Yoga is a form of physical and mental exercise that has been around for more than 5,000 years. One of the main goals of yoga is to help people find a more balanced and peaceful state of mind and body. Various styles of yoga typically combine physical postures, breathing techniques and meditation or relaxation. Some styles are more physically strenuous and require greater strength and stamina.
Yoga is made up of a series of physical postures or poses called “asanas.” There are 84 classic asanas in yoga and many more variations on them. Asana practice is generally intended to build strength, improve flexibility, coordination and balance and relax the body. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), studies have suggested possible benefits of yoga for several aspects of wellness, including stress management, mental and emotional health, promoting healthy eating habits, sleep and balance. Yoga is also recommended for first-line treatment of chronic low-back pain by the American College of Physicians. People who practice yoga report feeling a deeply relaxed and rejuvenated state of mind and body after their practice. For six yoga poses to try, check out Shake Off Some Stress With Yoga.
Can You Lose Weight Practicing Yoga?
With obesity rates on the rise, weight loss techniques are everywhere. Most are focused on dietary changes and increasing exercise. But what about practicing yoga? Clinical trials conducted by NIH revealed that yoga has improved a number of obesity-related outcomes including body mass index, body weight, body fat and waist circumference. Also, yoga interventions have been shown to reduce binge eating and preoccupation with food.
People who practice yoga report feeling a deeply relaxed and rejuvenated state of mind and body after their practice.
Additional findings suggest that yoga may offer diverse psychological, physical and social effects that may make it a useful tool for healthy, sustained weight loss. The study participants reported less stress eating, reduced appetite, fewer cravings and a shift toward healthier, more mindful eating. Yoga provided them with social support and healthy role models. Their yoga practice led to physical and psychological changes that supported weight loss including increased muscle tone, improved metabolism, reduced stress, increased awareness, improved mood and self-esteem. Not only did they report easier weight loss than their past attempts, but they also felt more confident in their ability to maintain lasting weight loss.
Yoga for Veterans
Yoga is one of the evidence-based complementary and integrative health approaches within the Veterans Health Administration Whole Health System of care, which is included in the Veteran’s medical benefits package. Some VA Medical Centers offer yoga classes and some of those classes are focused on certain conditions like pain or post-traumatic stress disorder.
VA’s publication, An Introduction to Yoga for Whole Health, is a great introduction to yoga for Veterans. It provides some history, highlights the benefits and provides many resources where Veterans can go to begin their yoga practice.
Yoga Is Beginner Friendly
Yoga can be adapted for people of all abilities and can even be practiced while sitting in a chair. Look for a beginner class or one that includes all levels. No matter your level of physical fitness, you can start practicing yoga by doing the best you can. With time and patience, your body and mind will learn this new “language” and begin to flow through the process.