Female friends practicing downward facing dog position yoga against window in studio
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Doing yoga regularly offers many benefits, including making you feel better about your body as you become stronger and more flexible, toning your muscles, reducing stress, and improving your mental and physical well-being. But how can it help you lose weight?
What Yoga Can't Do
Practicing any type of yoga will build strength, but studies show that yoga does not raise your heart rate enough to make it the only form of exercise you need to shed pounds. In order to lose weight, you must eat healthily and burn calories by doing exercise that raises your heart rate on a regular basis. More vigorous yoga styles can provide a better workout than gentle yoga, but if weight loss is your primary goal, you will want to combine yoga with running, walking, or any other aerobic exercise that you enjoy.
Still, yoga can play an important role in a weight loss program.
What Yoga Can Do
While losing weight can be simplified to a calories in vs. calories out equation, a lot more goes into successfully changing your habits to make healthier choices second nature. Yoga helps by bringing you better in tune with your body, improving your self-image and sense of well-being. Reducing stress and thereby stress eating is another way that yoga can support weight loss. By encouraging a healthy lifestyle, consistent yoga practice makes it more likely that you'll be able to maintain your weight loss.
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Perhaps most significantly, yoga's emphasis on listening to your body first and foremost can be a sea change for people who have struggled to shed pounds in the past. Yoga has an important role to play in a holistic approach to weight loss.
What Kind of Yoga?
If you've never done yoga before, be sure to start with beginner level classes. You'll burn the most calories in athletic vinyasa classes. These styles usually start with a fast-paced series of poses called sun salutations, followed by a flow of standing poses which will keep you moving. Once you are warmed up, deeper stretches and backbends are introduced. Vinyasa includes many popular, sweaty yoga styles, such as:
Ashtanga: Ashtanga yoga is a very vigorous style of practice and its practitioners are among the most dedicated of yogis. Beginners are often encouraged to sign up for a series of classes, which will help with motivation. Since Ashtanga follows the same series of poses each time, once you learn the sequence, you can practice anytime at home or join a Mysore-style group, in which there is a teacher present but each student goes at their own pace.
Power Yoga: Power yoga is extremely popular at gyms and health clubs, though it is widely available at dedicated yoga studios as well. Power yoga is based on building the heat and intensity of Ashtanga while dispensing with fixed series of poses.
Hot Yoga: Vinyasa yoga done in a hot room ups the ante by guaranteeing you’ll sweat buckets. Be aware that Bikram and hot yoga are not synonymous. Bikram is a pioneering style of hot yoga, which includes a set series of poses and, indeed, a script developed by founder Bikram Choudhury. These days, there are many other styles of hot yoga that make use of the hot room but not the Bikram series.
Gentle yoga, while burning fewer calories, is still a great way to nurture and care for your body.
Hatha Yoga: While not all Hatha classes are gentle, the term has come to be used by yoga studios to indicate classes that are NOT vinyasa. Ask at your studio or gym.
Integral Yoga: Just as the name suggests, Integral is all about integrating the body and mind with the goal of living a happier life. This is an approach that can greatly benefit people who feel dissociated from their bodies.
Kripalu Yoga: Kripalu is a style that is known for its open acceptance of all levels of practice and body types. Its individualized approach has made it a top choice for people who are nervous about attending group classes.
Doing Yoga at Home
You can also do yoga at home on the days you can’t make a class. Online yoga video websites make it easy to practice in your own living room. To maximize yoga's benefits, it's great to do a little bit each day. Starting a home meditation practice is another. Yoga's benefits are both mental and physical, making it an integral part of many successful weight loss regimes.