Tonight I got the question yoga teachers dread, "Can yoga help me lose weight?"
And as most good yoga teachers I know, I answered, "Yes, but..."
Yes, yoga can help you lose weight. Depending on the type of yoga you practice, yoga can burn between 200 and 400 calories during an hour-long class. Even a gentle yoga class will burn about 150 calories. Vinyasa yoga classes, where the breath is linked to a flowing series of poses, can accomplish the upper end of calorie burn. Enthusiasts of Bikram Yoga, which is practiced in a heated room, claim to burn a whopping 600 calories per class. Although from experience, I'd caution to be careful to differentiate between true caloric burn and water-weight loss.
Yes, there is a but. Yoga can help you lose weight, but it's so much more than a weight loss program or traditional exercise class.
Unlike other aerobic classes, which focus on strictly raising your heart rate and keeping it elevated to the much sought-after "fat burning zone", yoga provides a cardiovascular, strength and flexibility component to each session.
Basically, with yoga, you get a total body workout in just one class. More bang for your buck!
Sun Salutations will elevate the heart rate, as will jumping back and forth through your vinyasas. Where step aerobics uses only the muscles of the legs, yoga strengthens both upper and lower body muscles.
And still, it's more than just a physical class.
The time reflecting on the mat will bring you in touch with the root causes of what leads you to want to over eat in the first place. Fear of failure? Self doubt? Emotions that once were stuffed down with french fries and chocolate sundaes, can be explored and dealt with on the mat.
As your yoga practice grows, you'll find yourself more in tune with what your body needs to fuel itself. A sugary, empty calorie breakfast won't give you the energy to practice for an hour. A heavy, fast-food dinner will leave you sluggish and unable to move easily during class.
When sitting down to a meal, ask yourself "Will I want to practice yoga two hours after eating this?"
If the answer is yes, odds are you're on the right track.
Can yoga help you lose weight? Yes, but it's so much more.
When stepping onto your yoga mat, try not to think of it as another physical exercise session. Instead, think of it as a step towards a new life and a new you.