If your primary purpose for exercising is to lose weight, yoga may not be the first activity you'd consider. Minute for minute, you'll certainly burn a lot more calories with a fast-paced, cardiovascular sport like running or kickboxing, a boot camp class, or even a strength-training routine that involves heavy weights and lots of reps.
But ultimately, the type of exercise that's going to help you lose weight is the type that you're actually going to do. If you enjoy yoga, keeping up a regular practice can help you slim down, thanks to both its calorie-burning potential and the unique way it can connect the mind with the body, helping you to make smarter decisions -- and burn more fat -- off the mat, as well as on.
"It's all about mindfulness and being aware of your body," says Colleen Saidman Yee, a Long Island-based yoga instructor. "If you eat a big greasy meal right before yoga class, you're going to feel it when you're twisting and stretching." Life coach and yoga instructor Sophie Herbert agrees: "Yoga helps you build confidence in your body, as you see yourself improving and gaining strength and balance that you didn't have before. It really makes you want to take care of it so you'll be able to perform at the highest level."
Research supports this idea, too: In 2009, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center published a study in which people who practice yoga regularly lost about five pounds, while their non-yogi counterparts gained about 14. The authors concluded that the yoga group was more mindful about their food, eating only when they were hungry and stopping when they were full. [Source: FHCRC.org]
Saidman Yee, who created the Gaiam DVD "Yoga for Weight Loss," says the best yoga postures for weight loss are the ones that get your heart rate up, that work your core, and that promote healthy sleep -- another important aspect for anyone who wants to drop a few pounds. A routine that incorporates these elements, along with breathing and stress-reduction techniques, will offer any yogi a holistic and well-balanced approach to slimming down.