The Mayo Clinic suggests 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity. Aerobic activity is achieved when you reach a heart rate that is 65% to 85% of your maximum heart rate. WebMD has a nifty calculator here.
Can yoga get our hearts pumping enough for weight loss?
A friend of mine recently went to power yoga (a vigorous style of yoga) and used a heart rate monitor throughout the class. She was very mindful of pushing herself a bit further than normal in hopes of making her favorite class into the aerobic workout she wants it to be. Though the class was certainly filled with power, the data from the heart rate monitor showed that she never reached her target heart rate.
While yoga is an excellent way to relieve stress and calm the mind, is it enough to help in the battle of weight loss? My friend’s experiment suggests it’s not, however there are a number of other benefits that come from a yoga practice that make it an excellent companion to aerobic exercise for those looking to shed some pounds.
4 ways yoga helps us lose weight
1.) Mindful eating
One of yoga’s main benefits is its ability to cultivate awareness. Through our practice we become more conscious of our environment, our actions, and our habits, and this includes our eating habits. We begin to notice how we feel after eating certain foods, and we become curious about the effects of nutrition on the body. The practice of yoga encourages us to have a more plant-based diet and to cut down on processed foods, two actions that lead to healthier eating and better overall health.
2.) Breathe deep
When was the last time you took a full complete breath where your inhale causes your belly, ribs, and chest to fully expand and the your exhale causes all of those areas to fully retract? We don’t spend a lot of our day taking full complete breaths because our bodies don’t always need them to survive. Yoga encourages a daily practice of full complete breathing for at least a few minutes a day as a stress reliever and a mind clearer. Like mindful eating, this action of full complete breathing encourages us to reflect on how the breath nourishes our bodies.
3.) Build strength in all of the major muscle groups
Though even a power yoga class didn’t get my friend’s heart pumping in the way that she wanted, her muscles certainly got a workout similar to what she would have achieved in a weight room. Yoga works all of the major muscle groups, whether it’s a class that flows quickly from one posture to the other or it’s a class that holds certain postures for an extended period of time. Using the body’s own weight as resistance, yoga tones, strengthens, and lengthens, as well as improves posture.
4.) Personal empowerment
Above all, yoga reminds us that we have the ability and responsibility to take good care ourselves. The philosophy of yoga begins by making a link between the individual and the greater world. You can best serve others when you are in the best shape possible. You need to love who you are before you can truly love others. That idea is a powerful reminder for everyone, whether they want to lose weight or not.
Though yoga may not be the aerobic exercise you’re looking for in a weight loss plan, the benefits of mindful eating, deep breathing, strength building, and personal empowerment are powerful partners along the path. The goal of personal wellness has many facets and yoga certainly helps us to thrive in a wide variety of ways.
Christa Avampato is a product developer, freelance writer, and yoga and meditation teacher based in New York City. She blogs daily about the art of creative living at Christa In New York: Curating a Creative Life and is a health advisor for Good Greens, a gluten-free protein bar.