As any dieter can tell you, not all weight-loss plans are the same. And what works for one person may not help another at all.
For example, some dieters choose a high-protein, low-carbohydrate program. Others find success with a combination of adrenal and hormonal therapies plus a sensible diet. Some even respond best to moderate diet adjustments coupled with regular fitness training and behavioral therapy.
All these methods present valid ways to lose weight. Sometimes, though, the problem lies in keeping an optimum weight long term.
To better regulate weight loss and keep a healthy weight over time, many people choose yoga, meditation, or—most often—both practices together.
Why Yoga and Meditation?
If you ask a typical gym-goer for an opinion about yoga and meditation, you might get a response such as "Oh, yoga is just glorified stretching." Or, "Yoga doesn't burn any calories, really. And isn't meditation about chanting and listening to New-Age music?"
Unsurprisingly, most people don't fully understand yoga and meditation as healthful practices, much less as weight-loss aids. If you find yourself skeptical about either yoga or meditation, you might just be surprised by their role in weight loss and maintenance.
Yoga and Meditation Basics
To better understand how these forms of exercise benefit weight loss, read on.
1. Yoga Works the Whole Body
Even a beginning yoga class or video raises body temperature and targets multiple muscles. As a practice, yoga helps each person at his or her own capacity, but yoga is also harder than it looks. Expect to sweat and work hard. Worry less about expended calories. Yoga has a different focus.
As you concentrate on the look and feel of each move, and as you learn to breathe deeply alongside each pose, you train muscles to tone and strengthen. The stronger the muscles, the better their fat-burning capacity.
2. Yoga Adapts to Each Person's Capacity
Most weight-loss clients, particularly medically obese patients, face common frustrations, such as low energy. Carrying around excess weight exhausts both the body and spirit.
Fortunately, yoga helps each person move at his or her own pace. Participants start off minimally, and then they can hold yoga moves longer as their bodies adapt.
Also, gradual improvement is a hallmark of most yoga programs. Typically, each person goes as close to his or her physical limits as possible, but never too far. The most positive results come even when participants don't try too hard.
3. Yoga Incorporates Non-Judgmental Thinking
Because yoga originated in the Far East, Eastern practices such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism naturally factor into yoga's holistic methods. Some Indian religions still include yoga as part of their religious devotions.
However, in America, yoga practitioners may see a spiritual component, but the real focus is whole-body/mind connection. Participants are encouraged to accept their bodies as they are. If yoga combines with meditation, practitioners also spend time calming their mind while they build muscle stamina and balance.
For these reasons, most yoga devotees enjoy their exercise more and feel more calm and renewed after each session. Tranquil, accepting minds translate to less stress eating and a greater feel of self-control.
4. Meditation Helps Participants Feel "Present" in Their Weight Loss Journey
Most people today go from one activity to the next without thinking. The same is true for overeaters, because it is easy to eat without any conscious thought. This state is known as a "mindless" state. By contrast, meditation helps participants feel "mindful" and present in their own lives.
Meditation also allows practitioners to breathe deeply, slow the mind and blood pressure, and allow thoughts to flow through the mind without judgment.
At first, the brain floods with negative thoughts, poor body images, hurtful statements from the past, and sadness. As each person learns how to allow the thoughts to surface without criticism (as though each participant views themselves from the outside), he or she can let thoughts exit the mind as soon as they pop up.
As each person practices non-judgment of thoughts, feelings, and body, he or she begins to feel calm and capable—even powerful—throughout the weight-loss process.
5. Meditation Relieves Stress, High-Blood Pressure, and Other Weight-Related Symptoms
As meditation practitioners learn more about low (diaphragmatic) breathing, they clear their emotional core of negative thoughts and feelings associated with overeating, dieting, exercise, and other roadblocks to effective weight loss.
On some level, meditation may be as effective as regenerative sleep in lowering stress hormones, blood pressure, back pain, and other illnesses. During a consistent meditation regimen, participants report fewer aches and pains, fewer cravings, and a greater sense of well-being, even during the ups and downs of weight loss.
As you open your mind to the idea of yoga and meditation, you allow a greater capacity for weight loss and well-being to enter. Talk to your weight-loss specialist about the benefits of including yoga and meditation in your weight-loss goals.