Ask a Yogi: Can I Lose Weight Doing Yoga?

With New Years approaching and new health goals on the horizon, I feel obliged to answer this question.

Short answer: Yoga’s not going to help you lose weight in isolation.

However… it may be a great tool to supplement a balanced diet and adequate exercise.

Regardless, we will see newcomers to the yoga studio this month hoping to shed pounds the “easy” way by taking yoga classes. 😉

I’ll tell you a little story of said student and offer ways yoga may be the perfect addition to your weight loss plan.


The moment  *Phoebe entered the yoga studio I could tell she was a tad eccentric. (*Name protected)

“Heeeeeeeeyyyyy!”… was her first word to me.

She carried an animal print yoga mat tucked under her arm with silver bangles dangling around her wrist. I must have looked like a sweaty, yoga disaster next to Phoebe in her full makeup and sleek dark hair.

“Have you ever taken a yoga class before?” I asked after we introduced ourselves.

“Not a one!” she answered smiling.

I smiled back timidly trying to hide my concern. She showed up for my intermediate vinyasa class that day, so naturally I was shouting SHIT in my head.

Phoebe struggled her way through class despite my efforts to modify nearly every pose. I recommended she try a slower paced class to get used to all the poses before coming to a flow class again.

Phoebe did not head my advice.

She busted down the door 5 minutes into my flow class the next week, waving vigorously at me, and mouthing “sorry”.

After class I asked Phoebe if she ever tried an all levels or gentle class.

“Yes, I hated it.” 

“Sorry to hear that, what did you not like about it?”

“It’s not fast enough. Or hard enough. Your class is perfect!”

I kind of laughed thinking about my own experience with yoga. Like many people, the reason I started was for the workout. I figured Phoebe was the same way.

Two months went by.

Phoebe was still regularly coming to class, and I came to enjoy having her. She was quirky and would always say the most random things that would make me breakdown laughing.

She certainly had some downsides.  A couple of teachers complained she would walk in late to class or sometimes leave early.

Phoebe completely violated all  yoga conduct code, but perhaps that’s why I liked her anyways.

One day, Phoebe showed up for class after missing a week. She wasn’t her normal perky self.

“Are you feeling okay?” I asked.

She pursed her lips. “I’m just not loosing any weight.”

I raised my eyebrows, then noticing my shock was written all over my face, lowered them. Did this diminutive, 5 foot tall woman just say…

“Can I lose weight doing yoga?” Phoebe asked bluntly.

Clearly, she was told a lie from a women’s magazine. Phoebe did not need to lose weight.

I shrugged, “It’s possible to lose weight when you have some to lose…” ***


Tried and true, diet and exercise is the best method for weight loss.

Calories in vs. Calories out.

However, there is some evidence to show yoga does correlate with a healthy weight.

In one study, 12 weeks of yoga led to an overall reduction in food consumption, in eating speed and in food choices (Field, 2011).

In another study, yoga practice for four years was associated with a 3-pound lower weight gain among normal weight participants and a 19- pound lower weight gain among overweight participants (Field, 2011)

Why do these studies suggest exactly what Phoebe’s magazines said?

  1. Yoga helps people experience more mindfulness. They become more aware of the needs of their bodies. Aware of hunger versus thirst. Aware of when they are getting full. Aware of the food choices their making.
  2. Yoga reduces sleep disturbances and produces deep sleep.  Sleep is crucial to weight loss. Your body needs time to restore.
  3. Yoga reduces cortisol levels produced by stress. The b i g g e s t factor. When your cortisol is high you may experience overeating, craving high caloric fatty and sugary foods, and increased abdominal fat. Including several other symptoms. Yoga is a great way to manage your hormones that affect weight (Bush, 2013).

*** UPDATE : Phoebe never showed up to another yoga class (However, we did hug it out at Nahko & Medicine For The People concert). Yoga’s not for everyone. That’s okay. 🙂

References

Bush, A. (2013). 6 Signs That Your Cortisol Levels May Be Too High.Remedy Health Media LLC. healthcentral.com.

Field, T. (2011). Yoga clinical research review. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 17(1), 1-8.

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