Every once in a while I see yoga teachers and studios promoting their classes with slogans like “yoga for weight loss”. No wonder! After all, so many yogis - entire Instagram profiles are built on it - are incredibly slim and lean and defined. These beautiful people must have gotten this figure thanks to yoga - so the pictures and posts suggest.
There’s no doubt Yoga is good for you. From my own experience and from experience shared with my yoga community, yoga helps you to build a positive relationship with your body. You learn to focus inward and less on the outward appearance. Yoga releases physical and emotional tension and you begin to feel comfortable in your own skin again. Yoga also helps the practitioner to be more healthy: blood circulation is stimulated, breathing deepens, joints are mobilized, muscles activated, etc. The creative and varied movements stimulate the brain and help to achieve more concentration and balance. Many report that they sleep better on days they have done yoga.
In this respect, yoga is absolutely recommended for people who want to lose weight. And for everyone else too. BUT: Not everyone will find their dream figure with yoga!
First of all: It depends on the yoga style and the frequency with which it is practiced. Meditative yoga such as Yin and Kundalini yoga hardly contribute to weight loss. But Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Power and Hot yoga can be sweaty enough to shed the pounds, especially if you get on the mat 3-6 times a week for about 60-90 minutes per session.
But if you are only concerned with reducing a lot of fat mass as quickly as possible, it is better to turn to strength training and HIIT. These forms of movement - best combined with yoga for balance - build muscles in a targeted manner, increase the calorie requirement and promote fat burning.
Diet always plays a role when it comes to losing weight: If you mainly eat masses of junk food, exercise will still yield good benefits for you (sport is not only important for a healthy body weight), but you will be unlikely to lose weight let alone stay healthy in the long term.
It is hardly surprising that training intensity, training frequency (and recovery) as well as nutrition play a major role in weight control and general health. It's easy to explain why someone who is overweight and hasn't exercised much up until now will lose weight when they start doing yoga. It could also have been walking. Or swimming. Or dancing. The main thing is regular exercise. If you enjoy yoga, you will stick with it and integrate it into your everyday life. That's the most important thing: finding a form of exercise that you can stick with. Because if you don't find joy in exercise, sooner or later you will stop doing it - and gain weight again.
Nevertheless, losing weight cannot be reduced to just exercise and nutrition. Healthy, restful sleep plays another role. Drinking enough water too. Some dietary supplements may help or even be urgently needed - but a few things have become clear to me personally in recent years: Genetics (body types) play a major role in how our bodies work and what figure we have.
Here are two made-up examples from everyday life that will probably remind you of someone you know:
There is Karl. He is 29 years old. Karl eats his croissants with butter and cheese for breakfast, sometimes with the chocolate bar in them, sometimes a Bircher muesli with yogurt and fruit. Another chocolate bar with the third cup of coffee follows with the “mid-morning snack”, a quick kebab for lunch because he is so hungry and it has to go quickly, a piece of cake or an energy bar in the afternoon, dinner somewhere with friends, maybe a salad with a pizza, sometimes an ice cream. He bikes to work every day, about 30 minutes. Karl is super slim. He has never wasted a thought about his weight nor his appearance. He has been wearing the same sized clothes since he stopped growing larger when he was 20. He cannot remember ever not having a six pack.
And then there is Larissa, 35 years old. She gets up in the morning and doesn't eat anything until noon, when she treats herself to a salad with a piece of whole wheat bread. In the afternoon she has an apple with a handful of almonds, in the evening she eats chicken breast with steamed broccoli and possibly some rice, followed by a puffed rice cake with a thin black chocolate coating for dessert. Larissa goes once a week with a friend for a fat-burning fitness class, goes jogging for up to an hour every other day and for a yoga class every Friday. Despite everything, she hasn't been able to get into her size S pants for years, sucking in her stomach in front of the mirror has long since concealed nothing and she feels uncomfortable in leggings because everyone can see her cellulite and her "saddlebags". She's far from overweight, but she knows that just smelling chocolate makes her seem to gain weight - like getting pregnant from a kiss.
Two not too extreme examples of how body types and genetics play a role in our metabolism, body composition and appearance. Gender and age are other important factors. Women's bodies are designed to store energy, i.e. fat, more than men. Men’s muscles build easily and like to burn a lot of energy. For this reason alone, it is easier for men to lose weight within a short period of time through sport.
Anyone who has also inherited the disposition to saddlebags and cellulite will hardly be able to train or starve them away without endangering their physical and mental health. That's not to say that you can blame all of the responsibility for your appearance on your genes - a healthy lifestyle with mindful eating and regular exercise will make you look more attractive regardless of weight, and above all improve quality of life and self-confidence. But you can stop worrying about unrealistic expectations: no yoga in the world turns a Danny Devito into a Chris Hemsworth, nor a Melissa McCarthy into an Angelina Jolie.
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