I had a student last week ask me if yoga can help you lose weight. Well, sure, but maybe not in the typical way we look at weight loss.
Yoga asana burns some calories, builds muscle, calms the nervous system and helps us live in a rest/digest mode rather than fight/flight mode. But more important for weight loss, I believe yoga helps us look deeply and compassionately at ourselves and see patterns of behavior that are helpful and hurtful to us.
As we grow in our practice, we naturally desire to take better care of ourselves. We make better choices about what we eat, what we think, what we consume (movies, books, news), who we hang out with, getting good sleep. If we have used food as an emotional or mental crutch, we start to make behavioral changes and begin to use food solely for fuel/medicine. When we are anxious or stressed or depressed or lonely or angry, rather than use food to stuff the emotions, we allow the emotions to move through us and out of us. Rather than over eating junk food, we take a walk, garden, meditate to alleviate our mental health issues.
Obviously, if someone has a deeply engrained pattern of overeating, this change takes a lot of time and effort – and much self-compassion along the ride.
So, yes, yoga helps with weight loss because it helps us slow down, live in the present moment, and connects us to the part of ourselves that has an insatiable desire to live and feel well! We feel our best when we are at an appropriate weight for our body and lifestyle. We feel well when we eat real food and build a diet that works for our individual constitution.