Updated: Apr 29
I know what you’re thinking: “Yoga can’t help me lose weight.”
It may seem like yoga doesn’t have many weight loss benefits, because after a class, you’re not profusely sweating. Your legs aren’t shaking. You’re not huffing and puffing, desperately trying to catch your breath.
But yoga can definitely help you lose weight!
The weight loss benefits of yoga are more psychological, rather than physical. Sure, you’re not going to feel particularly worn out after a yoga class. But you’re going to feel calm. And that calm feeling is exactly what we’re talking about here.
By decreasing your stress levels, yoga helps you lose weight.
How does stress cause weight gain?
If I asked what stresses you out, you probably could come up with an extensive list: your job, bills, relationships, interviews, keeping your space clean. The list goes on.
These stressors, if your stress is not properly managed, cause weight gain!
How does stress cause weight gain? Well, stressors trigger the “fight-or-flight” response in your body. Your body doesn’t know the difference between a modern-day stressor versus running away from a bear thousands of years ago—that’s why your body still has the same stress response.
When your body’s fight-or-flight response is triggered, digestion slows or even stops, so that the body can use all its energy to face the threat. Because of the role of stress in digestion, stress plays a role in digestive diseases like Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Poor digestion also causes weight gain, because your body is unable to properly break down foods. This causes inadequate nutrient absorption, which affects your body’s metabolism.
When your body can’t properly absorb essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, the rate your body burns calories at is lowered, leading to excess body fat. This inability to break down foods also causes fatigue, which means you won’t be as inclined to increase your metabolism by working out.
Stress also plays a role in weight gain by affecting cortisol levels. High levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) cause fat stores to be relocated and deposited in the abdomen. If long-term stress isn’t addressed, this can develop into obesity, or make obesity worse.
How does yoga help you manage stress?
Exercise in general is great for lowering cortisol levels in your body. But yoga plays a special role in stress management.
Multiple studies have shown yoga decreases the secretion of cortisol and reduces levels of anxiety and depression. This is because yoga functions as a self-soothing technique, similar to meditation. Yoga reduces your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and eases respiration. Yoga also increases your heart rate variability, which helps you respond to stress more flexibly.
Yoga essentially calms down your nervous system, which is heightened by anxiety and stress.
One of the main aspects of yoga is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the awareness of what’s happening right now. Our brains often want to focus on the past or the future, but mindfulness brings our attention to the present moment.
Mindfulness-based therapy is often used to treat anxiety. So if your therapist recommended you practice mindfulness, turn to yoga!
Even if you don’t go to therapy for anxiety, and you just want a way to manage your stress, yoga helps you achieve a mindset recommended by therapists.
Lose Weight with Yoga
Stress causes weight gain, and yoga reduces stress!
Now that you know how beneficial yoga is in terms of weight loss, why wouldn’t you include it in your workout routine?