Yoga for Weight Loss?
It can help you find your bliss, and some say yoga may also help you shed those extra pounds.
Jennifer Aniston does it. Reports are that Liv Tyler, Halle Berry, Madonna,
David Duchovny and supermodel Christy Turlington do it, too. Many professional
athletes are said to be doing it in an effort to improve their games.
The "it" is yoga, a sophisticated mind-body exercise many believe
can do everything from tighten your buns to change your outlook on life.
But can this no-strain, work-at-your-own-level exercise really help you lose
It's true most types of yoga don't have anything near the calorie-burning
power of aerobic exercise. A 150-pound person will burn 150 calories in an hour
of doing regular yoga, compared to 311 calories for an hour of walking at 3
mph. But it is exercise, after all, and many practitioners believe yoga can
indeed help people take off extra pounds.
"Yoga is a phenomenal way to put you in touch with your body the way
nothing else can, and yes, it can help you lose weight," says instructor
Dana Edison, director of Radius Yoga in North Redding, Mass., and a certified
personal trainer with the American College of Sports Medicine.
Celebrity yoga trainers Ana Brett and Ravi Singh, who have worked with such
hotties as Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow, also believe in yoga's weight-loss
"We have seen it in ourselves, we have seen it in our clients – yoga can
give you a real workout even if you are a beginner," says Brett, who, with
Singh, created the best-selling DVD program Fat Free Yoga.
How Does It Work?
In 2005, medical researcher and practicing yogi Alan Kristal, DPH, MPH, set
out to do a medical study on the weight-loss effects of yoga.
With funding from the National Cancer Institute, Kristal and colleagues at
the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle led a trial involving
15,500 healthy, middle-aged men and women. All completed a survey recalling
their physical activity (including yoga) and their weight between the ages of
45 and 55. Researchers then analyzed the data, teasing out other factors that
could influence weight change – such as diet or other forms of exercise.
The end result: They found yoga could indeed help people shed pounds, or at
least keep them from gaining weight.
"Those practicing yoga who were overweight to start with lost about 5
pounds during the same time period those not practicing yoga gained 14
pounds," says Kristal.
For the study, he says, practicing yoga was defined as at least one
30-minute session per week for four or more years.
Kristal says it's not clear just how yoga might help people keep off the
pounds, at least from a scientific standpoint. His own opinion is that the
effects are subtle, and related to yoga's mind-body aspects.
"The buzzword here is mindfulness -- the ability to observe
what is happening internally in a non-reactive fashion," he says. "That
is what helps change the relationship of mind to body, and eventually to food