By Jake Panasevich, Contributor |March 13, 2018
I have a yoga weight-loss success story: After two months of trying it, I lost about 40 pounds. I felt vibrant and energetic, and all of my aches and pains subsided.
But don’t be fooled – simply doing yoga is not a weight-loss tool. For me, it was much more than just the physical yoga poses that helped me lose weight and feel healthy. Yoga shifted my perspective.
If you approach yoga correctly, it can change your relationship to your body and make you want to honor and respect it in a way that, for some people, may cause weight loss as a side effect. But you have to practice these eight steps for it to work:
1. Practice self-compassion.
If you want to achieve a healthy weight, you need to be your own biggest fan – not critic. Progressive yoga philosophy helps you do that by teaching you to acknowledge your good traits before you critique yourself. In class, this is practiced simply by tuning into your breath. With every inhale, you take your attention inward and notice how it makes you feel full and complete – just the way you are. As you exhale, you maintain that sense of abundance. Eventually, you carry that mindset over to how you feel about your body.
2. Become committed.
Weight loss requires more than just meditation or prayer; it takes action. Yoga is a means to put your intentions into motion. Every yoga class, you take a moment to acknowledge the bigger reason why you practice. Once you get clear on your vision and what you need to do to accomplish it, you embody those traits through the poses.
To stay persistent, hold your poses for five breaths or set a timer for 30 seconds. Focus on balancing poses, and every time you fall out of a pose, get back in and try again. It is also helpful to shoot for “goal poses” like handstands and arm balances. Just the physical act of sticking with your poses and practice over a long stretch of time – even after setbacks – will inspire a sense of resilience that is necessary to achieve your weight-loss goals.
3. Develop self-control.
Yoga teaches you to pause and respond to the outer world mindfully, rather than to just react. This skill is especially important when coping with food cravings. You can’t advance in yoga if you haven’t learned to control your breath; similarly, you’ll struggle to reach your weight-loss goals if, during tempting situations, you can’t take a moment to consider whether a decision serves you and your goals before moving forward. If you’ve practiced this skill in yoga and you’re tempted to have a late-night snack, for instance, you’re already trained to stop, take a deep breath, notice your thought process and ultimately resist the temptation to indulge.
4. Hold yourself accountable.
Yoga classes and yoga studio members offer the sense of accountability that’s so crucial for making healthy changes last. Try, for instance, partnering with a friend or classmate who also wants to lose weight. Set up a schedule and a strategy where you both check-in and support one another – maybe you take turns texting reminders on the days you plan to take a class; maybe if one of you is inexcusably absent, he or she pays for both of you next time around. The extra incentive to be reliable will go a long way when trying to lose weight.
5. Practice a vigorous style of yoga.
Some styles of yoga are more conducive to weight loss than others. Power, Vinyasa and Bikram yoga are more energetic and strenuous. Yin, restorative and gentle yoga are relaxing and less of a “workout.” Mentally, any style you choose can complement your strategy to lose weight. Physically, the more strenuous methods are more efficient at accomplishing it.
For most people, yoga is a practice that softens or opens the body, and that keeps pain at bay. In other words, it can make it easier to do other workouts – like weightlifting, basic bodyweight exercises, kettlebells and rock climbing – without getting injured. Complementing yoga with these types of exercises will accelerate your weight loss. Just remember to exercise like you practice yoga: Be mindful of your alignment, and if you feel any sharp, injury-related pain, stop and reevaluate your approach.
7. Change your habits.
Yoga by itself will not help you lose weight. But it may inspire you to make other healthy changes in your day-to-day life. After all, if you want to feel rested and energized enough to get up early to practice yoga, you may wind up eating more fruits and vegetables throughout the day; eating lighter, earlier dinners; and going to bed earlier – all strategies that can lead to weight loss.
8. Practice self-acceptance.
Whether or not yoga leads to weight loss for you, it should lead to something more powerful: radical self-acceptance. It can help you see yourself, just as you are with all your flaws, as perfectly imperfect. You’ll learn that your quirks are what make you interesting and give you personality. Your yoga practice is a reminder that you are worth putting energy into. It gives you the strength and confidence to be yourself and feel complete just as you are.