October 30, 2013

Slim Down and Stay in Shape with Yoga

Yoga is a Hindu discipline that consists of a system of exercises designed to improve physical and mental health. In the latest 2012 Yoga in America study released by the Yoga Journal, more than 20.4 million Americans practice yoga today, compared to 15.8 million who stated they practiced in a study performed in 2008. Yoga provides a gentle approach to cardiovascular exercise for beginners, greatly benefiting those who are overweight, sedentary or post-menopausal. Best of all, you can obtain these health advantages in your spare time without having to purchase any special equipment.

Photo by Flickr user RelaxingMusic
Cardiovascular Health
Stretching your body into various poses works tense muscles and forces your heart to pump harder throughout your entire body. Certain styles of yoga, such as pranayama, utilize deep breathing techniques which can also boost circulation. Good health begins with a strong cardiovascular system. Practicing yoga can lower your blood pressure, bad cholesterol, blood glucose, triglycerides and your resting heart rate. The American Heart Association recommends getting the equivalent of 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise each week to benefit your heart, lungs and circulation.
Stress Reduction
Yoga minimizes stress in multiple ways by releasing endorphins and lowering your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. A combination of deep breathing techniques, soothing stretches and gentle meditation methods help to calm emotions and relax overworked muscles. When less stressed, you’re also less likely to indulge in comfort foods, helping you to better control weight loss. According to a study performed by researchers at the University of California, just 12 minutes of yoga a day for eight weeks led to a reduction in biological mechanisms responsible for bodily stress.
Fight Against Obesity
More than one-third (35.7 percent) of the adult population in the United States is obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yoga has been proven to help fight against obesity by making people more aware of their bad habits and by reducing certain conditions that aid in weight gain, such as stress and depression. When practiced three to five times per week for 90 minutes, certain types of yoga such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa or Vigorous Power yoga can produce weight loss, according to the Yoga Health Foundation.
Burn Calories
Practicing yoga can influence weight loss, but not in the “traditional” way that we relate physical activity to weight loss. Yoga burns fewer calories than most traditional types of fitness, such as jogging or brisk walking. Yoga can, however, help the mind to become more aware of what foods are being consumed, thus helping you make better choices. In a study performed at Texas State University that measured the metabolic rate of individuals taking a beginner yoga class, the rate of calories burned was 2.3 to 3.2 calories per minute, which equates to 104 to 144 calories during a routine yoga class.
How Often To Do Yoga
If you are new to yoga, expert Cyndi Lee of Yoga Journal suggests practicing two to three times a week for an hour or an hour and a half each time. Since yoga is very low impact, it’s best to combine it with more intense physical activities if you want to lose weight faster. Fat-burning activities include running, cross-country skiing, elliptical training, bicycling, swimming and the use of indoor cardio exercises like those seen on Gaiam TV. These high-energy video workouts incorporate a wide range of activities so you’ll never get bored, including yoga, Pilates, cardio and strength training.

Jesse is a New York native getting his master's degree in health care administration.

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