How Yoga Can Help You Get in Shape

Get in Shape With Yoga
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What does being "in shape" mean to you? Since we all have a shape that we are already in, its meaning is open to individual interpretation. For an athlete, it usually means being at peak fitness and ready for competition. For the rest of us, it can include losing weight, building muscle definition and strength, and feeling healthier. As we get older, it starts to mean being fit enough to keep up with our kids and grandkids.

 You've probably heard that yoga is great for reducing stress, increasing flexibility, and improving your overall health and sense of well-being. But can yoga help you get in shape? Most definitely.

What Kind of Yoga?

Any kind of yoga, when practiced regularly, will target your strength, flexibility, range of motion and muscle tone. If losing weight is a goal, yoga is most effective when combined with cardio and healthier eating. However, yoga also can help with weight loss in surprising ways that go beyond the balance of calories in versus calories out. A 2009 study at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center established a relationship between people who practiced yoga and more mindful eating practices as opposed to those who did other kinds of exercise. Lead researcher Alan Kristal theorizes that people who do yoga regularly are better able control their eating because they have developed the skill of listening to and respecting their bodies.

The type of yoga matters less than the consistency of the practice.

Yoga is also included in the Dean Ornish Program for Reducing Heart Disease. Interestingly, yoga is not considered part of the exercise regime prescribed by the program but rather as the cornerstone of stress management training.

Consistency Is Key

If you have never done yoga before and want to know how to start, the best thing to do is sign up for a series of beginners' classes at a yoga studio near you (ask your co-workers, relatives, and Facebook friends to recommend a good studio).

This way you'll get a solid introduction to yoga's foundation poses and establish the habit of doing yoga regularly. From there, it's important to keep going to classes as often as you can.

If you can't find a beginners' series, then commit yourself to doing yoga at least twice and preferably three times a week. You can still get some benefits from practicing less frequently, but it will be a slower process.  If you want to practice at home, that can work too but try to mix in some studio classes if you are a beginner since getting feedback from a teacher is important at first. 

While yoga is a great practice that is accessible to all (including seniors and the overweight), it is not a quick fix. It takes time and commitment to lengthen and strengthen your muscles. As you study yoga, you'll be getting in shape, but that may come to seem like a side benefit to discovering a practice that will completely change your relationship with your body while encouraging limitless development and personal growth.

Sources:

Development and Validation of the Mindful Eating Questionnaire, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 109, Issue 8, August 2009, Pages 1439-1444 Celia Framson, Alan R. Kristal, Jeannette M. Schenk, Alyson J. Littman, Steve Zeliadt, Denise Benitez

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