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Yoga for Weight Loss?

It can help you find your bliss, and some say yoga may also help you shed those extra pounds.
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WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

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 weight?

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 powers.

"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.

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