Maybe yoga is not the first kind of physical activity one may think for weight loss. However, there might be some reasons to recommend your clients to practice yoga along with a healthy diet. Many yoga sessions burn less calories than typical exercise (like biking, brisk-walking, etc.), however it’s amazing how yoga can increase mindfulness and the way we relate with our body. Mindfulness- the ability to observe what is happening internally in a non-reactive fashion- is the key word here. I believe this is the most powerful effect that yoga has in helping people to make healthier food choices and ultimately make them lose weight.
A recent article published online before print of the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine identified peer-reviewed studies on yoga, meditation, mindfulness, obesity, and overweight. Unfortunately, most of the studies included were small in size, have a short duration or are challenged for lack of control groups. The study says that there are four mechanisms for which yoga may aid in weight loss:
1. Energy expenditure during yoga sessions. Some postures burn more calories than others. Depending on the intensity, one can burn between 200 and 500 calories per yoga session. Powerful yoga classes with more active type of exercises are now very trendy.
2. Allowing for additional exercise outside yoga sessions. By reducing back and joint pain people can engage in other sports or exercises.
3. Reinforcing mindfulness. Improving mood and reducing stress may help reduce food intake or make helpful choices.
4. Allowing individuals to feel more connected to their bodies, leading to enhanced awareness of satiety and the discomfort of overeating.
Yoga is also a good activity for beginners. It’s a discipline for everyone and perfect to introduce people to exercise. My mom (the one in the photo), who is a yoga instructor (in my home country Argentina), would add a few more benefits but specially being happier! Yoga can complement nutritional counseling of any kind, not also for weight loss. It is a great tool for eating disorders, binge eating or any kind of condition as yoga helps to polish one’s self-awareness, confidence and body image.
I realized that there are many food and nutrition professionals that are integrating yoga teaching into their practice. If you do a google search of dietitian and yoga teacher is amazing how many RDs that are certified yoga teachers come up. Many dietitians combine their work in nutrition with different styles of yoga like Hatha, Anusara or Iyengar yoga (see the box to get to know different kinds of yoga). Some integrate yoga directly in their interventions while others do it separately teaching yoga classes at health clubs, studios or even in the client house. Once again there is an opportunity for food and nutrition professionals to broaden their scope of practice. The chance to reinvent yourself is out there!
Styles of yoga
This is the most traditional and basic yoga. It is gentle and focuses on relaxation and breathing techniques. Good for beginners.
A variety of Hatha it focuses on the Sun Salutation, a series of 12 poses where movements are matched with breathing. Great to improve flexibility and to increase muscle tone. It is good for beginners and for advanced yogi as well.
Metaphorically focuses on eight limbs. It is fast-paced and is a kind of power yoga. It relieves stress while helping maintain stamina and strength. Good for weight loss and to improve one’s spiritual side.
It focuses on bring the body into alignment helping to improve balance and strength. Different elements like straps and blocks are used during sessions. Great for beginners and those recovering for injuries or with conditions like arthritis.
Practiced in a room with 95-100ºF is also known as hot yoga. Its purpose is to flush out toxins and deeply stretch muscles. Good for beginners who wants to push themselves a little more as well as for advanced yogi.
There are many other kinds of yoga out there. Jus find which one is the best for you or your clients!
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