Any type of regular physical activity is good for maintaining weight and may even help you lose weight, depending on how strenuous it is and the amount of time you engage in it. Sure, jogging, aerobics and field hockey may burn calories at a fast clip, but not everyone is cut out for those activities. If you're looking for an alternative to high-impact workouts, check out yoga for weight loss and 7 reasons why it works. You'll still get results with a yoga workout, but they may take longer depending on the type of yoga practice you choose.
A typical aerobic exercise session burns 360 calories an hour, while yoga burns 240 calories per hour. Most forms of yoga consist of stretching poses that are held for a specific length of time before moving onto the next pose in the sequence. Yoga helps build muscle and uses body weight as resistance. This prepares you for more vigorous exercises, such as jogging, dancing and tennis. Yoga improves balance, flexibility and keeps you toned and trim with regular practice.
Yoga doesn't burn as many calories as anaerobic or aerobic exercise (except for some types of vigorous yoga), but it offers other benefits. Overeating is related to stress, depression and boredom for many people, and the relaxing effects of yoga (along with meditation and pranayama (breathing exercises), balance mood and reduces the likelihood of weight gain due to emotional eating.
Yoga is just one part of a successful weight loss plan. You'll need to eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water and get enough sleep to rejuvenate your body. Yoga alone, even Bikram or power yoga and other vigorous forms of yoga, shouldn't be the only exercise in your weekly routine. Consider joining an amateur sports team (Softball and soccer are fun social activities and give your body a moderate workout), jogging, swimming - or milder forms of exercise like golf or walking if you've been sedentary for awhile.
You don't have to take a class to reap the benefits of yoga for weight loss. There are dozens of DVDs, online videos and books that can show you yoga poses. If you're new to yoga, choose one of the slower-paced disciplines. Here's some more information about yoga for weight loss and seven reasons why it works.
You don't need to sweat and do push ups to the point of exhaustion to lose weight. Hatha yoga, or gentle yoga consisting of stretching exercises, releases tension in the body and calms the mind. This double whammy improves internal organ function, and a study conducted by Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center confirms the health advantages of yoga. Over 15,000 adults aged 50 or older participated in the study. The results indicated that individuals who practiced yoga once a week or more for at least four years lost five pounds, on average. Study participants who didn't do yoga gained an average of 13 ½ pounds. People who practiced yoga and had a healthy weight before the study were more likely to maintain their weight than participants who hadn't practiced yoga beforehand. 1
Yoga's subtle effects change your body-mind connection over time. You won't battle your desires to eat “bad” food or overeat after doing yoga on a regular basis. Eventually you'll be so attuned to your body you won't want to overeat or eat junk food.
Hatha yoga, a series of gentle stretching, breathing and meditative exercises, help you withdraw temporarily from the outside world. Poses including the shoulder stand, full twist and cobra, called asanas in Hatha yoga, will help relax you and loosen tight muscles. This relaxation causes you to think more clearly, relieving stress that triggers emotional overeating. Hatha yoga asanas ensure better digestion, circulation, eyesight and other vital body functions. When used along with a balanced diet and other moderate exercise – walking, biking swimming – you'll lose weight. Since Hatha yoga and other gentle forms of yoga don't raise your heart rate, so you won't lose as much weight as you would practicing aerobics or more strenuous forms of yoga. The main benefit of Hatha yoga lies in its ability to make you more aware of your body and how it feels, helping you to make better lifestyle choices.
Ashtanga means “eight limbs” in Sanskrit. It's a series of flowing poses practiced in a specific sequence, and requires more energy and muscle power than gentle Hatha yoga. Ashtanga has six different pose sequences. Yoga Mala consists of 75 poses designed to detoxify the body, realign the spine and build strength and stamina. It takes 90 minutes to two hours to complete these poses. That's quite a workout, even by cardio and aerobics standards, proving that yoga for weight loss can be just as vigorous as other types of exercise. The second set of Ashtanga poses, Nadi Shodana, helps the nervous system and channels energy through the body. The advanced series, Sthira Bhaga, consists of difficult arm balances and few students graduate to this level. Ashtanga yoga will burn calories, tone your muscles and increase your bone density with weight-bearing exercises.
Even power yoga won't give you the weight loss benefits of aerobic exercise, but it's a more strenuous and fat-burning than traditional yoga. Power yoga moves faster than regular yoga, with the focus on movement between poses instead of holding the poses. This makes power yoga a good choice for people using yoga for weight loss. This fitness-based yoga is sometimes called “gym yoga, and offers cardiovascular benefits similar to aerobics. It's a Westernized form of Ashtanga yoga, designed an a free-form series of poses – there's no set order like traditional Ashtanga practice.
Power Yoga – A Modern Form of Yoga Designed to Make You Sweat
Power yoga is short on meditation and stretching, and instead concentrates on extended Sun Salutation poses, which flow from mountain pose to upward facing dog to downward facing dog. In power yoga, you move between Sun Salutation poses to warm up the body for the rest of the session. These poses are followed by a series of standing and seated poses, and then the more difficult inversions and backbends before winding down. Power yoga classes are typically held in a heated room to increase the amount of sweating – and weight loss. If you're reasonably fit and want to lose those last few pounds, power yoga for weight loss many be perfect for you. If you're out of shape and have a lot of weight to lose, practice Hatha or other gentle forms of yoga to get in tune with your body before trying power yoga.
Vinyasa yoga or flow yoga, is a series of connected poses resembling graceful dancing. Movements in Vinyasa yoga are linked with synchronized breathing, which help practitioners transition between poses. The sequencing used in Vinyasa yoga is up to the teacher or practitioner. The Sun Salutation sequence in Vinyasa yoga for weight loss (also used in Power Yoga and Ashtanga yoga), can burn up to 500 calories, depending on the poses used and energy expended. The bends, standing poses and stretches of the Sun Salutation are followed by Warrior poses. These poses focus on the lower body, but strengthen muscles throughout the body.
Since Vinyasa Yoga is performed faster than Hatha Yoga and other gentle forms of this practice, it offers cardiovascular benefits. Every movement is linked through the breath, and transitions are performed in a graceful but rapid manner. This increases the heart rate, which is necessary to burn calories and boost heart health. Choose Vinyasa yoga for weight loss, and you'll receive other benefits beside a slim figure. Regular Vinyasa practice improves overall muscle strength and tones the body. The deep breathing needed to perform the poses helps detoxify the body and purify the blood. Like all types of yoga, Vinyasa clears the mind and leads to better mental clarity and calm. 2
A type of “hot” yoga (similar to power yoga), developed in the 1970s, Bikram yoga classes are conducted in rooms heated to a sauna-like temperature with 40% humidity. The heat and humidity help loosen muscles, allowing you to stretch more easily. According to an article in Time Magazine , research conducted on young adults who took Bikram yoga classes for eight weeks showed moderate increase in muscle control and great improvement in balance, but only a slight drop in body weight. 3 Bikram yoga for weight loss definitely shows positive health results, but the amount of weight lost isn't as great as you might expect. If you are well-hydrated and don't eat for two hours prior to class, you shouldn't have any harmful reaction to the heat. Bikram yoga is an option for adventurous yoga enthusiasts, but may be too challenging for beginners.
Do your yoga asanas in a room without mirrors. This helps you concentrate on your breathing, stretching and the way your body feels instead of your performance. Practice at the same time each day if you do yoga at home. Don't miss class or leave early if you're studying with an instructor. At each session, challenge yourself by adding more repetitions or trying an advanced pose. The goal is to receive more benefits by graduating to more difficult, but not overwhelming, asanas with each workout session.
Yoga is a spiritual practice as well as a physical one. Keep a positive attitude during your sessions, and realize you're strengthening your emotional and mental well-being while losing weight. Breathe deeply and slowly and focus on each breath.
Yoga, along with meditation, positive thinking and calm, measured breathing ensure a calmer, more focused disposition. It doesn't matter what type of yoga for weight loss you practice – you will develop a more serene attitude and better lifestyle.
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