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July 27, 2006

Weight Loss With Yoga

I received an e-mail from a reader asking me, "Will yoga help you drop weight?".

Sweet_pose

This is the disclaimer where I tell you that I am not professionally qualified in any way to answer this question. This is just my opinion and you should definitely consult a doctor with malpractice insurance for all serious health related questions. I should also mention that as far as yoga practitioners go, I'm just a notch above novice. Really I have a lot to learn myself. Again just my honest opinions, based on my experience.

To answer the question directly, I don't think yoga practice alone is a great vehicle for weight loss.

Here's my thing about weight loss. Firstly everything in moderation. But more importantly, the only way I have ever lost weight is when the amount of calories I ingest are fewer then the calories I burn. Really that's it.

So for anyone who wants to lose weight, the best way I know is to track your calories like a rabid dog looking for fresh meat. All this stuff about metabolism, carbs, low-fat, organic is just confusing and expensive. Even what is true about all of the dieting rhetoric is not that significant when it comes tho the basic rules of calories in vs. calories out. I'm a good example.

I just lost six pounds eating mostly foods with poor nutritional properties. The catch is that the total calories I ate were less then the calories I burned. There probably is some truth to regular exercise improving my metabolic rate, but that's just math and probably only contributes to a small percentage of actual weight loss.

So when it comes to yoga, it's very hard to gage calories burned for several reasons. The main reason is that there are many different styles of yoga. Some practices are very gentle other's are extremely intense. Also the amount of exertion is different each time. Some days I may really push the intensity other days, I may take it slow and even "sit out" during portions of the practice. An hour in a Yoga class could be somewhere between 300-800 calories I'm sure. So, yes if you are limiting your calorie intake and you goto yoga class 3 times a week, you will lose weight. But, If losing weight alone is your goal, I think it would be very inconsistant for you.

Now, I am definitely not saying don't try yoga. I'm just saying that as a primary way to lose weight, I can't recommend it. The person who posed this question also mentioned some knee problems. I myself have only about 30% of cartilage remaining in my left knee. I've had 3 ACL reconstructions and have been scoped two other times. So for me the options were limited to swimming, which is fun but inconvenient, stationary bike which I hate, and the elliptical cycle which I love. Prior to yoga, those were my choices.

Not long after starting a yoga program I discovered that I was able to start running again and now I have nearly 0 pain in my knee anymore. I think what happened is that the Hot Yoga program I'm in (Bikram Yoga) has strengthened the smaller muscle groups in my knees and ankles. That combined with the increased flexibility, now I can do more and have better options.

My advice to the person who posed the question is this.

  1. Track your calories like a neurotic nut job.
  2. Increase your calories burned by a form of exercise you can measure like gym machines. I doubt they are accurate, but will give you a good baseline.
  3. Try yoga. The benefits of yoga might make the difference with the above two points.

By the way, I got very lucky. The first yoga studio I went to turned out to be a great studio and perfect for me. But I'm sure all are not great or perfect for everyone. You may need to try a couple different styles or instructors before you find the right one for you.

I hope that is in someway helpful to someone somewhere.

Good Luck!

Namaste

Comments

If that is you in the photo on the left, I must say you are beautiful.

Stop by the page somtime.

Keep up the great Yoga work here.

I have to agree with you. Another way to do it is to eat small for two meals and then one larger meal, like lunch. I try to do either 30 minutes of running or an hour of biking every day. It helps to do this in front of a television with a DVD player and/or a TiVo. Unfortunately, as you age, it gets REALLY hard to keep off weight.

Excellent answer and I could not agree more with your "opinion" regarding weight loss. Bravo for common sense. :-)

I whole heartedly agree with you. Everything in moderation is the best possible route for anyone. This includes things that are good for you too. I've seen some horrible scenes at the gym from people just trying to over do it. These are the type of people that are expecting immediate results. Don't think for a second that extra weight shows up over night.

I'm really beginning to like the way you think!

I did some yoga and then pregnancy yoga. it helped me take naps but that;s it :p

So true, you gotta burn more than you take in...end of story but I did find when my yoga practice became more important to me and more frequent, I lost weight mainly because I could not eat a couple of hours before class and sometimes was not as hungry afterward and overall just made better food choices.

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