time, I was a professional singer/dancer who was needing help overcoming a re-inflamed old knee injury during the off-season. So all I was doing at the time was yoga and a bit of walking...so in some ways, it was a slowed down season, and yet(!) I lost weight! So...do you think weight loss and yoga go hand-in-hand?

 

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