People often ask me if I do more than just yoga to stay in shape. Just recently a new student of mine asked what else she could do besides yoga to help her lose weight or if yoga were enough.
Yoga can definitely be a weight loss tool, because it teaches us how to be mindful. As we become more aware of our bodies, we can experience true hunger signals and feed ourselves what our body really needs. We learn to eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re satisfied or full (not stuffed). If we could always eat mindfully, we would naturally find our set point and be at a healthy weight. We eat for so many reasons outside of hunger, though. We eat to celebrate, we eat when we’re depressed, we eat because others are eating, etc. The more we practice yoga, the more we understand when we are eating out of habit or stress or sadness. Instead of using food to numb out, we can connect to our breathe and figure out what we truly want or need instead.
Is yoga enough of a workout to blast calories and build strength? Definitely! Yoga is a full body movement that requires stamina, strength, stability, core work and a strong cardiovascular system. Certain types of yoga burn more calories than others. Vinyasa, power or astanga yoga all move fairly rapidly, practicing this style is like going for a brisk walk or light jog. If you do 60-90 minute classes (depending on your height/weight could be more or less) you can expect to expend about 250-350 calories per class. In a Hatha or Iyenger class, you may not burn as many calories; but it’s still like going on a steady pace walk–maybe 150-200 calories per class. In Bikram, you can lose a lot of water weight because of the high temperatures and the amount you sweat per class; but an actual class itself isn’t as vigorous as building your own heat through a flow style class. That being said, you can still burn up to about 200 calories in a Bikram class. Just make sure you drink plenty of water afterwards!
I supplement my yoga with walking everywhere in Manhattan, jogging with my husband, playing tennis when I can, and skiing every time I go home to Idaho. I also use the moving stairs at the gym and do 20 minute intervals on them a few times a week if I can’t be active outdoors. I teach and practice Pilates 2 days a week, as well as strength train once maybe twice a week (usually just once though!). And, of course I follow a healthy diet and listen to my body while also allowing myself a few fun treats. When I’m craving dark chocolate, I never resist. It’s important to do what you enjoy, and if I could do yoga all the time, I would. I absolutely love it! The main thing is to continue to listen to your body and respond truthfully to its needs. Yoga, more than any other activity, will teach you how to truly listen to yourself; and that can be a huge benefit on many levels, including losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight.