[Disclaimer: I don't like advertising yoga for weight loss, because I find so often that the women who come into my classes looking to lose weight really don't need to and/or usually have something much bigger going on. I do know that yoga can truly transform bodies and trim inches to create the "ideal" body many women seek. So this is my take on how yoga can indeed help you lose weight, with my own twist. Remember, I'm not a doctor and this post is expressly my opinion based on my studies in yoga, psychology and good ole life experience.]
This just might be one of the most common questions I get around yoga. Some version of: “Can yoga really help me lose weight?”.
The answer is that yoga will absolutely change your body.
I’ve seen yoga transform the bodies of numerous students, clients, friends and myself. I’ve even had a few students lose 30-40 pounds with hot yoga alone. I can say with a lot of confidence that yoga will change your body, but I can’t guarantee it will help you lose actual pounds.
Say what? I thought you said…
I know what I said, and I stand behind that 100%. Yoga will change your body for the better.
The crazy thing with yoga is that it actually causes your body to sort of “shape-shift”. What I mean by that is it realigns your muscles, stretches and tones them, and improves your posture and spine alignment. All of these things together create a sort of perfect storm for your body to transform and look more like the body you want.
So if you’re looking for a fun way to lose weight or you’re wanting to change how your body looks and feels, I highly recommend giving yoga a try. Just remember to lose the scale and focus on how you look, how your clothes fit, and most importantly how you feel.
Another crazy thing about yoga: whatever you come into it for isn’t usually the same reason you stick with it.
Translation: if you come to yoga for weight loss and you end up sticking with it for a few months or more, you’ll likely see positive changes in your body, but that won’t be the main reason you keep rolling out your mat anymore.
You’ll notice you’re calmer, able to handle stress better, more aware of your body, taking better care of yourself, and a happier person to be around. You’ll notice that you’re more interested in how you nourish your body – what food you eat, what chemicals you avoid and how much water you drink. You’ll have more positive thoughts and a brighter outlook on life.
You might even – gasp! – start loving the body you see in the mirror.
So yes, you’ll feel stronger, leaner, and lighter, but the benefits will extend far beyond your physical appearance. And if you’ve ever lost weight and gained it back before, you know that it takes more than just losing some pounds to stick with something long-term. It has to be something bigger than weight loss, because after you lose the weight, then what?
Very rarely is weight loss just about extra pounds.
And that’s why I so love yoga for weight loss. Because it’s this sort of holy grail so many women are after or at least think they should be after. We have this distorted view of the happiness equation as women:
Weight Loss = Perfection + Happiness
Nothing could be further from the truth. Yoga is such a great way to find this out for yourself though – no need to take my word. Go into it with the goal of toning your body or losing weight if you so choose, and see what happens.
Here are my suggestions:
- Find a Vinyasa or Hot Yoga style class. In terms of getting your heart rate up and breaking a little sweat, these will be your best bets. If you can’t fit a studio class in everyday, check out my free yoga e-book here or my 21-day at home yoga program here.
- Decide what fits into your schedule. For best results aim for 3-5x a week.
- Stick with it. Commit to trying yoga for at least 3-6 months before making any final decisions. If you don’t like the first class you take, try another. There are about as many styles of yoga as there are people…
- Same goes for yoga teachers. LOTS of different personalities out there. Find one that jives with you.
- Start with a baseline. Journal or jot down a few notes about how you feel before you embark on your “yoga for weight loss” journey. How does your body make you feel? How do you perceive your body? On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being absolutely hate and 10 being absolutely love, where are you with your body? Also take note of your stress, your energy and your digestion levels.
- Check in with yourself. Along the way, revisit the above journal items, take note of any changes and see what happens throughout your journey.
Again, I’m in no way saying you need to lose weight or that you should. It’s just that I get this question so much that I wanted to give my take on it for you.
Weight loss and body image are some pretty powerful and messy topics, and ones I’m deeply passionate about (especially body image). I can’t think of a better tool than yoga to help navigate the complicated, messy and often punishing journey of weight loss and body image.
I could write novels about this topic, but for this time, I hope this post helps you realize that yes indeed, yoga can help you lose weight, though perhaps the best outcome you’ll have won’t even be weight-related.
Have you used yoga to lose weight? What was the first reason you tried yoga and what is it that keeps you coming back to your mat now? Let me know in the comments below!