In the fight to lose weight, Americans have turned to a variety of extreme methods, including over-the-top exercise routines, fad diets and even harmful fasting. And thanks to these extreme methods, pseudo doctors and TV hawkers have become rich while unsatisfied dieters look for the next weight loss answer.
But in chasing after these get-thin-quick schemes, many people miss one of the most effective and convenient forms of weight loss around: yoga.
It may be hard for some people to accept that yoga can be an effective weight loss tool. Thanks to late night TV ads and self-described weight loss experts, a lot of us have been led to believe that strenuous exercise routines are the only way to effectively get in shape and “feel the burn”. They try to tell unsuspecting people products such as pills, powders, creams and outrageous diets can help them lose the weight but only succeed in helping them lose money.
Doctors agree that diet and exercise are key to losing weight. Yoga, however, is an often untapped resource in the exercise regimen that has the real potential to help you lose weight. Not all forms of yoga are useful in helping you lose weight, however, because some lack the movements that can raise the heart rate and get the calories burning in a manner that facilitates weight loss. But there are forms of yoga than can get you close to these levels and (when combined with other forms of exercise) can create a workout regimen that can help you shed pounds and keep them off.
In addition, it is possible to use yoga as your main form of exercise with the goal of losing weight in mind. But to do this, you must engage in a yoga class of at least 90 minutes that includes movements and positions that can raise your heart rate to fat-burning levels at least three days a week. Combine this type of yoga with other forms of aerobic exercise such as brisk walking or running, and you will not only lose weight but gain strength as well.
So how can you lose weight with yoga? Well, the most strenuous forms of yoga includes a fairly rapid series of movements that not only tone the muscles but can raise the heart rate and help the practitioner work up a pretty good sweat. Studies have show that yoga not only lowers the stress levels but helps increase insulin sensitivity, which delivers a signal to your body to use the food you eat as fuel and not simply store it as fat. In addition, yoga experts point to the way yoga can improve digestion (and thus reduce the likelihood of water retention, bloating and constipation) and improve the circulation of blood to the glands that control appetite as more evidence that it can aid in weight loss.
Yoga experts and practitioners agree that the most effective yoga-related weight loss program may include vinyasa or “flow yoga”, a style of yoga which utilizes a series of positions called “sun salutations”. In vinyasa yoga, there are subsets of yoga that incorporate a number of strength-building poses that require you to exert yourself. Among the vinyasa yoga styles are: Ashtanga yoga, a style of yoga that emphasizes synchronized breathing and postures that elevate the heart rate and help create a detoxifying sweat.
Power yoga: a form of yoga that is related to Ashtanga and emphasizes flexibility and strength Created in the U.S. in the early 1990s, power yoga is credited with bringing yoga to the body building gyms of America.
Yoga instructors also stress several specific positions that are beneficial to weight loss. This group of poses include: The Cresent: Stand and inhale while raising your arms over your head, extending your fingers toward the ceiling. Bend forward from the hips while exhaling and bring your hands to the floor. Breathe in then exhale as you take a step back with your right left into a lunge position (left knee bent and over your ankle while the right leg rests on the ball of your foot). Inhale and lift your arms overhead and look straight ahead. Hold the position and return to a standing position, then repeat the move for the opposite side.
The Willow: Stand with your feet together and your arms at your sides. Place the bottom of your left foot on the inside of your right thigh, with your knee bent and pointed to the side. Place the palms of your hand together in front of your chest and take two deep breaths. As you inhale a third time, lift your arms over your head with your fingers pointed to the sky. Exhale and inhale again, this time while bending your midsection to the left. Inhale as your straighten up and then repeat the movement. Reverse the movement for the other side.
Rocking Boat: Sit on the floor, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor while resting your hands on your thighs. Lean back approximately 45 degrees and raise your feet so your lower leg is parallel to the floor and your toes are pointed. Inhale and extend your arms and legs behind you; your legs should be together and your body should make a “V” shape. Exhale, then inhale and lower your torso and legs a few inches so that they form an even wider V. As you exhale, raise your torso and legs one more time. Repeat this move 3 to 5 more times.
Hover: Get into a position similar to a push up, with your feet resting on your toes and your arms straight. Be sure to place your hands below your should and align your body. As you exhale, lower your chest to the floor, making sure to keep your elbows bent and your arms tight to the side of your body. Tighten up your abdominal muscles and hold the pose as you balance a few inches above the floor.
Chair: Stand with your feet placed together and your toes pointed forward, while you hold your arms at your side. Take a breath and raise your arms over your head, making sure the palm of your hands are facing. As you exhale, lower yourself down into a seated position (approximately 45 degrees) and keep your knees behind your toes and your abdominal muscles tight.
With the proper nutrition and regular exercise schedule, yoga can be a successful partner in your quest for weight loss. If you are already a member of a yoga class, speak with your instructor to learn what types of yoga can help you lose weight. And if you’re not enrolled in a yoga class, consider joining one as a new partner in your health goals.