Yogi Victor: “Once I was like you: skeptical, nearsighted, paunchy. Then I met a special friend. This glorious friend took me to places I thought I’d never–“
Hank Hill: “Excuse me, but is this one of those stories where this special friend of yours turns out to be yoga?”
When you hear the word yoga, do you think of ancient mystical philosophies exhibited through a demonstration of some anatomical acrobatics that seem to defy some kind of scientific law as the body becomes a human pretzel? If these are the first or only images to come to mind when thinking about yoga, no wonder you have never spent much time thinking about how yoga could make you thinner.
Surely, you already have to be thin to do yoga.
Good news for you. That sentiment is not true. So go ahead and ask: can yoga actually help make me thinner? The answer is an affirmative. As long as you go about using yoga for weight loss with some intelligence and conviction. Yes, yoga can be at the very center of your plans to lose weight. Or, if you prefer, yoga can be merely a tangential weapons in your arsenal for making yourself thinner.
Actor Johnny Depp gave voice to the yoga instructor named Victor in the dialogue from an episode of the animated series “King of the Hill” quoted above. Uptight propane salesman Hank Hill is “sentenced” to yoga as an alternative treatment for back pain so severe he was forced to file for workman’s compensation. Skeptical at first, it takes only one session for the notoriously conventional Hank to arrive at an appreciation of the power of yoga fill in the gaps left open by Western medicine’s approach to healing that can only offer him, in the implausibly candid words of Hank’s own doctor, “drugs and nothing.”
Many people respond to the question of how yoga can benefit them in pursuit of their fitness goals with the same dismissive ignorance that Hank Hill bluntly expresses toward yoga’s power to heal. And healing is much more subjective than becoming thinner. The loss of a few inches of flab can be objectively assessed with relative ease. If giving yoga a fair shake at making you thinner has failed to produce quantifiable results, then you have every right to be dismissive. Until then, however, it could potentially be a huge mistake to allow skepticism about yoga’s famous focus on mental self-discipline, obsession with breathing and inclusion of meditation to blind you to its equally effective power to get you closer to your dream of the perfect body than you’ve ever been.
Fitness Benefits of the Yoga Trail
Later on, you will learn that there are different types and forms of yoga that termed “paths.” These paths veer off from the main yoga trail by focusing on specific sets of exercises, stretches, routines and workout environments with the power to direct your energy to achieving a specific goal. When you are just starting out, you may not be ready to commit to one of these paths. Which is perfectly fine because just about any type of yoga exercise found on any path that connects back to the main trail can significantly impact your overall sense of wellness.
The stretching at the foundation of yoga has a cumulative effect of increasing flexibility. This increased flexibility makes yoga a kind of non-toxic natural steroid due to its performance enhancing capabilities. The stretches involved in yoga enhance performance in a number of ways. For instance, after perhaps as little as two or three workouts, you may start to notice that you don’t suffer as often from sore muscles or stiff joints. Depending on the yoga positions you undertake, you may also reap benefits like a dissipation of back pain, improved control over how you respond to stress and an upgrade in coordination. All these advantages to be gained from any yoga path can translate into getting closer to fitness goals like losing weight or simply by making you feel more motivated to do other exercises and feel more enjoyment when you do those exercises.
Yoga for Getting Thinner
Clearly, it is possible to pick and choose from stretches and exercises found at various divergences from the main yoga trail in way that allows you to exploit the power of yoga as a tangential addition to your primary fitness routines. If you really want to get all you can from yoga to support your goals for becoming thinner, you should take a different path.
Vital to a full engagement of the power of yoga for success in weight loss is an understanding that despite all the fancy metaphorical language of main trails and divergent paths, there really is no all-encompassing single entity known as Yoga. Yoga is actually a collective term for quite literally hundreds of different types and forms of yoga. The results you expect to realize will be heavily dependent on the yoga path you choose to follow. Choosing to delve into the spiritual aspects of bhakti yoga, for instance, may succeed in clearing your mind of stressful clutter enough to motivate you to exercise more, but a bhakti workout alone likely won’t produce the results you hope for. When looking to yoga to achieve a specific fitness purpose, it is absolutely essential that you research what each path entails.
Yoga Paths for Weight Loss
If your fitness goal is specifically to drop some excess weight and lose a few inches, several very different types of yoga are especially effective. If your view of yoga is one that sees it from the perspective of a vaguely defined single entity, you will likely be quite surprised by just how vastly different the experience of practicing specific yoga paths can be.
Bikram yoga is often referred to by the nickname “hot yoga” and appropriateness of that nickname make it easy to see how this yoga path could help you become thinner. Not recommended for the beginner, but certainly an option worth considering, bikram yoga places you inside a room heated to around 105 degree Fahrenheit for 90 minutes. Those conditions alone are pretty much a guarantee that you will lose some some weight. When you add the repetitive cyling of the same 26 poses over the course of those 90 minutes, it becomes hard to argue against bikram yoga as a way use this fitness discipline for crafting a thinner, sexier physique.
At the other extreme from the bikram path lies the hatha yoga path . When you think of slow moving routines that can’t possibly help you lose weight, this is probably the type of yoga you envision. It’s true that hatha yoga focus on achieving serenity and mental clarity it not the best choice for most hoping to lose inches. It does represent an effective entry point for seniors, those dealing with obesity and anyone else whose current state of health simply won’t abide the more vigorous types of yoga. If you recognize and freely admit that becoming thinner is going to be a long-term effort, hatha yoga is an ideal place to begin. As long as you realize that hatha routines are the yoga equivalent of a leisure walk through the neighborhood. If you are already in fairly good shape and just need that extra little aerobic kick to reach your ideal body, hatha wouldn’t be a complete waste of time. But it would be pretty close.
A much more useful yoga path for anyone not winded by a stroll around the neighborhood is vinyasa yoga. The routines that dominate vinyasa yoga are less important to its ability to help you lose weight than the speed with which you move from one posture to another. That robust movement that defines vinyasa makes it the metabolic equivalent of taking a bike ride over different types of terrain. If you really doubt the ability of yoga to make you thinner without sticking you inside a bikram sauna, then just attend one vinyasa class as a spectator. Watching others work their way through the yoga equivalent of a manic workout will either convince you that yoga is useful for weight loss or scare you right into signing up for a hatha class.