Struggling to lose weight, or looking for healthier ways to maintain your ideal weight? The science of yoga offers simple, natural solutions that help balance your body and reignite your metabolism—making it much easier to shed excess pounds in a healthy way.
Many people feel frustrated in their inability to lose unwanted fat, resulting in a dramatic increase in demand for the “magic bullet” to lose weight, such as diet pills or weight loss surgery. These methods may seem effective in the short term, but it’s not uncommon for people to gain back the weight they lose because they don’t know how to maintain a healthy weight. Dramatic weight loss methods also carry risks of serious side effects, whether from surgery, pills, or just rapid weight loss—all of which can be a tremendous strain on the body. It’s important to realize that no matter what method of weight loss you use, significant diet and lifestyle changes are necessary to successfully lose weight and keep it off. In fact, changing your diet and lifestyle habits is not only the most effective way to normalize your weight, but also the safest.
When you achieve your ideal weight holistically, there are not only no harmful side effects but also many positive results, including increased energy, elevated mood, more beautiful skin, stronger and healthier hair and nails, improved digestion and elimination, and reduced risk for many diseases.
In our weight-obsessed society, one of the greatest benefits of losing weight with a holistic yoga lifestyle is that it brings us the inner happiness and peace we really need so that we feel more comfortable in our own skin and feel less pressured to meet society’s often unhealthy physical ideals. Losing weight with yoga really means caring for your body’s physical needs rather than putting yourself through punishing extremes to try to meet some external ideals. With that in mind, here are some practical steps you can take to rebalance your body and shed excess body weight:
1. Curb Emotional Eating
One of the most common causes of obesity is emotional eating, and this can be one of the most difficult habits to overcome for a person who wants to lose weight. It’s very important to spend at least a little time every day cultivating conscious relaxation. Conscious relaxation helps your brain go into an entirely different, more positive mode. It also lowers your blood pressure and reduces the amount of the stress hormone cortisol released into your body, and this can be helpful for losing weight, especially abdominal fat.
There are different ways to induce what is known as the “relaxation response.” You can use hatha yoga asanas, yoga breathing such as pranayama, tai chi, chi kung, meditation, and so on. Yoga Sound Meditation is particularly effective for inducing the relaxation response as it also eases the fears, worries, and concerns that drive us to emotional eating. You can try it for free here (link to video).
By regularly trying to achieve deep relaxation, you will find it easier to overcome the pattern of eating as a response to negative emotions.
2. Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Modern research has shown that we all have a limited amount of willpower. Willpower can be increased to a certain degree, but it is a finite resource. So it’s very important when embarking on a healthier lifestyle not to rely on willpower alone. One of the first steps in eliminating temptation is simply to clear out the pantry, fridge, and freezer of unhealthy items and replace them with more nutritious alternatives. We spend a lot of time at home, and so we are bound to have times of stress, exhaustion, or even boredom when it is much harder to make optimal choices. However, if you’ve already planned out your food supply in advance, then it’s much easier to choose the nourishing foods that will help you achieve your weight loss goals.
3. Control Cravings
As mentioned above, willpower is a limited resource, and that includes having the willpower to resist cravings. One of the best ways to control cravings is through prevention. Simply by making positive, appealing changes to our diet, we can actually change our tastes and cravings! It takes a bit of effort in the beginning to learn how to make better choices, but before long, cravings for pizza and chocolate cake will be transformed into cravings for a nutritious salad or fruity smoothie. Be aware of triggers for cravings for certain foods and have a plan to minimize or deal with these triggers. For example, if the morning coffee/donut cart is a trigger, plan ahead with an appealing choice that won’t derail your weight loss efforts. Better yet, bring your own stash of nutritious snacks to work or whenever you’re out so that you are never caught needing a pick-me-up with nothing but junk to choose from. Try keeping a bag of raw trail mix handy in your car or purse. Or bring a container of hummus and raw veggies, sliced apples and cheese, or almond butter and whole grain crackers. Exercise also helps with cravings as it puts you in better touch with your body’s real needs so that you are more likely to crave nourishing and replenishing foods.
4. Ignite Your Metabolic Fire
Unwanted weight gain and stubborn excess pounds mean your metabolism needs a boost. Oftentimes, if your diet has been less than optimal, your metabolism slows down and your liver gets sluggish. So the first step for lighting your metabolic fire is to try to make everything you put in your mouth wholesome and nutritious.
Eating primarily plant-based, whole, natural foods will help naturally reduce excess weight and will also help rejuvenate the liver. The liver is responsible for breaking down fats (among many other functions), so keeping the liver in tip-top shape is very helpful for weight loss. You can give your liver a boost with supportive supplements such as milk thistle, dandelion, or noni juice. Drinking warm water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice first thing in the morning is another easy way to help gently cleanse the liver and stimulate good digestion.
You can also help boost your metabolism with heat-producing herbs, such as cayenne and ginger. Add these as seasonings to your food, or take as herbal supplements or tea. Fennel tea is also known to help the body break down unwanted fat more easily.
And last and most important, move your body! There are healthful ways to incorporate exercise and activity into your lifestyle. Yoga asanas are very helpful because they simultaneously induce relaxation and invigorate internal organs responsible for digestion, elimination, and metabolism. Walking is an easy way to bring aerobic exercise into your routine. Find a route around your neighborhood, place of work, or nearby park, and create a regular schedule of daily walking. Walking with a friend can help with motivation, but sometimes walking alone can be a peaceful respite from work and other stresses. Swimming, biking, dance, tai chi, and jogging are other ways to bring movement into your day and add variety to your exercise program. Whatever you choose, the most important thing is to try to be active every single day for 30 minutes to an hour.
5. Eat a Yoga Diet
A yoga diet, based on whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and a moderate amount of dairy, is a time-tested way to reach your ideal body weight and stay there. These foods naturally nourish and balance the body, help to eliminate toxins, support the immune system, increase longevity, and overall produce optimal health.
There are many ways to eat a plant-based yoga diet and lose weight depending on your activity level, body type, climate and season, availability of different foods, and so on. For example, in the hot summer you may feel best on a lower fat diet with lots of raw vegetables, while in a cold climate you may need more hearty, warm, cooked foods with plenty of healthy fats, like olive oil, coconut oil, ghee (clarified butter), cheese, and nuts and seeds. By sticking with foods in their whole, natural form, you will naturally come to know which balance of nutrients is best for you. It’s also much easier to regulate your appetite because healthy foods increase satiety, whereas processed foods stimulate overeating.
6. Track Your Progress
As with any goal, breaking your weight loss goal into manageable steps will make it much easier for you to achieve success. Weight loss of no more than one to two pounds a week is considered ideal by most health experts—losing weight too slowly can cause you to lose motivation, while losing weight too quickly is stressful on the body and may leave you nutritionally deficient, setting you up for health problems and a strong likelihood of regaining what you lost. A digital scale is helpful for accurate weigh-ins. Weighing yourself regularly is linked with greater weight loss and also helps you gauge how tuned in you are to your body’s caloric needs.
Or perhaps instead of picking a weight-loss goal in terms of pounds, you might choose to track your progress by the successful implementation of healthy habits that will lead to weight loss—such as getting into a regular exercise routine, making gradual dietary changes, learning to relax and meditate every day, and so on. In either case, tracking your progress will help you stay motivated and keep you on track to reach your ideal weight—permanently.
7. Have Fun and Celebrate Your Healthier Choices
Remember that losing weight with a yoga diet and lifestyle is all about nurturing, balancing, and rejuvenating the body so that weight loss is invigorating and almost effortless. The goal is actually to feel better and be healthier—not just lose weight. Going to punishing extremes to try to lose weight has been proven over and over again to achieve just the opposite. While these types of efforts may result in temporary weight loss (with a lot of suffering), the weight is quickly regained and your body is more nutritionally deficient than ever. Think of weight loss through yoga as a healthy adventure, full of fun and learning, and celebrate every little success. Don’t worry if you don’t lose all the weight you want right away—be patient and remember that you are making positive, healthy changes that will last a lifetime. When you realize that your real goal is to become healthier, the weight loss will happen naturally, and you will be following a diet and lifestyle that will not only maintain your healthy weight but will also support your overall health for the rest of your life.