Yoga is a very old tradition. People have been doing it for thousands of years, so there must be something to it. Since its arrival in the West about 150 years ago, it has moved away from being an elitist form of celebrity exercise to a standard form of exercise that is prized for its efficacy, ease of starting, and long-term health benefits. It is good for the mind, combining breathing exercises and meditations with exercises that will help you feel centred in your body and with the world.
It is easy to get caught up in the yoga hype because so much of it is true. It is relatively difficult to injure yourself doing yoga, it can be done anywhere, and the benefits are too many to list here properly. However, there are some limitations to yoga for fitness and weight loss, so we shall explore them here.
Yoga for Fitness – Can it Help?
Realistically, yoga will not make you much fitter if that is all you are doing. It will certainly help if you are very unfit and it is one of the most enjoyable and easy to access exercises for people who are trying to build up their fitness for the first time or recover their fitness after injury or illness.
Because yoga does not raise the heart rate or significantly tax muscles over a long period like aerobic or weights training, the body does not respond in the same way. When you repetitively exercise a muscle with some weight behind it, it will respond by building muscle mass for more future exercises. This will happen with yoga exercises to some degree, but if you are looking for big muscles, you will need to do other forms of exercise too.
According to one study that looked at a number of different studies and collated their outcomes, “yoga interventions appeared to be equal or superior to exercise in nearly every outcome measured except those involving physical fitness”.
There might be limitations to yoga for fitness and weight loss, but it’s still an overwhelmingly a positive thing to do. Yoga is extremely beneficial when it is practised alongside other kinds of physical exercise. It will help increase suppleness and flexibility.
Yoga for Weight Loss – Limitations?
While yoga might not be that good for improving physical fitness, it does work for weight loss. Studies have consistently found that using yoga can help people to lose weight, especially those who had “repeatedly struggled in their attempts to lose weight” and “those who were of normal weight and had lost weight unintentionally”. It is not just the exercise and stretching that yoga brings that make it an effective weight loss too.
The “psychological, physical, and social effects” of yoga are thought to help make people make better dietary choices, feel more involved in their exercise plans, provide an enjoyable escape and relaxation technique, decrease cravings, stop stress-eating, and shift people towards more mindful ways of eating.
The physical and mental changes from yoga are “increased muscle tone, improved metabolism, reduced stress, as well as increased awareness, improved mood, and greater self-acceptance and self-esteem”. Because obesity is so often stress and lifestyle-related, it makes sense that a practice that helps people relax, feel good about themselves, and gain more control of their lives would help them lose weight.
One of the best results from studies into yoga is that it helps people make lasting changes. Diets do not work in the long-term, that has been conclusively proven. Lifestyle changes do help and yoga is one of the most positive ways of losing weight and feeling good about yourself. It can help to establish virtuous cycles of behaviour as weight is lost and fitness improves. Yoga helps with mental health and physical wellness. Yoga helps us make more positive and healthy dietary choices.
Anyone can do Yoga
There are adapted yoga techniques for everyone. People who have to use wheelchairs, have difficulty moving or coordinating, are blind, deaf, or otherwise disabled can feel the full benefits of yoga with a good teacher. Fitness is especially difficult to maintain when you are disabled or suffering from long-term illness, and the accessibility of yoga makes it a fantastic choice for reducing weight, improving self-esteem, maintaining muscle mass and tone (especially important for the elderly), and feeling good about their bodies and minds.
Yoga for the Elderly
Although other exercises will have to be employed to keep bone mass and relative strength up, yoga can help to ameliorate the effects of ageing by increasing and maintaining flexibility, suppleness, and muscle tone. Its positive effects on mental health and social aspects make it an ideal and cheap service to offer to our increasingly isolated and lonely elderly people. Meeting up for yoga for fitness and weight loss a few times a week can provide a vital lifeline for otherwise isolated older people.