After overindulging during the festive season many people feel like they want to start of the year getting healthier, which for some can include weightloss. Although yoga may not commonly be associated with weightloss, there are many yoga techniques that can help us develop a healthy relationship with our bodies, feel energised and move towards our ideal weight. In this article we look at yoga for your ideal weight and consider how yoga can help with losing weight and to maintain your weight.
1. Feel at home in your body
Firstly, yoga helps us to feel at home in our bodies. Many people might not only have an unhealthy relationship with their body, but even worse they might have no relationship at all with their bodies. People often live in their heads and may only notice their bodies when something goes wrong with them. Imagine if the relationship between our bodies and heads were like a relationship between two people, with one being ignored, and only noticed when something was wrong with them … ´oh my back hurts´, ´my knee is not working well´. If you were the ´body´ in this relationship, I guess you would not feel that appreciated and you might feel that the relationship was slightly dysfunctional.
- Develop gratitude for health and what we have
Practicing yoga can help us notice our body on an everyday basis and develop a healthy relationship with our body. This might also include feeling grateful for the body we have. According to the World Health Organisation about 15% of people globally have a physical disability, so that means that the majority of people have a functioning body. I think all of us have something we dislike about our bodies. Maybe we wish we were a bit thinner, or a bit more toned, or had a bigger or smaller bum, chest, legs etc. However, I believe the first step towards change is to fully accept the body we have, and be grateful for how it has served us. How it follows our commands and carried us through our lives.
- Breath awareness to become present
So what are the ways that yoga can help us get to know, and feel at home in our bodies? There are many instructions in yoga classes that can help us be aware of our bodies, for example connecting with the breath. The breath comes from deep within our torso, and with each of the 23,000 breaths we take each day, we give our hearts a hug and massage our internal organs. Each breath we take can be used as an opportunity to be present, in the here and now and in the body we have in this moment.
- Connect with your whole body
Another way yoga can help us connect to the body is through noticing different parts of our bodies. For example, in a yoga class we might be invited to connect with our feet, or spread our fingers and feel our hands. This connection with our bodies, as well as helping develop neural pathways, also trains us to use our bodies more effectively. Yoga also helps us to develop proprioception, which is the sense of knowing where our body is in space, and how much force we are using in movements. This can help with balance, control and awareness of our moving body.
2. Breathe properly
How we breathe is an essential part of our yoga practice and yogic breathing techniques can help with weight loss. For example, Ujjayi breath can help us feel calm and grounded even when we are exerting our bodies and doing aerobic exercise. Personally, I find using Ujjayi breathing helpful when doing more active yoga classes, or going on a fast paced walk, or cycling up a hill. You can read more about yogic breathing in this article.
3. Increased awareness = increased energy
We can also use the increased knowledge we gain from our yoga practice to improve our energy levels, focus on our health and move towards our ideal weight. Using simple awareness practices we can judge what the appropriate level of activity is. For me yoga has enabled me to be a better judge of how I feel, and I notice more on a day-to-day level how lifestyle choices including physical activity and diet makes me feel.
Yoga can also help us be more aware of our diet. As we become more aware of our whole body, we can start to notice how we feel after eating certain foods – does it fill us with energy or do we feel tired or lethargic?
4. Dynamic yoga to burn calories
Some styles of yoga we have here at La Crisalida retreats are more dynamic and these styles can certainly help us to burn calories and build muscle. For example, in our vinyasa yoga classes you could burn up to 600 calories per hour. Faster yoga sequences which include dynamic movements such as sun salutations can increase our cardiovascular fitness. Other positions such as downward dog and plank, use our own body weight to build strength, endurance and muscle.
As well as calories burned in a yoga class, we can also use the techniques learned in other forms for exercise. For example, building a stronger core through certain yoga and yogalates positions can help with balance and stability when walking or running. Yoga help improve our coordination which can help us enjoy dance or exercise to music classes more. Yoga helps us build confidence and flexibility which lead to more enjoyment of all forms of exercise, and improvements in our daily lives.
5. Influence your subconscious brain
Another way that yoga can help with finding our ideal weight is by using practices such as yoga nidra to influence our subconscious brain. For more about yoga nidra see this blog post. In yoga nidra we set a deep intention called a sankalpa. If we want to lose weight it is often better to make this intention holistic i.e. to include wellness and energy levels. This is particularly important as we could lose a lot of weight through illness, or extreme dieting, however in such cases we might feel a lack of energy and not be well. I like using an intention such as ´I am healthy and well´, or ´I love my body´. Yoga nidra works on many levels, in particular it helps us to rest deeply, which can influence our nervous system and digestive system. When we feel well rested and calm we are less likely to binge eat, or use food to prop up our energy levels.
Yoga for your ideal weight
There are many other different ways in which yoga can help us lose weight, for example through laughter yoga.
Here at La Crisalida Retreat Centre we use a range of holistic and sustainable techniques, including yoga, to help people move towards their ideal weight. As with all that we offer here at the retreat, we recommend that you find an activity that you enjoy and aim to practice it regularly. Combining regular exercise with a healthy diet can help you to reach and maintain your ideal weight. To find out more check out our other articles this month, or perhaps think about joining us in January or February on our Healthy Weight Loss weeks, or on one of our regular retreats.