Yoga is a combination of breathing exercises, physical postures, and meditation that has been practiced for more than 5,000 years. What sets it apart from similar exercises like stretching or calisthenics is the deep and distinct connection with your breathing.

Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that regular yoga practice helps prevent middle-age spread in people of healthy weight and promotes weight loss in those who are overweight. By filling out a questionnaire, participants determined when they were eating while distracted, eating despite already being full, or using food to mask emotional distress. All of the participants were physically active, one group following regimens that included walking for at least 90 minutes per week, and one group that regularly practiced yoga. The scientists found that a consistent yoga practice was strongly associated with mindful eating. The research showed that the people who ate mindfully were able to stop eating when they were full, and were less likely to be emotional eaters. The yoga practitioners also weighed less, had lower body mass indexes, and were less likely to be obese.

Several studies have confirmed yoga's beneficial effect on weight loss by reducing stress, fatigue, and anxiety, common precursors to emotional eating. Scientists at the New York Medical Center, the University of California, and the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons found that yoga could be beneficial in:

  • eliminating fatigue
  • boosting stress tolerance
  • decreasing anxiety
  • treating PTSD symptoms
  • alleviating depression
  • treating stress-related medical illnesses
  • helping to stop substance abuse
  • rehabilitating criminal offenders
  • boosting mood
  • improving mental attention, focus, and clarity
  • improving overall well-being

Yoga Styles

There are many different styles of yoga being taught and practiced today. Although all of the styles are based on the same physical postures, called poses, each has a particular emphasis. Here is a quick guide to some of the most popular types of yoga that can help you decide which class is right for you.

1. Hatha Yoga

Hatha is a very general term that can encompass many types of yoga. If a class is described as Hatha style, it is probably going to be slow-paced and gentle and provide a good introduction to the basic yoga poses.

2. Vinyasa Yoga

Vinyasa is also a general term used to describe several different types of yoga practices. Vinyasa, which translates to “breath-synchronized movement”, is a more vigorous style based on the performance of a series of poses called Sun Salutations, in which your movement corresponds your breathing. A Vinyasa class will typically start with Sun Salutations to warm up the body for the more intense stretching done at the end of class.

3. Ashtanga and Power Yoga

Ashtanga, which means "eight limbs" in Sanskrit, is a fast-paced, intense style of yoga. A series of poses are performed, always in the same order. Ashtanga practice is very physically demanding because of the constant movement from one pose to the next. In yoga terminology, this movement is called flow. Ashtanga is also the inspiration for what is known as Power Yoga. If a class is described as Power Yoga, it will be based on the flowing style of Ashtanga, but won't necessarily keep strictly to the Ashtanga series of poses.

4. Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar yoga is based on the teachings of the yogi B.K.S Iyengar. It is mainly deals with bodily alignment. In yoga, the word alignment is used to describe the precise way in which your body should be positioned in each pose to obtain the maximum benefits and avoid injury. Iyengar practice often emphasizes holding poses for long periods of time. Iyengar practice also encourages the use of props, such as yoga blankets, blocks and straps, in order to bring the body into alignment.

5. Bikram and Hot Yoga

Pioneered by Bikram Choudhury, this style is more generally referred to as Hot Yoga. It is practiced in a 95 to 100 degree room, which allows for a loosening of tight muscles and profuse sweating, which is thought to be cleansing. The Bikram method is a set series of 26 poses, but not all hot classes make use of this series.

Making Yoga Work for You

Here are some yoga tips to keep in mind if you are a beginner:

  1. Practice in a room without mirrors, and focus on your experience, not your performance.
  2. Focus on the sensation of movement.
  3. When your body feels challenged, but not overwhelmed, keep an open, accepting state of mind.
  4. Give yourself permission to rest when you're tired.
  5. Combine your yoga session with positive self-talk, and appreciate your effort.
  6. Be consistent, whether you attend a class or practice at home.
  7. Recognize that you are working on your body as well as your mind, to develop patience, discipline, wisdom, kindness and gratitude.
  8. Look for a teacher (in a class or on video) who inspires you to practice.
  9. Buying a yoga DVD or attending a class is a step toward creating a better you.
  10. Realize your efforts are not just inspiring you, but also inspiring others.

Regular practice of yoga can have a monumental effect on your mental and physical well-being. You know know the Truth About Yoga for Weight Loss. Start today to experience more flexibility, a healthier body, and a new outlook on life.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Locklear is a researcher and consultant with 30 years experience, studying health, nutrition, and human behavior. He has been president of the Global Peace Project since 1986, and he administrates the website as part of the Global Peace Project Educational Outreach Program. You can also find him on The Total Health Blog.