Yoga has long been recognized as a path to greater peace. Now this ancient premise gets modern proof with research revealing a drop in levels of the stress hormone cortisol after just one yoga session. While cortisol levels have been linked to increased abdominal fat, the claim that yoga can aid weight management has remained mostly anecdotal…until now.
A Seattle study, involving over 15,000 subjects, found that yoga practice helps check middle age spread. Overweight subjects who did yoga at least once a week over the course of a decade lost eight pounds – while their non-yoga practicing peers gainedan average of fourteen pounds during the same time period. This result bolstered findings from a previous, smaller University of Pittsburgh study of 59 obese women who lost more weight (an average of 27 pounds) after four months of yoga, walking and a low-fat diet than those who did strength training or just walking alone.
While this research should encourage you to incorporate yoga into your exercise routine, it doesn’t mean that ‘Downward Dog’ is all you need to do to stay fit. Researchers from Texas State University found that while some of the more vigorous moves, like Sun Salutations, burn up to 4 calories a minute (the equivalent of a brisk walk), most yoga disciplines fall short of delivering the overall cardio benefits you’ll get from traditional aerobic exercise (e.g. biking, jogging, swimming, etc.). Your best bet is to strive for a varied regimen that will yield the full range of fitness benefits: endurance, strength and flexibility.
Bonus: Yoga might even help you rest easier. Participants in an eight week Harvard Medical School study, who did yoga for 30-45 minutes a day, fell asleep 30% faster and woke 35% less than the control group. So greet the day with yoga to find yourself saying “namaste” at night.
Published October 24, 2005