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How Does It Work? continued...

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 and eating."

Adds Edison: "Yoga makes you more susceptible to influence for change – so if you are thinking you want to change your lifestyle, you want to change the way you think about food, you want to get over destructive eating patterns, yoga will help give you the spiritual connection to your body that can help you make those changes."

Another idea is that yoga forges a strong mind-body connection that ultimately helps make you more aware of what you eat and how it feels to be full.

"Essentially, in yoga you learn your body is not your enemy, and the conscious awareness of the body that you gain translates into better appetite control," Edison says.

Power Yoga: The New Attitude

While some say yoga is too tame for extreme weight loss, many devotees of the practice known as "power yoga" disagree.

Power yoga is an Americanized version of traditional Kundalini techniques. Instructors like Singh and Brett believe it can offer all the fat-burning potential – and heart benefits -- of an aerobic workout.

While traditional types of yoga are based on breathing techniques paired with static poses, Singh says, power yoga combines meditative breathing with faster, more active movements. The result, he says, is a workout that can be more aerobic than . . . aerobics!

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