The many benefits of yoga for stress management and weight loss are touted by yoga teachers and doctors alike. While yoga cannot cure all people of all problems, most people who begin a regular yoga practice will experience considerable improvement in several areas of their life, including stress management and losing weight.
Benefits of Yoga for Stress Management and Weight Loss
You should have realistic expectations about starting a yoga practice. Increasing your junk food intake and offsetting it with an hour of yoga is unlikely to result in weight loss. However, if all things remain relatively equal in your life, but you begin a yoga practice, expect to see many benefits, including increased flexibility and improved mental focus.
Managing Stress with Yoga
The controlled movements of yoga can have multiple effects on both your physical and mental well-being. One of the goals of yoga practice is to be present inside the moment, instead of thinking about various other things that are going on in other areas of your life. This action of being present in the moment can have a considerable stress-reducing effect.
In addition, the balancing nature of yoga postures can reduce stress. This is mainly because of the focus on breath. Youv'e probably noticed that when you're annoyed or upset, your breath is short and ragged. In yoga, you must breathe deeply as you move through postures. Yoga teaches us to allow the breath to alter our physical state, which helps to change our mental and emotional state.
Lastly, yoga meditation, although not practiced by all students of yoga, can have a large stress-reducing effect. While meditation may not be for everyone, at least give it a try for a month or so before deciding that meditation is really not your cup of tea. Even 10 minutes a day of quiet contemplation might make a difference.
For more on the stress-managing effects of yoga, check out this overview from WebMD. For yoga poses that specifically target reducing stress and tension, consider the poses and exercises in the LoveToKnow Yoga article, Poses to Relieve Tension.
Yoga for Weight Loss
While most forms of yoga do not significantly raise your heart rate or make you sweat profusely, many aspects of yoga combine to help regular practitioners lose weight. One of the reasons that yoga can stimulate weight loss is the reduction in stress previously mentioned. Yoga has been shown to reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone) in humans, which has multiple consequences: less stress, better sleep, and no side effects of stress, one of which is overeating.
Another way in which yoga promotes weight loss is by streamlining and strengthening the body as a whole. While building a lot of muscle can actually result in weight gain instead of loss, yoga tends to tone muscles without adding bulk. Yoga also improves flexibility in this manner.
Special breathing exercises in yoga, either with or without meditation, can also promote weight loss. Increased oxygen flow to the entire body will energize the body and mind, as well as promote the release of toxins.
While all yoga practices can help students lose weight, there are specific types of yoga practice for weight loss to consider if your main goal in taking up yoga is to lose weight.
In order for yoga to have the desired effect, it must be practiced on a regular basis. People who practice yoga several times a week, even if only for a half hour each time, can realize benefits as early as four to eight weeks after beginning.
Overall, the many benefits of yoga for stress management and weight loss, among additional positive physical and mental changes brought on by yoga practice, result in considerably improved health, both physical and mental. Not only can yoga help you feel less stressed, but it can also give you a new body image. All in all, it's not surprising that yoga has become a popular activity among groups of people of all ages and all fitness levels.