We often hear about the benefits of yoga as it pertains to spiritual and mental health, but is there a tangible connection to one’s fitness and, more specifically, can I lose a few pounds doing it?
I already enjoy the stress busting aspects of a regular… OK, semi-regular… practice, but how much of what I’m doing actually targets my trouble spots- those zones of frustration such as my tummy and thighs… OK, and bum and perhaps, and the fleshy wings accumulating under my newly minted 40 year old arms?
Well, those of us who would like to look to a less intense, non-impact method of achieving a level of fitness, can take heart. Studies show that yoga lowers levels of stress hormones and increases insulin sensitivity–a sign your body reads to burn food as fuel rather than store it as fat. Yay!
But what type of yoga is best suited to slimming and trimming. While you will enjoy an increase in strength and flexibility and the benefits those bring with any regular practice, it is the more vigourous forms of yoga that will target not only strength and flexibility but also increase your cardivascular fitness, by elevating the heartrate for a period of time, getting you sweating and boosting that metabolism… and of course, BURN FAT! Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Hot… these are all forms of yoga that get you moving, get your heart rate up, while increasing strength and flexibility. In a big way!
But, let’s not forget. You can do all the yoga you want, but if your slamming pizza and beer, chances are you’re not going to see any change to your mid-section or chickenwings! Did somebody say, ‘chickenwings’?! Considering diet is essential to enjoying the benefits of your practice and how it translates to losing or managing your weight. This is certainly my biggest challenge to enjoying a regular practice. I am of the pizza and garlic bread persuasion and without a doubt, my diet can hinder my ability to not only enjoy the benefits from practice but from actually doing it at all.
The two are intimately linked, with diet being integral to maximizing the benefits of ANY practice. There are some hints provided below. Remember to make changes slowly to increase the liklihood of permanency and be sure to consult your physician with regards to any changes you might be considering making.
- Include plenty of green, leafy vegetables in your diet while minimizing the intake of red meat and heavy dairy.
- Of course, refined, processed, packaged foods are, by and large, not good. Eat in extreme moderation. Soft drinks, baked goods, glucose-fructose anything.
- If you have a certain favorite unhealthy food, don’t immediately deny yourself of it. Instead, set a certain limit for yourself on when to eat it, like once a week. If you would like, increase this limit until you have broken yourself of the desire for it altogether.
- Ensure that you are getting sources of good protein food, such as nuts, legumes, whole grains, fish and lean meats.
- Eat salad or raw vegetables every day. If you’re cooking vegetables, do it as quickly as possible in order to preserve their goodness.
- Cut back on junk food. This is a no-brainer… but darned if it ain’t the toughest one to crack!
- Avoid “denatured” food such as flour, white bread, cakes, or refined cereals.
- Eat some fresh fruits every day.
- Make sure that the food you eat promotes health of the body. Consider with each choice what it will do FOR your body.
- Cook only as much as you need and no more. Do not overeat. Overeating is also bad for the body. Portions, portions, portions!
- Be creative. Be a little adventurous. There are so many good foods out there, you just have to ball up and try them. This what I say to my southern-bred husband as we’re perusing the the sacks of lentils.
- And… important! Don’t set goals that might be too big for you. Go for realistic ones. Just do things slowly. Try it out for a few weeks and see what happens.
It takes only a few days to feel the healthy benefits of a change in diet, from one laden with refined carbohydrates, dairy and red meat to that of more fruit, veggies and lean protiens. You’ll see it in a lighter, more energetic and responsive body during practice and before long you’ll see it in a drop in pant size.