FIT & HEALTHY

How this an­cient prac­tice can melt away pounds—plus strengthen the heart, tone mus­cles, and re­duce stress

Amazing Wellness - - CONTENTS - By Vera Tweed

Yoga for Weight Loss & More Find the best form of yoga to align with your weight-loss goals.

If you ever watched the gru­el­ing ex­er­cise pro­grams on Th e Big­gest Loser, yoga may seem coun­ter­in­tu­itive for weight loss. “Some peo­ple say yoga is not de­signed for weight loss, but we can take what we know from sci­ence, that prac­ti­cal ev­i­dence-based in­for­ma­tion, and the re­al­ity is, it does have ap­pli­ca­tion [for weight loss],” says

fi tness ex­pert Jes­sica Matthews, founder of the Masters of Ki­ne­si­ol­ogy in In­te­gra­tive Well­ness pro­gram at Point Loma Nazarene Univer­sity in San Diego, and a se­nior ad­vi­sor to the Amer­i­can Coun­cil on Ex­er­cise (ac­e­fit­ness.org).

Th at said, there’s more to it than just pick­ing a ran­dom yoga class and ex­pect­ing the pounds to melt away. “Yoga takes many dif­fer­ent forms,” says Matthews. “If you have a spe­cific goal like los­ing weight or main­tain­ing weight loss, it’s im­por­tant to know the best style of yoga that will align with your goals.”

HEART-PUMP­ING MOVE­MENT

Crit­ics of yoga for weight loss gen­er­ally be­lieve the prac­tice doesn’t pro­vide enough heart-pump­ing move­ment, but when re­searchers have taken a closer look, this isn’t al­ways the case. A study at the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh found that a spe­cific style of yoga, vinyasa, was in­tense enough to pro­duce sci­en­tif­i­cally sup­ported heart ben­e­fits and in­creased calo­rie burn­ing. And an­other study, funded by the Amer­i­can Coun­cil on Ex­er­cise at the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin-La Cross, found that power yoga—an­other name for a vinyasa type of

prac­tice—burned nearly twice as many calo­ries as a less phys­i­cally in­tense form.

“Vinyasa means ‘breath­syn­chro­nized move­ment,’” says Matthews, “So you’re mov­ing, you’re fl ow­ing, if you will, from one pos­ture to the next, so a vinyasa style class can ac­tu­ally elicit the in­creased heart rate needed to help fa­cil­i­tate weight loss.” In gyms and stu­dios, other names for this type of yoga may in­clude “power yoga,” “fl ow yoga,” or “ath­letic yoga.”

WHOLE-BODY RE­SIS­TANCE TRAIN­ING

Any com­plete ex­er­cise pro­gram also needs re­sis­tance train­ing, and yoga can fi t that bill too, in a more in­te­grated way than do­ing one ex­er­cise to train bi­ceps and a sep­a­rate one for tri­ceps and other iso­lated mus­cle groups. “One part of the body af­fects an­other,” says Matthews. “Yoga trains the body in a very func­tional way.”

A DIF­FER­ENT WEIGHTLOSS EX­PE­RI­ENCE

Re­searchers at the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health in­ter­viewed peo­ple who had lost weight with yoga af­ter strug­gling, un­suc­cess­fully, with other meth­ods. In ad­di­tion to im­proved mus­cle tone and me­tab­o­lism, yoga ben­e­fits in­cluded less stress and stress eat­ing, re­duced ap­petite, fewer crav­ings, more mind­ful eat­ing, a bet­ter mood, greater self-es­teem, so­cial sup­port, and healthy role mod­els. “Th is weight loss ex­pe­ri­ence was markedly dif­fer­ent than past at­tempts,” the re­searchers con­cluded, “in that the weight loss was eas­ier, and sub­jects felt more con­fi­dent in their abil­ity to main­tain last­ing weight loss.”

WHERE TO START

If you’re new to yoga, Matthews rec­om­mends learn­ing the ba­sics in a gen­tler hatha yoga class be­fore try­ing the more in­tense vinyasa. Bet­ter yet, try a se­ries of in­tro­duc­tory classes, of­ten held over an eightweek pe­riod, or at least try go­ing twice a week, for a month, to see how it works for you.

“My goal for my new stu­dents is to just be aware of the ex­pe­ri­ence, how your body moves through space, and see how it feels,” she says. Rather than look­ing at the scale right away, look for more sub­tle changes. Maybe you can hold a pose longer, feel more fl ex­i­ble, or no­tice a dif­fer­ence in your at­ti­tude to­ward food. Yoga is well known for re­duc­ing stress, which helps bal­ance hor­mones that reg­u­late ap­petite. In choos­ing a yoga class, look for an in­struc­tor who is ex­pe­ri­enced and can guide you to learn in a way that builds your skill and con­fi­dence. If some peo­ple in a class are more ad­vanced, a good teacher should help you to do poses at a level that works for you. To fi nd some­one in your area, try search­ing IDEA Fit­ness’ on­line di­rec­tory: ideafit.com/

fi nd-yoga-in­struc­tor.

WHO CAN BEN­E­FIT

It doesn’t mat­ter how fi t or un­fit you are, or how much weight you’d like to lose. “When it comes to sig­nif­i­cant weight loss, the more that some­body fi nds a form of ac­tiv­ity they en­joy, the more they’re likely to stick with it,” says Matthews. Start with two gen­tle yoga classes a week and grad­u­ally add more. “Don’t try to go from 0 to 60 all at once,” she adds. Aim to learn the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples and pos­tures, progress grad­u­ally, and en­joy the process.

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