Yoga has long been associated with stress reduction and increased flexibility, but not everyone realizes that yoga can also help them lose weight, lower their cholesterol, and eliminate harmful toxins. Yoga practitioners can even learn how to control their cravings for unhealthy foods.
Yoga is one of the most holistic activities there is, focusing on mind, body, and spirit. When done properly, the benefits are endless. It can ease your anxiety, improve your coordination, strength, and posture, and help you lose pounds and inches. That’s because it combines deep breathing, relaxing meditation, and limbering poses.
Breathe Deeply, Burn Fat
When you breathe deeply and consciously – instead of taking short, shallow breaths – you not only feel more relaxed, you burn more calories. Studies have shown that regular deep breathing burns up to 140% more calories than riding a stationary bike! (Of course, breathing deeply won’t help you lose weight if you’re also inhaling cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, sodas, and packaged meals. Eating a vegetarian diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in sugar and processed foods is also essential for weight loss and maintenance.)
To lose the most weight, practice Bikram yoga, which is a mix of low-key twisting poses and cardio exercises performed in a room where the temperature has been raised higher than 100 degrees, or Ashtanga Yoga, which combines complex yoga poses with deep breathing techniques.
The twisting poses stimulate your internal organs, which in turn boosts your metabolism, helping you to lose weight. And because Bikram yoga is practiced in such hot temperatures, your body sweats out toxins, which also helps you to shed pounds. Yoga also reduces stress hormones and increases insulin sensitivity, so your body kicks into a fat-burning mode and burns food as fuel rather than storing it as fat.
Doing just one session of yoga will help tighten your muscles and improve your posture, making you look and feel five pounds leaner. The more you practice yoga, the more patience and self control you learn. As you become more disciplined, you become better able to ignore cravings for unhealthy food, which is a key component of any effective weight loss program.
Inverted Yoga-Decreased Cholesterol
You can control your cholesterol and blood pressure by doing yoga and eating plant-based foods (meat, eggs, and dairy products are the only dietary sources of cholesterol.) When you practice inverted yoga poses, including the plough pose, the headstand, and the crane pose, your legs and abdomen are higher than your heart, which increases your circulation and allows blood to flow throughout your body. Inverted yoga poses not only improve your cardiovascular health, they stimulate your brain and glandular system, and relieve pressure on your abdominal organs. Another type of yoga, known as integrative yoga therapy, is sometimes used to alleviate certain medical conditions, including clinical depression, asthma, back pain, arthritis, and even insomnia and multiple sclerosis.
Karmic Benefits of Yoga
While yoga undoubtedly has many physical benefits, it can also be good for your soul. One of the main tenants of yoga is ahimsa, a Sanskrit term meaning to do no harm to any living being. It is one of the reasons why serious yoga practitioners advocate a total vegetarian diet. Sharon Gannon, a founder of Jivamukti, one of the best known yoga centers in the U.S., has even produced a video on the philosophical connection between yoga and vegetarianism.
There’s virtually no limit to what yoga can do for your body and your spirit. You are never too out of shape to take up yoga. In other words, “Never too late, never too old, never too bad and never too sick to do this yoga and start from scratch again,” says Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram yoga. If you’ve been struggling to lose weight, eat healthily, and improve your strength, posture, and flexibility, fitting yoga into your lifestyle is a wise and healthy choice.
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