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Yoga for Weight Loss

Still hesitating joining the pretzel set? Well, if weight loss is your goal, it's time to venture into the Zen zone. Yoga is now for "ab" seekers as well as "om" seekers.

In the past, many gym denizens dismissed yoga as a flaky workout. But as more and more yoga-toned celebrities have sung the praises of sun salutations (and sported seriously buff arms), the perception of yoga has changed.

And it's not just for the freakily flexible either. While it's true that yoga provides a terrific stretch, it also enhances the two other major components of all-around fitness — strength and cardiovascular health.

But perhaps the most interesting news, especially for the weight conscious, is that certain types of yoga, primarily the active flow-type classes, are also major calorie incinerators.

Feel the burn — of calories
In fact, a 2004 study from Adelphi University in New York found that power yoga can obliterate up to 9 calories per minute!

According to Jonathon Fields, co-founder of Sonic Yoga in New York, "Vinyasa yoga is uniquely effective at burning calories because it keeps the body moving in a dynamic, rhythmic flow, much the same way as some classic calorie-burning activities do, turning it into a potentially aerobic adventure.” And unlike many cardio pursuits, such as running, and even other styles of yoga, it uses all major muscle groups in both the upper and lower body to accomplish this effect. In fact, in an average 90-minute power yoga practice, students move through an average of 30 to 60 chatturangas (a yoga pose similar to a push-up, and the equivalent of one from a fitness standpoint), utilizing the arms, legs and core muscles simultaneously.

"While some of the less dynamic styles of practice are wonderful, life-enhancing pursuits, they are likely significantly less effective as a calorie-burning solution,” says Fields. "So for that added benefit, look for classes, videos or DVDs that say 'Flow,' 'Ashtanga,' 'Vinyasa' or'Power' yoga."

Gentle is good too
However, Fields says not to discount the benefits of all types of yoga, even gentler approaches, or simple meditation and breathing exercises in conjunction with weight management. "Emphasis on cultivating a meditative breath and mindset is also a powerful adjunct to a weight-loss program. This helps center the mind, induce the relaxation response and ease anxiety. Repeated attention to the fundamental philosophies of self-acceptance, non-violence (even to yourself), compassion and non-judgment, also help cultivate self-acceptance and confidence."

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