The rules of weight loss are simple: Overall, you need to burn more calories than you're taking in. And while there are plenty of diet and exercise programs that adhere to these basic tenants, some seem to work better than others -- at least in the real world of food temptations, overbooked schedules, and lack of motivation.
One weight-loss "gimmick" that seems to have some staying power is yoga. A 2009 study by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that overweight patients (BMI > 25) who did yoga at least once a week for four years lost about five pounds, on average, over the study period. Those who did nothing, on the other hand, gained about 14. [Source: FHCRC.org]
Sure, yoga is exercise -- but it doesn't have nearly the calorie-burning potential as a cardiovascular activity, like running or biking. Instead, researchers think that people who practice yoga may be more in tune with their bodies and more likely to be "mindful" eaters, less inclined to scarf down fatty fast food or pile on second helpings without thinking about it.
It seems that yoga, in its many different forms, can influence weight loss efforts in several ways. Whichever branch of yoga gets you into the studio is likely to have some benefits, but these may offer some of the biggest payoffs.