If you think only power or vinyasa yoga is good for weight loss and never try restorative yoga, a new study just might change your mind.
Researchers divided a group of overweight women into two, having one take regular restorative yoga classes and the other participate in stretching sessions. Both groups practiced twice a week for the first 12 weeks, then twice a month for six months, and finally were asked to continue practicing once per month on their own time for three months.
According to the American Journal of Managed Care, the study defined restorative yoga as yoga that “does not feature flowing body movements or challenging balance poses…the postures focus on relaxation and stress reduction…poses are often performed in a reclined or seated position, with limbs and parts of the torso supported by blankets, pillows, or padded bolsters...Poses are held much longer than in other styles of yoga...[m]easured breathing is emphasized, and many commercial classes feature meditative music.” And this group of women lost significantly more subcutaneous fat (the kind directly under your skin) than the stretching group did and kept it off longer. [Tweet this fact!]
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It's widely known that regular yoga can help reduce stress, which in turn slows the production of cortisol, the hormone responsible for that stubborn, hard-to-lose belly fat. In my opinion, yoga on any level, including restorative, allows people to slow down and connect to themselves, which changes the way people think. When you take time to focus on your breath and make the choice to connect to you—rather than the Internet or anything external—health becomes an inside job, and you become more aware of how every choice you make affects your daily life. This practice can impact the way you respond to people and situations, as well as your food choices and many other things.
This is not to say that restorative yoga should replace all physical activity, but it can be a great tool when used in conjunction with a more rigorous routine and is a wonderful entry point for those such as the obese or recently injured who may find more physically demanding yoga to be a barrier. It's a wonderful way to begin your weight-loss journey by getting healthier one breath at a time.
Want to give restorative yoga a try? Check out some of these relaxing yoga poses.