Yoga Can Break the Cycle of Overeating

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Sure, yoga is good for your health. It can alleviate back pain and stress, help you sleep better, increase your flexibility and help you build confidence in yourself. Yoga can even help you learn to accept your body.

Now, research shows that yoga can also help you learn to recognize when enough is enough, thus preventing weight gain and aiding in weight loss.

While some forms of yoga (Bikram or hot yoga and Ashtanga or power yoga) can burn up to 500 calories an hour, most gentle or restorative classes don't get your heart rate up high enough to qualify as cardio (aerobic) exercise. So how does yoga help lead to weight loss?

Certainly any physical activity is beneficial when you're trying to lose weight or stave off weight gain. But the key to yoga's benefit is in the mind, not the body. Yoga teaches us to reconnect with our bodies, inside and out. By slowing down and focusing on our bodies, we have increased body awareness. In turn, this can mean that intuitive or mindful eating becomes more natural.

According to Science Daily:

"The study was prompted by initial findings reported four years ago by Alan Kristal, Dr.P.H., and colleagues, who found that regular yoga practice may help prevent middle-age spread in normal-weight people and may promote weight loss in those who are overweight. At the time, the researchers suspected that the weight-loss effect had more to do with increased body awareness, specifically a sensitivity to hunger and satiety than the physical activity of yoga practice itself.

"The follow-up study, published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, confirms their initial hunch.

"In our earlier study, we found that middle-age people who practice yoga gained less weight over a 10-year period than those who did not. This was independent of physical activity and dietary patterns. We hypothesized that mindfulness a skill learned either directly or indirectly through yoga could affect eating behavior," said Kristal, associate head of the Cancer Prevention Program in the Public Health Sciences Division at the Hutchinson Center.

The researchers found that people who ate mindfully those were aware of why they ate and stopped eating when full weighed less than those who ate mindlessly, who ate when not hungry or in response to anxiety or depression. The researchers also found a strong association between yoga practice and mindful eating but found no association between other types of physical activity, such as walking or running, and mindful eating."

Yoga teaches us to respect our bodies and practice moderation in life. Stopping when we've had enough food falls in line with that mindset.
It's interesting to note that a similar increase in mindful eating was not noted in people who practiced other forms of physical activity regularly, even though those other forms of activity likely burned far more calories than yoga did.

Does that mean that yoga is the only physical activity that we need in life? Does it mean that a few downward-facing dogs a day are sufficient exercise? For most of us, probably not. I use yoga as a supplement to my other physical activities: primarily Spinning, running, and walking. My practice is a complement to the other exercise I get, and I think of it as a Spinning class for my mind. It just helps me feel focused and happy.

Regardless of what other activity you participate in, adding some yoga (as long as you have clearance from your health-care provider) can help you reconnect your body--your stomach in particular--and your brain.

Something I noticed when I started practicing yoga regularly is that the more often I practice, the less susceptible I am to snacking and late-night eating (two bad habits of mine!). If I know I have a class after work, I choose my afternoon snack more carefully, knowing that too much food make all those folds and twists mighty uncomfortable. And when I get home from class, even though I'm tired and ready for dinner, my appetite isn't as voracious as if I had gone for a run.

Learn more about mindful eating in this article.

Have you experienced this side effect of yoga? Do you try to practice mindful eating? Would you be willing to give yoga a try?

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I've considered yoga but haven't seriously tried it. I'd like to try Bikram if I can find a class. If it will improve my appetite, I'm all for it! Report
Eh - I'm not that hot on yoga for the mental benefits - I'm just not a believer. I still do it though. It's a nice way to wake up if I only have 15-20 mins in the morning before work and can't do a run or weights. It is an integral part of my running training because it stretches my muscles out so I'm not as sore. Report
I think I need to sign up for yoga! Report
Sounds like another good reason to try yoga. I've been avoiding yoga because I'm not very flexible and that's exactly why I should be doing it! Report
Yoga does make me more mindful of my body, especially when there is too much of me to do a twist or stretch fully. It helps me to remember not to eat so much at the next meal. Report
I recently started doing some simple yoga moves, but don't follow a particular schedule or program. I noticed that I'm more focused overall and in better control of things around me (food, studies, concentration, etc.). Report
I just started going to Body Flow (a mix of yoga & pilates) & I love all of the stretching! It's much harder than one would ever expect a yoga class to be. Of course my favorite part is meditation at the end, but it really helps me to release all that has bothered me and built up in me throughout the day. I have only been to two classes so far, so I haven't seen the results of mindful eating (although I think I have a head start from making a lifestyle of trying not to binge when I'm in a bad mood). I take my step class right after Body Flow, so after a moment of rest & relaxation, I'm up and going again.

I am listening to meditation music right now at work, and it really is helping to calm my nerves. I foresee this being one of my most beneficial classes (more so for the mental aspect than the workout). Report
Well, Yoga has always been painful for me, and not being able to hear the focus or points probably did not help. I am doing Qigong now; and I wonder if it too, helps with mindful eating. How bout Tai Chi? Well, I am gonna take a second look at the DVDs available. Perhaps some will be captioned. How sweet that would be.
I have practiced Ashtanga for a few years. I have not noticed a change in my eating patterns. I most likely will not practice mindfull eating any more that what I am doing now...which is very little. I will continue to practice Ashtanga. Report
I have noticed that when I walk after work, I'm pretty hungry when I get home and tend to eat until I'm stuffed; but when I practice yoga after work, I seem to be satisfied with a nice salad. I am not saying that it has miraculously changed my eating habits or caused me to shed pounds effortlessly, but it most certainly connects my mind, body and spirit.

Another thing I have noticed is that when I am practicing yoga regularly, my posture improves. This has a real physical benefit of properly aligning the internal organs. Aside from that, good posture makes one appear slimmer. If you don't believe me, try this little experiment. Stand before a mirror so you can see yourself in profile. Hunch your shoulders forward and allow your spine to round. Check out how you look. Then, lift your shoulders up and roll them back, straightening your spine and check out how you look. Standing erect with your shoulders straight (or "un-slumped") causes your rib cage to rise and lift your chest and draws your core inward.

When I practice yoga regularly, my body remembers to stand straight and tall without me even thinking about it.

For those asking about good beginner tapes, I recommend Rodney Yee's Yoga for Abs. It is a focused program and will not give you a general overall practice or introduce you to a lot of poses, but it is very easy to follow and unless you already have 6-pack abs and a very strong core, you will feel the work the day after. I also like Suzanne Deason's Yoga for Weight Loss, which is a more general practice. I also have one by Molly Fox that I like a lot, but it is so old I don't even know if it is still available for purchase.

If you're just starting out, you might want to see if there are yoga tapes or DVDs available at your public library and check out a couple to try before you buy. You may be able to rent some from video stores or Netflix, too. I've never looked into that, but if you can do it that way it might save you the cost of buying something that doesn't work well for you.

Regardless of how you start, I urge you to give it a fair chance. Don't try it once and give up on it - or on yourself. There is likely to be a learning curve and you're not going to have the form and alignment the instructor does on your first try. Practice 2 or 3 times a week for a couple of weeks. to give it a fair chance. Report
My best friend is a certified yoga instructor, and I've finally reached the point where I'm ready to learn yogo the right way from someone who understands where my path has led me and what my physical limitations are. I'm so excited to get started!!! Report
This reminds me to continue Yoga...which I "abandoned" for Pilates a few months back. I was going every Sunday morning, and will return this Sunday. Report
I have been practicing yoga regularly and found that it definitely helps with my strength and flexibility, and helps me be calmer and more mindful throughout the day. I honestly don't know if it helps me eat less overall because I'm more mindful, because I still have a problem with emotional eating. I hope that by continuing to practice yoga it will continue to strengthen my mindfullness and help with my eating.

By the way, I got a DVD called Yoga for Beginners from and loved it. I now go to a one hour class twice a week. Report
Wow - I'm definitely going to practice more! Gaiam makes great beginner dvds by the way. Report
I am trying to get into yoga by practicing poses I see and read about. Does anyone know of a good beginner's DVD? Thanks! Report
I love yoga, but have never really done it, and now at 24 stones/153kgs or 338lbs it's nigh on impossible to do, so I practice the chakras? You know when you concentrate on your own energy points.. I was taught it last year, briefly, when de-toxing in Spain. I did manage a yoga class whilst there (after a fashion) and it made me feel wonderful, as enormous as I was and the yoga teacher was impressed with my effort (it was very hard though to do). Nevertheless I was determined to carry it on when I returned to London. Somehow it didn't happen though and I ended up putting on another 21lbs or so. It is a life threatening weight and I need to start yoga, properly. I KNOW the benefits are endless, so why don't I do it? But, I WILL. I WILL! Report
I've been trying some yoga to try to regain my balance when walking & standing. It also brings calmness into my day...... Report
I have done bikram yoga for a couple years. Ideally, 3 times a week would be great, but with my schedule right now I aim for once a week and it still is very helpful. Sweating out toxins, deep breathing, stretching, and drinking tons of water to stay hydrated are all part of it. It is physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually stimulating in its own way. I started at the age of 53. Lost 30 pounds. Lost my appetite. Craved fruit and vegetables. It was amazing. Oh and yes, if my life has had some particular stressors, I will cry as part of a release. Its ok. It just mixes with all the sweat anyway (smile) Report
My hubby just started... Ill have him watch and see if it really works. Report
I might consider trying yoga. I had gone with my mom when I was a teenager to a yoga class a couple times at the Park District. I didn't get into it much then -but I wasn't exercising like I am now -It might be worth a try again. Report
I have heard of some yoga participants crying, depending on the pose. I admit to shedding a few tears once. The room was dark so nobody saw :) Report
I have been thinking for quite some time that I'd like to try yoga. Now I feel even more motivated to seek out a class. I'm not very coordinated, but I'd like to give it a try. Report
I love doing yoga, but haven't done it regularly enough to get these benefits. It sure feels good though, it's helped my flexibilty, I love to stretch. Report
I love doing Bikram Yoga with Inhale on Oxygen on the days its on at 6am! Namaste Report
I hadn't heard about this particular benefit, but I have heard that some people who do yoga experience some crying in the beginning stages; something about the subconscious release of pent-up feelings occurring as a side effect of this type of exercise...It's supposed to have like a cleansing effect emotionally.

Has anyone heard of this as well? Report
I don't know how much Yoga helped with my eating when I was doing it regularly, but I always felt more relaxed and more centered when I did. Report
I heard Yoga makes you leaner and so I guess I need to get on board an incorporate yoga at least twice a week into my program. Report
well, I did start yoga around the same time I joined sparks, so I really don't know which has helped with losing these few extra pounds & helped with my late night snacking! But I do enjoy it. I do tend to go for more intense cardio, but yoga is a HUGE stress reliever and has helped me be more flexible. No more back or leg pain.
either way, I enjoy yoga & plan to keep practicing it! Report
I started really getting into yoga these past few months, and what a remarkable difference it has made! Before I was always stressed out, not connected with my body, and always in a rush to the next step. When I started doing yoga, however, I started paying attention to the smaller things that I took for granted such as my breath, posture, how I ate, etc. Yoga is definitely a wonderful way to become more connected with yourself and your body! Report
does anyone know of a good begginer yoga dvd ??? I also suffer with anxiety and have been interested in trying it for some time. If you could reccomend a good one, please email me ~ thanks Report
hmmmm I've yet to see any evidence of this....I do yoga 2-3 times a week, have been for years. I do plenty of overeating and have a very warped body image....I *wish* yoga could fix that!!
not that I'm bashing yoga AT ALL - it is wonderful, will keep you very limber; its calming, relaxing, and a great slow-down for this crazy life. Report
I'm actually not a Yoga fan...I've tried it a few times and I just couldn't get into it. I need something more high-energy. However, I know people who swear by Yoga. Report
4-5 times a week here! Love my yoga time! Report
I love yoga... I use it as a supplement too to my regular work-out routine. Yoga is great for getting me to relax and breathe (I have anxiety disorder), to be mindful, and to stretch my muscles and increase my flexibility. I have noticed that when I practice often, 5 or 6 days a week, it definitely aids in my weight loss and helps me keep it off. Report
Time for my yoga class! Report
This sounds great. I am planning my first yoga class tonight! Report
I heartily concur with this article, in terms of the conclusion that yoga is helpful for overall health. Does it stop my snacking/cravings? Yes, but so does most exercise. However, my regular practice of ashtanga/vinyasa/hot yoga has increased my muscular strength and shape far more than any weight workout ever did. I stand taller, am stronger, feel more graceful and confident, manage stress better, and definitely have a deeper soul connection. My instructors are incredibly fit and most of them only practice yoga. If my favourite classes were closer to my home, I would definitely consider doing the same thing. My daughters now do yoga "classes" with me in our home and it's inspiring to see these toddler girls develop flexibility and strength when they just think it's the funnest gymnastics class ever! Great to see an article like this that gives yoga the "props" it deserves! Thank you! Report
i love yoga i got a dvd and use it 3 or more time a week now.. My d.d does it on the weekend with me Report
BIBLECHICK: Do you know what article you read or have any details about the info? We constantly update the site, but as you said, some of our articles are from the past and might need revisited. Any details you can provide (send me a SparkMail) would be very helpful! Report
I tried yoga before, and I agree with the article this is a mind thing not a body thing although it can help because any type of exercise is beneficial. Report
Before even beginning a healthy eating plan, I was doing yoga. Yoga definitely makes you more "mindful" of everything you do. I would say it inspired me to begin eating better. I think it's a great activity for all levels. Report
I find this interesting, because it brought up something I hadn't considered before. Just yesterday, I was reading an article posted on SparkPeople in a different location than this part. It said somethings that are opposed to the conclusions here. Frankly, I hadn't considered the differences--in that this section tends to follow more current research and thinking, whereas some of the articles are posted some time ago and may not reflect current stats and results. Does anyone go back and review earlier articles? Do we as Sparkers need to be on the look out for things that have changed? How does one discern the differences between "trends" and "truth" when it comes to health info? Any comments? Report
I have not tried yoga before, I feel as though I do do mindful eating though. I do see how yoga could be beneficial in more ways than just decreasing your appetite or increasing your mindful eating. Report
This sounds amazing. Now I will have to add Yoga to my list for sure. Report
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