If promoting weight loss is your goal, evening is not the time to whip out the hot yoga towel and work yourself into a fight-or-flight yoga frenzy. Evening yoga is a time to prepare your body to rest and digest so that you can effectively assimilate both the food and activities of the day. A gentle yoga practice stimulates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, nicknamed the “rest and digest” system, and in doing so prepares the mind and body for sleep, a valuable link to weight loss. Evening yoga trains your mind and body to mindfully rest, digest, regulate stress and mood and gradually release excess weight.
Get Your Mindfulness On
Yoga practitioner and medical researcher Alan Kristal found that, because yoga promotes mindfulness, it helps practitioners become more aware of what they eat and how it feels to be full. Kristal’s research demonstrates that yoga increases mindfulness in eating and leads to weight loss over time. Key to Kristal’s research, and to any weight loss program, is consistent practice. When a simple evening yoga practice isn’t time intensive, it can easily become a nightly ritual and fundamental as brushing your teeth. The key for evening practice is to move slowly, breathe deeply and avoid postures, such as back bends or arm balances, that stimulate the mind in order to prepare yourself for sleep.
The stress of losing weight can have the opposite of the intended effect on your body if anxiety or increased activity levels start to cut into your sleep time. Sleep specialist Dr. Michael J. Breus has examined the link between lack of sleep and weight gain. Breus says that weight loss can have more to do with how well you sleep rather than how many calories are burned throughout the day. The calories burned during a yoga practice, even a vigorous power or vinyasa class, pale in comparison with high-impact cardiovascular activities such as running, swimming or cycling. Set aside the urge to burn calories and approach your evening yoga practice as an opportunity to wind down. Incorporate standing and then seated forward folds and hold the postures for a longer period, eight to 10 breaths or even several minutes, to most powerfully stimulate the body’s rest and digestion capacities.
Restore and Regulate
Yoga is an effective tool for weight loss because it helps to balance the harmful effects of a stressful lifestyle by stabilizing mood and aiding the body’s ability to cope with stress. Science writer and yoga practitioner William Broad says that yoga actually tends to slow down metabolism, but it does produce important neurotransmitters that are essential for mood control and regulation. Yoga also alleviates stress. A restorative yoga practice is particularly effective for managing abdominal fat, because abdominal fat is irrevocably linked to stress. A restorative yoga practice is a structured method of relaxation. Yoga can be an effective tool for managing stress. Yoga can even help to regulate chronic weight problems associated as revealed by health researcher and yoga practitioner Kim Innes’s research on yoga and metabolic syndrome. Power up your body’s ability to relax by using a yoga bolster if available or any large cushions you have in your house, to support your body in seated forward folds.
Effective digestion is an important component of weight loss and over all health. Dr. R. Nagarathna describes in his book, "Yoga for Digestive Disorders," how yoga can help to align the digestive system. He says the digestive system is one of the first places where stress manifests. Because yoga’s postures and deep relaxation techniques are so effective for helping the body to manage and regulate stress, digestion can be improved and many digestive issues can be alleviated through a yoga practice. Any yoga practice can aid digestion by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, but twists can be particularly effective by massaging the digestive organs. Incorporate gentle supine twists into your evening yoga routine to more directly stimulate digestion.
- Science Daily: Regular Yoga Practice is Associated with Mindful Eating
- NPR: The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards
- Yoga Journal: Metabolic Makeover
- Yoga for Digestive Disorders; Dr. R. Nagarathna
Eileen Pfefferle covers art, literature, language, culture, nutrition and yoga. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish from the University of Wyoming. Pfefferle is a registered yoga instructor with a specialization in children's yoga.