Millions of Americans are working extremely hard to lose the weight they’ve gained in middle age. Thankfully, there is an enjoyable way to prevent needing to join in this crazy rush to lose those extra pounds.
According to a study published by Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, people of middle age who participate in a regular yoga practice are less likely to put on pounds in mid-life compared with those who do not practice yoga at all. Alan Kristal, co-author of the study could not fully explain how practicing yoga helped people avoid weight gain because, “Except for very strenuous yoga practices, you don’t really burn enough energy to make any difference in terms of weight.”
In contrast to the highly sought after mega-calorie burning, sweat inducing, weight management benefits of vigorous exercise, yoga offers indirect ways to help you avoid weight gain, and the following explains why.
Yoga induces feelings of well-being
Yoga boosts brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, which are responsible for inducing feelings of contentment. The same thing happens in the brain after eating a bowl full of high calorie carbohydrates. Therefore, practicing yoga can take the place of pigging out on pasta to experience those same feel-good sensations, reducing the number of excess calories consumed.
Yoga suppresses the stress response
Many of us have heard about cortisol, the body’s stress hormone that is secreted by the adrenal glands during times of physical or psychological stress. As this hormone can be helpful when we need an extra boost of energy during an emergency (it mobilizes fat and carbohydrates for quick utilization), too much of it can promote weight gain. In addition to the havoc stress can wreak on our state of metabolic balance, it can also cause us to overeat. The vicious cycle of stress-eating, then feeling calm, and then stressing out again because we’ve consumed an entire pan of pecan brownies is stopped by, guess what? Practicing yoga!
Yoga improves self-esteem
People who practice yoga are more aware of their own negative self-talk, mental irritability and emotional reactivity. Being aware is the first step in letting go of bad habits and becoming better at learning how to deal with stress in healthy ways. When you can demonstrate an ability to calm yourself naturally without the help of food, drugs or alcohol, you tend to feel more empowered. Empowered people take better care of their health because they do no wrestle with a list of excuses that impede their good intentions.