Yoga as a Weight Loss Plan?

I always shy away from the question, “will yoga help me lose weight?” Yoga is a practice meant to increase health, self awareness and acceptance, not necessarily shed the pounds. But, inevitably the question always comes up. Now, there seems to be scientific proof that yoga can contribute to weight loss.

Let’s be clear, though.  The link between yoga and weight loss is an indirect one.  A study done by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington determined that people who engage in body awareness practices like yoga eat more mindfully.  This means that they tend to stop eating once they are full, are less influenced by visual advertisements, avoid eating when distracted and don’t eat as a distraction.

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Not exactly proof of weight loss. The study did find that generally mindful eaters weigh less, and yoga does contribute to mindful eating.  The study concluded that over 40% of those questioned who practiced yoga had an average body mass index of 23.1 which is within the normal range compared to those who didn’t practice yoga who fell into a body mass index of 25.8 which is slightly overweight. But it didn’t address the BMI of those surveyed prior to beginning a yoga practice.

My biggest question about this study is the circumstantial connection between mindfulness, weight, and yoga..  Yes, yoga will increase self awareness, and as self awareness increases, so does the way we respect our physical bodies, but there is no proof within this study that the “mindfulness” and lower BMI are a direct result of the practice of yoga. As a participant in this practice for over a decade, I have observed that certain body shapes have a predisposition for yoga.  People whose body shapes vary from the “norm” tend to shy away from the yoga practice out of fear or inadequacy.  If yoga classes were a more accurate representation of our population as a whole, then maybe this info would be a little easier to swallow, but since they are not, I urge caution in using potential weight loss as a motivating factor for your students.

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It may seem irreverent or unfair that I am not supporting this “positive” press about the practice of yoga, but the opposite is true.  I have so much respect for this practice that I do not want to be promoting misinformation.  It is entirely possible that after starting yoga, your body will change.  You may become more conscious of how certain foods make you feel, you may become more easily satisfied or less attracted to unhealthy options because of the foundation of your practice.  All of these results are possibilities, but the most important thing you learn is that yoga is a practice meant to enhance your Self.  Yoga does not change or alter you at your core, it illuminates your ever present inner beauty which will begin to shine through all that you do.  If this results in losing weight, then that may be a boon of your practice, but not the effect.

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