Three Reasons Why Yoga Can Help You Lose Weight.

Via on Jul 5, 2012


As a yoga teacher, I frequently get asked if yoga can help someone to lose weight.

What many of my yoga students don’t realize is that this is a topic that’s particularly close to my heart—especially as I used to be about 60 pounds overweight.

When I share this with them, they almost laugh with total surprise and disbelief! So, today in this article, I want to share with you three ways that yoga helps you to start losing weight easily…

1. Yoga relaxes your body and mind.

Being overweight is an indicator that something is out of balance in your life. Excess stress is a big factor that contributes to weight gain.

Last year, when I was teaching a yoga retreat in Italy, Deborah—a participant from California—told me she lost almost 10 pounds over the week. I asked her what made the difference. She responded, “Well it’s the first time that I have been able to switch off and relax in a long time.” Deborah had been going through a stressful time and the yoga retreat allowed her the space she needed to relax and reconnect back to herself.

Yoga is an easy way to help you relax. When you practice yoga, you bring a deep sense of relaxation to your body and your mind. As you relax, you begin to ease the stress in your life, weight loss will begin to happen naturally.

Photo by Katrina Love Senn (ej contributor)

2. Yoga assists detoxification.

Being overweight is a sign that your body is high in toxicity. Detoxifying your body can help you to lose weight for good.

When your body is toxic, it means that your detoxification organs (such as your liver and kidneys) may not be working effectively.  When these organs aren’t working optimally your body will tend to hold on to excess weight.

Doing yoga is an excellent place to start detoxifying your body. Yoga tones up the inner organs and helps them to work optimally again. In my yoga classes, there are several ways that I help students to detoxify their bodies.

One of the first things that I remind my yoga students to do is breathe deeply. Breathing deeply is an important part of detoxification. The second thing that I encourage my yoga students to practice specific yoga poses that assist detoxification, such as yoga twists. In my yoga classes, we also spend time doing self massage on our bodies. Self-massage is highly recognized in the East as a powerful tool for detoxifying the body.

3. Yoga helps release stuck emotions.

What most weight loss experts won’t tell you is that being overweight almost always has an emotional component. I have an intimate understanding of emotional eating because I personally suffered from it for many years.

Often in the busy-ness of everyday life, we squash down our negative feelings with food or other addictions. Used in this way, food is used to numb or suppress feelings. Left unaddressed, these ‘pent-up’ feelings can become stuck in the body.

Yoga is one tool that you can use to access and release these stuck emotions. I remember having an amazing emotional release in one of my yoga classes. I was just coming into camel pose and, as I gently dropped my head back, I spontaneously burst into tears. I felt like a huge weight had lifted off my shoulders. I walked out of the yoga class with an incredible feeling of lightness.

Being on the yoga mat gives you the opportunity to notice your feelings. As you become conscious of your feelings, then you’re in a position to be able to address them. Not only does yoga help you to notice how you’re really feeling about something, it also helps you connect with your personal power so that you have the courage and confidence to express how you feel.

Expressing how you feel is the key to feeling good about yourself and is an important aspect of losing weight.

Yoga can help you to lose weight easily (and keep it off for good).

Yoga is a powerful healing tool as it aids relaxation, promotes detoxification and helps release stuck emotions.

After losing over 60 pounds naturally, I can personally recommend yoga as a path to losing weight naturally and keeping it off for good!

 

 

 

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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About Katrina Love Senn

Katrina Love Senn: Katrina Love Senn is an International yoga teacher, healer and author of the ground-breaking book called 'Losing Weight is a Healing Journey'.

15 years ago, a health crisis set Katrina on the path for deeper answers. Bedridden, she had to be spoon fed back to health by her own Mother. During this time, Katrina learned how to heal her body from within, and also lost over 60 pounds naturally with no diets, deprivation or drugs.

To download the first chapter of Katrina's book for FREE click here.

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41 Responses to “Three Reasons Why Yoga Can Help You Lose Weight.”

  1. yogasamurai says:

    Thanks for writing on this. This is a such a bone of contention among yoga women. In part, because weight and weight loss are such sensitive issues for women generally.

    Jennilyn Carlson, the editor at Yoga Dork, constantly vilifies anyone – and I mean anyone – who suggests that yoga contributes to weight loss. She launched a crusade against yoga celebrity Sadie Nardini for suggesting as much – and Nardini decided to change her promotion, if only to ensure that she could market her services in peace.

    Even William Broad, in his otherwise useful book on yoga's risks and benefits, goes after the weight loss claim – but he limits himself to a more traditional argument about yoga's modest impact on cardiovascular rate – not the contribution that greater mindfulness might make to a reduction in stress-eating, a well-documented source of weight gain.

    I think the jury is still out on this. I have heard quite a few yoga students say that they gained weight after doing yoga, in part because they replaced their other fitness programs with yoga, and didn't change their eating habits.

    Broad suggests that yoga is over-selling its goods in this area – and leading students astray.

    The fact is, not everyone gains weight for the same reasons – or in the same way? You have to know your own body. The upshot for me? Probably should avoid sweeping statements one way or the other.

    It just depends.

    • Hi YogaSumarai,

      Thank you so much for your reply to my article. This is a great conversation and you bring up some really excellent points. I also totally agree that we are all unique and you have to get to know your own body. People looking to lose weight need to find the path and the journey that is right for them.

      For anyone that is unsure if yoga can help to lose weight, I encourage you to please check out my ‘before’ & ‘after’ weight loss photo. I lost over 60 pounds and my love for yoga certainly played a major part in my transformation… (http://www.katrinalovesenn.com/index.php/about/katrinas-healing-story)

      On reflection, I have come to understand that losing weight is a healing journey. As I began to learn how to listen to my body, I started to want to nourish myself – physically, mentally and emotionally.

      Through my love for yoga and applying all the different aspects of yoga (such as conscious breathing, visualization, deep relaxation & gentle stretching) everything in my life began to shift, including my health and wellbeing. Much to my surprise and delight, I actually started to lose weight and heal myself naturally – no dieting, no drugs and no surgery! 13 years later and I have kept the weight off for good.

      When we reconnect back to our bodies, we learn how to love, approve and accept ourselves from within. This has the power to change everything in our lives for the better.

      If anyone is interested in learning how to shift the weight loss conversation from dieting to healing, please feel free to check out my book ‘Losing Weight is a Healing Journey.”

      • yogasamurai says:

        Thanks, Katrina. great article. Core self-esteem is everything, I agree. And it's good to hear of others' successes, too. The only small point I would add is that people can go to yoga as obsessively as they go to dieting for weight loss and toning. It can become pretty absurd. Also, comparing out here is dangerous. I think. If one person loses a lot of weight – and the other doesn't, it can create new shame. Do we really want to resurrect the beauty myth here? My absolutely best all-time yoga teacher was a decidedly roly-poly German woman of 62. Most flexible yoga teacher I have ever seen – and the wisest.
        Cheers! YS

      • jordan says:

        My personal view of yoga is that it does not necessarily make you lose weight or gain muscle, it makes you healthier. As mentioned in your article, it detoxes the body, cleanses the organs, aligns your body and improves circulation. A yoga practitioner may not look fit like an athelete, but he/she would be healthy on the inside.

        Another point I should say is that there are two kinds of yoga practitioner, ones that do yoga as an activity and those that live and breath yoga. If you only do yoga 1-3 times a week just to get more flexible and have fun you will still get benefits, but your body won't recieve the full spectrum achievable. The practionioners that practice asana 5-7 times a week, regular meditation/pranayama, healthy diet are ones who gain much more.

  2. [...] the rest here: 3 Reasons Why Yoga Will Help You to Lose Weight | elephant journal 此条目发表在 Loss Weight 分类目录,贴了 emotional-eating, experts-won, [...]

  3. @yogasamurai: Agreed! NO sweeping statements about guaranteed anything can apply unilaterally to any subject. It's all on the individual in my opinion. I've been doing yoga and a hybrid (DDPYoga) for just over a month and have seen inches disappear as well as 13 lbs.

    I'm currently reading William Broad's book and I certainly agree with your assessment of that as well.

  4. I lost 35 lbs practicing yoga. I practiced a lot of vinyasas between standing postures which were held a long time to build strength and stability. I practiced 4-5 times per week, 90 minute classes. Yoga was my only form of physical activity. I didn’t diet–I had watched dieting ruin my mother’s health so I chose not to go that way. I did change my liquid calories–I stopped drinking soda, so that certainly reduced my daily intake of calories. It took 2 years to release the weight and return to a place of balance. That was 11 years ago, and I continue to experience balance in this area (the excess weight has not returned.) I’ve also had the privilege of working as a yoga teacher with others who’ve lost weight through yoga. One aspect not mentioned in the excellent article above is that if a person is seriously out of balance (I’ve had students over who were over 400 lbs) yoga may be one of the few things they’ll be able to do until they begin to lose weight. I also highly recommend abhyanga (ayurvedic self massage) for students who are releasing weight. Ayurveda and yoga are a powerful combination for those returning to balance in their lives.

    • Hi RaeAnn, Thank you so much for your reply & kind words. And, thank you for sharing your journey – I am sure that this will be an inspiration to many! Love Katrina xo

  5. Cass says:

    I do hot vinyasa and I've lost about 10 pounds and kept it off- plus the sweat does wonders for your skin.

    • Hi Cass, Thanks so much for sharing your inspirational experience. Yes, we are all different and when we take the time to listen to what our bodies are telling us we can create vibrant health and happiness, as well as our dreams! Yay, good on you! Love Katrina xox

  6. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Bravo! I really love it when men "weigh in" on how yoga does not work for weight loss. Because, both stereotypically and traditionally, yoga and many non-cardiovascular forms of movement can still cause men to shed weight, sometimes even rapidly, with minimal changes in diet. Just as low-carbing without consciously restricting food intake can really send weight packing. It's a metabolic thing.

    With aging women it seems to be a trade off between being light-bodied and being strong.

    If I had fewer cardio concerns medically (such as medically managing high blood cholesterol) I could devote my way to yoga, the way I'd devoted my way with circuit light weight training during lengthy periods when I had not been very involved with yoga. With circuit light weight training, I'd actually been more cardiovascularly fit by a hair, but again, I'd had this tradeoff: either be lighter or be stronger. I am a hard maintainer of muscle mass.

  7. Ellen says:

    I think it's great that you feel better at a lower weight! However please be careful when discussing weight loss. The vast majority of people who lose significant amounts of weight regain it within 5 years. There are physiological reasons for this that even yoga practitioners are subject to. Your experience is unique and unusual and by far not a typical result. Also, a body that is technically overweight is not necessarily toxic or out of balance. It may have been the case your weight was not right for you and you did the work and now you feel great. However, individuals are different and weight loss is not always the right way to work with health issues, particularly as most people can't maintain it. If you are going to publicly promote weight loss, please consider doing some more reading about it. Hope this doesn't sound harsh and congrats on your success!

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      THANK YOU!

      I forgot to touch on that. The physical benefits and lowered weight due to changing your exercise/mind-body/eating regimen(s) (not to mention any social benefits derived therefrom) are all Temporary. Or else made more "permanent" only by eternal, unstinting vigilance that grows more intense over time …

      SOMEBODY HAD TO SAY IT. Apologize for forgetting that point.

  8. HJCOTTON says:

    My opinion people lose weight when practicing yoga because they start to eat more mindfully in addition of yoga being a major calorie shedder. I for one get so hungry after a backbend practice, and I kept my weight stable because of my yoga practice. What I am against are those extreme fasts undergone by many yoginis, and I found that many yoginis can be annorexic also.

  9. [...] I thought I’d drop a link to this amazing piece of Elephant Journal literature, “Three Reasons Why Yoga Can Help You Lose Weight,” which features this all-to-common trope: When your body is toxic, it means that your [...]

  10. chad says:

    i must have been doing the wrong yoga all these years. I'm still fat.

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      Join the club–I regained more than 15 pounds of the 80 I'd lost when I'd started taking VINYASA yoga seriously–WITH changing my eating. My original yoga master (from whom a good plurality of my practice style derives) gained his 15–without becoming a freshman in college (though he's still quite young). Probably would have gained even more with Ashtanga … many people can't use yoga postures to lose weight with.

      It's a good thing I have orthopedic problems, and can't get to a swimming pool; or I may not have either returned to nor stayed with yoga. The spiritual self-righteousness I was subjected to a few short years ago went a long way towards ruining the experience for me. Though maybe I'd picked the wrong style to begin with.

      Thank God for pilates.

  11. [...] Yoga was my only form of physical activity. I didn't … … See the rest here: 3 Reasons Why Yoga Will Help You to Lose Weight | elephant journal ← Got Lower Back Pain? Try Yoga | Internet Millionaire [...]

  12. Heather says:

    Beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing your story and your thoughts. Very powerful.

  13. Emily Burke says:

    Hi Katrina. Camel Pose has gotten me a few times too. It's good to know that others have also experienced the overwhelming release of a properly executed backbend/heart opener… especially that particular asana. Namaste. (:

  14. [...] Three Reasons Why Yoga Can Help You Lose Weight. [...]

  15. Will says:

    Hi,

    Very encouraging article, but I'd be interested to see if there is any actual proof that 'yoga tones the organs'.

  16. Sam O. says:

    I think any exercise can shed pounds even if it is like a simple personal training in Fremantle. I do attend yoga sessions every Sunday and on Saturday, I do it at home. I can say that yoga is really effective.

  17. [...] the challenge, adding three days a week of 30-minute circuit training to my personal yoga practice. I lost 10 pounds, while strengthening my [...]

  18. Yoga Diet says:

    If you become doing your own first trust using yoga exercise, you ought to
    much better undertake easy postures to begin with.
    Once you receive the actual comfort and ease, you can choose rigorous yoga exercises workouts.
    It is usually coupled with yoga exercises eating plan turning into
    even more effective.

  19. kcool says:

    Hey i am a 19 year old boy
    .i have some potbelly tummy and not much fat but still i want to loose some weight around 8kgs and want flat tummy…i know around 20 asans and some pranyamas…please sugeest me some asans that i can do to loose weight quickly and how much time it would take to reduce weight?? Do i require any special diet…i dont have yoga classes in my locality…so please do reply what should i do?
    Thanx in advance

  20. Jack says:

    Love your post.I found it very interesting.

  21. amphibi1yogini says:

    As a newly-diagnosed type 2 diabetic, I very nearly agree with your first few sentences.

    Absolutely my glucose numbers go nearly nowhere, and sometimes up, when practicing yoga. Up in this case, is a bad thing.

    Your last two sentences. Agree, but I think by "White" you meant to say upscale or wealthy. At least I hope so. Not accusing anyone of racism, but any race could live beyond their means, or actually afford much of commercialized yoga today.

    Hey, there is a backlash against commercialized yoga in full swing now. You are probably going to see a lot of detractors to the "lose weight with yoga" claims. Not all of it coming from the healthy young, Cross-Fit, Zumba-ing set, either …

  22. Sophie royle says:

    I am extremely fat and have just started to practise yoga. It is helping me to take the focus off my 75 inch waist.

  23. Josh says:

    I did yoga for about two years and only once a weak. At one point a long the line I noticed my neck and arms were
    changing. I dropped pant sizes and belt notches. I was much more tone and more flexible. My roomates started
    to comment cause they didn't see me eat different or stop drinking beer. I told them all I did was yoga once a week
    and they didn't believe me. Yoga is deceptive if you haven't done a vigrous class. You are breathing and supporting
    your own body weight all throughout your body and movements aren't isolated exercises. They are like the static
    dumbell curl. I always broke a sweat and I'm not a doctor or physical trainer, but I do know they say when you work
    out at a gym you want to break a sweat. If you work out too hard, you store fat and so yoga has a nice balance of
    keeping you in that calorie burning zone. Again don't attack me please I'm just writing my take on it. Also there
    are many accounts where our feelings about ourselves can sabotage our results. I think I got great results cause I
    was not expecting or stressing about them. I watched the documentary, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead and a speaker in
    the documentary said a key part of him losing a lot of weight and what kept him from doing so as well, was his
    self-hatred. I can't support or testify to why our self-worth affects our weight but I believe it changed mine as well as
    the yoga. If you are being rigid and angry about this article it's a good sign you are judgmental. Being judgmental
    is a defense and way of having false control. This control is key to your ego and keeps you from feeling how you do.
    If you can go into how you feel then you are dealing with what this article speaks too. If you are not open to that I don't see
    the point in coming here. If you know this is "BULLSHIT", start your own blog with the correct answers and proof and
    you can feel less annoyed. I don't see the point in going somewhere that you don't like and saying why you don't like
    it. I do know why and it's taken me a long f*cking time to realize the damage of being judgmental. Yoga is about being open
    and the benefits. It's not a laboratory studies to prove the science of results. That kind of evidence is again a form of neediness and not being open. Why not do what helps you and do yoga to just see what happens. Why so much pressure?
    Even the pressure to lose weight creates stress and resistance that could make weight loss and progress harder.

  24. Go with a Schwin one speed. After you learn to ride take the training wheels off and trade up to a ten speed.

  25. Bella says:

    @maureen,
    We are all entitled to our opinions, but you are being cynical. Yoga is not just about stretching, do you know what it feels like to cary yourself (letterly) and stretch while doing that. because Yoga isn't some aggressive Julian Micheals loud activity does not mean it does not cause weight loss. It does!

  26. William says:

    @maureen I'm not quite sure where this strong negative reaction comes from, but i would invite you to educate yourself. As a man who played in the NFL as a lineman (I am 6.7 and was 320lbs) I can certainly and without question say that Power Yoga (Baptiste Style) that I have practiced for 10 years is not only "stretching" but also builds lean muscle which you as a "health professional" would no is a key factor in weight loss. For the record i am now a shredded 255lbs and have a daily yoga practice as my main exercise..sorry "hobby". I am not a vegetarian or vegan. There is a lot of bodyweight exercising that happens in a strong yoga class…which you " as a health professional" would know is great for you. So I would encourage you to try it again and stop being so cynical. Then again you could simply be a troll on elephant journal…which I fin hilarious.

  27. michael says:

    I was a chubby/fat-at-times kid my whole life who graduated high school around 250 lbs (active, strong, but obese). At 19yrs old, I learned how to eat, and on a 70%ish raw diet lost 90 lbs (from a peak of around 270) and then maintained a weight of 170-180 for 16 years until I quit smoking (8yrs ago) and I went to +/-200lbs for about 3-4 years. I then re-stabilized at 170-175 and am once again delightfully comfortable here.

    All this to say:
    1. I know a lot about weight loss and weight management.
    2. I don't diet and am an omnivore. I have a lot of great habits like 20 years of daily juicing, habits of avoiding white flour, sugar more often than not, and many more. That said, I eat a good deal of food, and I very rarely experience the weird guilt cycle others do using terms like "cheat" and "bad" if I house a big meal, or indulge in some cheese or chocolate cake or a rich french meal with dessert.
    3. I started doing yoga over 10 years ago to address chronic low back pain, and while I am very active in general (avid urban cyclist year round, occasional Spint/Olympic triathlons and 1 half iron man), it has been my preferred physical activity now for close to that entire time. This includes years before the post smoking gain and remained true throughout the return down to my ideal weight for years now.

    I hope that establishes some deep subject matter creds here for me to state: As the primary physical component to one's lifestyle (beyond walking, commuting, playing etc) yoga can not only produce significant weigh loss, it can tone and sculpt, dramatically increase body awareness and produce satisfaction with the body that departs from the maddening external goals of our masochistically weight obsessed culture that continues to get larger despite our obsession.

    Do you need to do level 2-3 classes, hot classes, longer classes? Is it the deeper reduction of stress (a known killer of weight loss efforts and human health overall more damaging than even cigarettes)? I don't know for sure, but does it matter? Trust me it works. Plus, it makes me feel great. It enables me to play hard (returning to snowboarding after a few year hiatus due to crippling back pain. It enables me to (almost) keep up with my 17 yr old whether hiking to the Grand Canyon floor, or practicing wrestling with him).

    My body gets more limber, leaner, and stronger every year (I'm 42yrs old) despite years of pounding from american football that led to reconstructive shoulder surgery at 17 yrs old, many broken bones including a 50 mph pile driving by a car while biking that put me in a wheelchair and a body cast at 12 yrs old.
    Yoga and the inevitable commitment to a deepening breathing practice on and off the mat can do far more than take off a few pounds, but take it from a guy with the stretch marks, the 32in waist and the peace of mind to have not owned a scale in more years than I can remember: it'll play any role you want it to in removing unwanted fat from your body (in conjunction with other sensible efforts): center stage, supporting actor, cameo etc.

  28. michael says:

    (con't)

    (For anyone reading this who is thinking I exercise hours a day, and swim, bike and run for these tris let me clarify. After originally cross training for the first few races, I eventually returned almost exclusively to yoga, and for the half iron man, I only ran and swam a few times each in my training. The rest was yoga, and some cycling (because I LOVE them both), and I did the half iron in 6.5 hrs.

    The only gym membership I have ever had was to take the yoga classes they offered. I do like to do some pushups and recently learned about burpees which are a fun challenge, but don't even have dumbells anymore. I am not a "hard body" but there are times throughout the year where my son points out I'm flirting with some serious definition, and if I gave a shit I could add some vanity oriented targeted training and lay off a few IPAs and be pretty shredded in days or weeks (no plans to do that).

    Please know I don't go around sharing all of this. I just wish Yoga got its props more often: particularly with men and the weight conscious. The Yoga Dork (who I generally enjoy thoroughly) comment above disturbed me a bit. Frustration and stress can hinder weight loss. Did anyone ever think maybe we all try too hard, think too hard, and want it too much for all the wrong (i.e. external) reasons?

    I seriously love my body (by yoga). It works. Here's me in all my backhaired, gray bearded glory in my first wrestling match in 20 year last spring (I lost 5-4. He was 22 yrs old).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWuFBw9Lw7I

    My training? All yoga, and one visit to an MMA gym for a wrestling practice (I had intended to do more, but work got busy). Screw that whole pain/gain nonsense: I did it for funsies and to hang with my kid doing what he loves. Yoga gave me the stamina (sort of…lol), and the confidence to know my body could handle it.

    Do yoga, ride a bike, do whatever reminds you of the joy of being active, then throw out your scale, proudly pinch your inch for others to see if you put on a few pounds in a stressful month or the jerky holidays or whatever. I know it can be hard. Hell, my own friends called me "Fat Ass" and wrote it in eye black on my practice football uniform. But if you ignore others and our culture and listen to your body (yoga can help with all this too), weight has a way of working itself out.

    Am I saying yoga is a panacea for weight loss? No. I am saying it’s more than enough of a physical tool to help you find and maintain a healthy weight for you. And by healthy I mean in mind and body.

    If anyone made it this far, hope I shared something useful 

  29. Mel says:

    Sadly, this doesnt work when you have thyroid issues.. I have been practicing for 4 plus years and am still the same weight.

  30. amphibi1yogini says:

    As a newly-diagnosed type 2 diabetic, I very nearly agree with your first few sentences.

    Absolutely my glucose numbers go nearly nowhere, and sometimes up, when practicing yoga. Up in this case, is a bad thing.

    Your last two sentences. Agree, but I think by "White" you meant to say upscale or wealthy. At least I hope so. Not accusing anyone of racism, but any race could live beyond their means, or actually afford much of commercialized yoga today.

  31. trin says:

    Have you ever been to a dynamic style class? Try Ashtanga if you have any doubts about yoga not being cardio.
    Namaste Maureen

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