Whether you only have a general concept of yoga or are a seasoned practitioner, understanding how it impacts your health allows you to appreciate the practice even more.
Overview: What Is It?
Yoga is not just a fitness fad. Originally from India, yoga has been practiced devoutly for centuries and is much more than just a series of poses with cool-sounding names.
Yoga is a philosophy and a lifestyle, and people can practice it to varying degrees. When we say “yoga” in the western world, however, we generally mean the postures, or asanas, that are practiced in studios — not necessarily the behavioral practices.
How Practicing Yoga Helps You Shed Pounds
We have seen it on TV and maybe even in our own towns. People who practice yoga are usually pretty lithe, lean, and “bendy,” right? Is that a direct effect of incorporating the practice in your life? Will it make a difference when you step onto the scale?
Yes, yoga can help you lose weight! While it’s not an aerobic exercise, it absolutely burns calories during practice.
A typical class or session uses muscles throughout your entire body in new and unique ways and can burn between 200-600 calories. You have the opportunity to tone your ankles, calves, thighs, arms, back, and core. Like many solo exercises, you get out of the practice what you put into the practice.
There is also a strong isometric element in yoga that can help with weight loss. Multiple sources claim it can significantly contribute to overall muscle toning and can help practitioners lose belly fat in particular.
How Your Brain Benefits From the Practice
Because of the continual focus on breathing, yoga provides substantial benefits to your brain. Deep, slow breathing affects your central nervous system by reducing heart rates, cortisol levels, and muscle tension. It also increases the amount of “feel-good” hormones like serotonin.
These benefits don’t end the moment you say “Namaste,” either. There seem to be numerous lasting effects to regularly engaging in a yoga practice, meaning you will feel better, longer.
The Big Picture: What Yoga Brings To Your Life
This is when the concept of balance comes into play, and it’s vital to understand this. You can lose weight with it, but not if you step off the mat and eat an entire pizza.
Yoga, like any physical exercise, is not a magic pill. Just like you feel serene and happy after a class, it doesn’t mean you will feel that way a week later. It is up to you to cultivate healthy practices and the good feelings that the practice inspires.
How do we cultivate these things? By living yogically, of course! This means taking the things you learn ON the mat with you when you finish your routine and breathing exercises.
Calm acceptance of what is happening is one of these philosophies. Whether you are in a challenging pose in class or dealing with a challenging situation outside of class, your response should be the same. Take a calm breath and surround yourself with serenity before reacting to the situation.