Looking to burn fat? Will yoga help with weight loss?
As the Founder of an online yoga Movement, featuring the best yoga teachers in the UK, and as a curator of yoga videos, I am often asked for the content of new videos.
I frequently get the request of ‘yoga for weight loss’ videos. The very short, and somewhat controversial answer is no!
No, MFML won’t be asking you to lose weight, or coming along with a new kind of ‘fat busting yoga’. I’m so sorry to have to disappoint you!
I know that running a business is all about finding a ‘niche’ and giving people what they want, which, sometimes is yoga to lose weight.
But right now, the business will just have to take a step back because this is where I’m at with all of this: I believe that fitness is incredibly important, of course, my whole Movement is about moving more.
I believe that, especially in a sedentary world, we all need to walk, to move, to run, to reach, to stretch and move every joint, every muscle, in new and different ways.
I strongly believe that it’s healthier to keep as active as we can in as many ways as we can. It feels really good to move, to use this gift that is a human body, and it means that the body is healthier too. So win-win for keeping active for sure.
My next belief is on the subject of food. I believe that we should all eat food that’s grown as close to our homes as possible, as seasonally as possible. We should eat things that aren’t wrapped in plastic.
As a general rule, if there’s an advert for the food – don’t eat it. Processed, advertised foods tend to have a lot of sugar, salt and preservatives in them. They’re not good for your body.
They won’t help your weight loss. My belief is that if you happen to eat a lot of fresh plants, you will tend to be skinnier than if you don’t. So eat more fresh plants and cut out the processed and animal products.
On the face of it, yoga looks like it should be a great weight-loss or fitness tool. Many of the yogis on MFML are incredibly lean, fit and toned. They perform feats of handstands, headstands, they seem to float in their own practice.
They have immense power, strength and flexibility. They seem like acrobats, they seem to have the body of a gymnast.
So of course, it’d be only natural to come to me asking for yoga so that you can replicate that same body in the comfort of your own home.
And whatever people ask for, they get. The most popular yoga videos on YouTube promise ‘yoga for burning fat’ or ‘tone your arms’, they make promises that yoga can give you a bikini body. Can yoga give you a bikini body?
Well, if you have a body and you wish to put a bikini on it, ta-dah! That’s your bikini body!!
I’m afraid that very disappointingly, I have to say no to that. The reason?
To me, yoga is not about searching for a physical perfection. It is a meditative practice, a combination of moving breath with the body, in a way that brings us closer to a feeling of connection, of ‘union’ with ourselves, with others and with the rest of the world.
So some of the shapes that we make might be tricky and look like they are performed for the physical benefit, but truly, the physicality of it should take a back seat.
But what else do you need to know about my thoughts on yoga’s promises to offer you the weight loss and body of a celebrity?
Will yoga keep me fit?
To me, yoga is an internal practice, not an external one.
Yes, you might feel fitter, as in healthier, when you practice yoga every day.
This is especially if you decide to practice types of yoga that have you making shapes in swift succession, moving between those shapes with the breath.
These kinds are ‘vinyasa’ which actually just means moving with your breath – but vinyasa classes are often quite dynamic.
This kind of yoga will increase your heart rate and may keep you fit. But I’m just not sure the benefits of this type of yoga as a fitness activity over, say, trying Zumba?
To my mind, vinyasa is a moving meditation practice, to be performed with a still mind and flowing breath – not really with an intention of creating a different physical body look
It is a lovely feeling to ‘flow’ dynamically between the shapes, to move and flow freely with your breath so that your joints feel loose and the muscles start to tone, that is a beautiful feeling, and if you do this a lot, you will most certainly get fit.
Some of the fantastic physical effects of yoga are on the effects on calming your nervous system, causing you to sleep better and better manage anxiety, for example.
But these effects are certainly from the combination of moving mindfully and breathing slowly. The other physical benefits you will get from a regular yoga practice are likely to be, reduced pain in the lower back – which comes from doing mindfully paced exercise that focuses on the abdominal muscles, and also of stretching hamstrings and mobilising the hips.
These very physical benefits are a wonderful side-effect of the practice.
The other physical benefits you will get from a regular yoga practice are likely to be, reduced pain in the lower back – which comes from doing mindfully paced exercise that focuses on the abdominal muscles, and also of stretching hamstrings and mobilising the hips. And fitness can also be a side effect of a more feisty practice too. But if you’re really wanting to lose weight, that’s normally through cardio activity. And the trouble with cardio is that the heart rate and breath increase like they do when you run.
And fitness can also be a side effect of a more feisty practice too. But if you’re really wanting to lose weight, that’s normally through cardio activity. And the trouble with cardio is that the heart rate and breath increase like they do when you run.
But if your heart rate and breath are quickening, that’s really no longer yoga – the yoga teachers say if your breath is coming quicker, that’s the time to slow your practice, so that you can move effortlessly with the breath again. So if each time you breathe faster because your heart rate is going up, you are asked to slow it down to keep the yoga practice – I’d just say that if ‘fitness’ is what you’re after, go back to Zumba classes, cardio at the gym, or as I do, just take long, brisk walks in the countryside with the dog.
So if each time you breathe faster because your heart rate is going up, you are asked to slow it down to keep the yoga practice – I’d just say that if ‘fitness’ is what you’re after, go back to Zumba classes, cardio at the gym, or as I do, just take long, brisk walks in the countryside with the dog.
But, after doing your fitness activity, after you’ve done that lovely heart-pounding cardio, come to the mat to create peace, spaciousness and an even breath (oh, and stretch it out…)
Will yoga strengthen and tone my body?
You know what, you might be in luck! There are plenty of poses out there which will do both of these things. Of course, the real answer is that yoga is a magically transformative tool, but strength and flexibility do seem to be a side-effect of working on the inner transformation in this way. Even with Yin yoga, which happens to be my favourite practice right now, there are certainly some strong side effects of strengthening, flexibility and the muscle tone can’t help but improve. So yes, you can practice yoga with the expectation that your physical body will be stronger and more muscled, but your muscles will be long due to the flexibility emphasis, and that’s what they call toned, I do believe!
Even with Yin yoga, which happens to be my favourite practice right now, there are certainly some strong side effects of strengthening, flexibility and the muscle tone can’t help but improve. So yes, you can practice yoga with the expectation that your physical body will be stronger and more muscled, but your muscles will be long due to the flexibility emphasis, and that’s what they call toned, I do believe!
So yes, you can practice yoga with the expectation that your physical body will be stronger and more muscled, but your muscles will be long due to the flexibility emphasis, and that’s what they call toned, I do believe!
Will I get happier?
Regular yoga practice will teach you to take longer, deeper breaths. This will have a beautiful effect on your nervous system. It will create feelings of calm, which will reduce your stress levels. Yoga practice will also teach you different styles of breathing, and different breath-techniques. Deep, conscious breathing is certainly healthy, and controlling your nervous system will reduce anxiety, which may help with the cause of unhealthy eating patterns. I’m not sure that it is fitness per se, but I think that mental health fitness is possibly as important as physical fitness.
Do I have to change my lifestyle?
Well, the great news is that if you’re into yoga, you can carry on your lifestyle exactly as it is – you won’t turn into a kombucha-drinking kale-loving vegan overnight. So if you like your life exactly the way it is, you just want a less painful back and perhaps want to sleep better and manage your anxiety better – that’s just great – there is no need to change anything about yourself now you’ve taken up regular yoga.
But, what I’ve experienced, and what a lot of yogis seem to experience, is that when you start to practice yoga over a course of years, say, you just feel, very naturally like doing certain things differently. For example, with a very regular and quite deep yoga practice, you may feel somehow more connected to nature, to others, than you ever have been. It’s a bizarre thing that you might start to acknowledge fewer differences in the other since you start doing yoga.
Now I’m no sage or spiritual guru, I’ve no idea why this is, or how it happens. But this very specific breathing, moving and meditation classes just seem to wake up feelings in me that we are all not separate, in fact, we are all on planet earth together.
So does this change your lifestyle? Well, this realisation may well do. Because if we’re all connected, all together in this, it makes no sense to harm anyone or anything else, because you’re harming yourself. I suppose this is why some yogis are vegan eco-warriors. But fear not, it’s not mandatory, and yes, yoga is a philosophy, but more than that, it’s a felt experience. The feeling of yoga is just something that may, or may not change your life, you’ll just have to practice and see!
So how do I go about losing weight?
Well, if you’re one of those in the paragraph above, you feel more connected to the planet, and you become a vegetarian or vegan, you eat mostly organic vegetables and don’t eat things that harm the planet, chances are you’ll eat fewer things that are wrapped in plastic and more things that have been freshly pulled from the earth.
In my absolutely non-nutritionist and simplistic minded way, I’d say that if now you’re moving more, you’re moving consciously, you’re starting to do everything in your life a little more consciously, including your eating. And if you’re eating mindfully, only when you’re hungry and only things that make you and others feel good, chances are you’ll be eating less in general and eating more plants in particular.
It’s hard to put on weight by just eating plants (although not impossible, my first trip to India as a vegetarian resulted in weight gain just because I LOVE curry that much I just couldn’t say no!!). So it’s no hard and fast rule, but if you become a friend of your body rather than an enemy, if no food is a ‘sin’, but every food is a pleasure if you are connected to what and how you eat, it may be easier to control your weight.
So it’s no hard and fast rule, but if you become a friend of your body rather than an enemy, if no food is a ‘sin’, but every food is a pleasure if you are connected to what and how you eat, it may be easier to control your weight.
I do hope you take this blog as it’s intended, simply my non-dogmatic thoughts. If you have other thoughts, ideas and experiences of yoga, food, weight-loss and fitness, let us know in the comments section below!
hi Kat, I just wanted to say that your comment about what constitutes a ‘bikini body’ is one of the best I’ve read in a long time! Funny but true, I will definitely remind myself of it more than once this year!
So glad to hear you enjoyed the article and yes do remind yourself more than once a year. Lets celebrate our uniqueness x
How wise, real and utterly lovely. We are all so fortunate that you have this wonderful passion. I was feeling low this morning and in pain, and now my whole focus is diffferent.
This is exactly why Kat started this movement, to share how she has healed herself through pain. We are so glad to hear you’ve felt the effects of your practice. x
Interesting article, pity it hasn’t been proof read as much of it is duplicated.
Thanks for your thoughts. We like to make sure the message gets through and it can help to emphasise a point in a few different ways. Glad you found the article of interest. x