Everyone has heard about yoga and it is generally assumed to be a widely popular form of exercise, with classes held at nearly every health and fitness center and myriad yoga studios throughout the country, and with a reputation for increasing flexibility and muscle tone.
That much is true, as far as it goes, but yoga is vastly more complicated than that. It is a more than 2,000 year old Indian discipline that marries various levels of physical activity and breathing with meditation and spiritual awareness. Yoga is practiced in many forms, or “schools,” each with its own definition and set of goals, and just the study of its history and philosophy can consume a lifetime, much less its practice.
But a question often asked by potential practitioners is whether or not yoga, besides its other and wide-ranging benefits, is any good for weight loss. The answer is yes, and according to many experts in the field the weight loss can come from the obvious – physical activity – and the not-so-obvious – spiritual awareness. It all depends on the approach, the experts say.
As mentioned, yoga isn’t just one thing. There are at least 14 main schools of yoga – led by the most famous, at least in the west, Hatha (pronounced “Hat-ta”) – each with many subcategories. They run the gamut from pure exercise – Power Yoga – to pure spiritualism and an eternal relationship with Vishnu – bhakti. Some are ancient and some are more recent developments, and a few have a particularly western bent to meet the needs of pregnant women, Prenatal yoga, or for injury rehabilitation, Restorative yoga. Purists, it should be noted, think some of the western forms of yoga, developed with the American market in mind, lack the meditative and spiritual melding of mind, body and spirit that were at the core of yoga’s origin over two millennia ago.
On the physical side of the ledger, many forms of yoga are said to offer significant benefits, ranging from flexibility and muscle tone, to stress relief, even lowering blood pressure and heart health. Experts advise that those looking for weight loss from taking up yoga should concentrate on the forms that involve higher levels of physical activity: Power yoga, vinyasa yoga and ashtanga classes among the chief vigorous forms. There is also a school called Bikram, a style that involves practicing in a super-hot sauna room so practitioners sweat profusely, that is said to be good for weight loss as some people believe it can burn off 300 to 600 calories per one-hour class. However, others believe that a Bikram yoga workout results mostly in water-weight loss which is quickly gained back with the intake of fluids. Once again, weight loss really depends on the level of activity that can truly burn calories.
It is on the spiritual side of the yoga ledger where the idea of weight loss gets a bit trickier.
Pure yoga, according to its most vociferous adherents, isn’t really an exercise program at all, but rather a discipline of meditation where, through breathing and stretching, a practitioner gets more in touch with their inner self and with the spiritualism extant in the universe. This is a whole Eastern religion sort of thing, where the yoga is a pathway to spiritual enlightenment. Those seeking enlightenment can find many schools of yoga to begin that journey.
However, there is a spiritual aspect to almost all forms of yoga and many experts believe that yoga’s mental benefits, short of true enlightenment, help people get in better touch with themselves, feel better about themselves, and build more self-esteem and confidence in all aspects of their lives. If one subscribes to the notion that eating is a self-esteem issue – that people who lack confidence or are depressed eat more to fill in the gaps in their lives -- then building self-esteem through the practice of yoga may be beneficial in a weight-loss sense by reducing the cycle of binge eating.
It should also be noted that many forms of exercise – running, Pilates, regular workouts, etc. – provide some of the same mental benefits. Also, people who take up regular exercise, including yoga, often report that, quite unplanned, they change their diets to a more healthy, balanced regimen of eating that also boosts overall health and promotes weight loss.
However you approach it, yoga in any of its forms has many benefits, and those people who have entered a yoga class find that it is something they crave more and more all the time. And if you’ve ever looked in on a yoga class, well, those people look pretty trim and happy, so the weight loss and spiritual uplift must be working.
Free or loose fitting clothing is best for yoga, you need to be able to move freely through the poses and stretches. At Ladies Only Sports we have a great collection of yoga bottoms and yoga tops that would suit you perfectly for your yoga workout. Give us a ring at 877-567-5239 if you have any further questions about which products would be best suited for you.