I came across this recent NCCIH briefing Study Sees Beneficial Role of Yoga in Weight-Loss Program for Adults With Obesity or Overweight

Historically I’ve always been cautious about recommending Yoga for Weight Loss – this is because Yoga is much more than merely a physical practice, and whilst a vigorous physical Yoga Asana practice may raise the heart rate, often Yoga practices do just the opposite slowing both our heart rate and energy expenditure down.

However in the research programme referenced in this paper, it was found that, as part of a structured weight loss programme, Yoga helped with the weight loss.  What is particularity interesting is that it seems Yoga was the only physical activity in the programme, and the weight loss was found regardless of whether a more vigorous style of Yoga was followed or a more relaxing style – classically in the latter, the relaxing style,  we would expect to see heart rate and energy consumption decrease so weight loss effects being limited.

It would have been useful to see a comparison of both Yoga and the individual Yoga styles on their own against the structured programme, because we don’t know how much the overall programme which included dietary advice and group support contributed to the weight loss.

However this certainly shows that Yoga has a part to play in an integrative weight loss programme, and that the Yoga style isn’t as important as may be thought.

I would speculate myself that, whilst activity and diet are seen as the key components of weight level, stress and psychological well-being is also an often overlooked factor, and that Yoga, especially the more relaxing style, contributed by a reduction in stress levels and a down rating of Sympathetic nervous activity with attendant downstream effects like a reduction in Cortisol and inflammation.   As part of my Yoga therapy training I investigated Yoga Therapy for Psychological Overwhelm, and in that context research also showed that the style of Yoga was less important than the manner it was taught and the group support – so its not surprising to see a similar effect here, which demonstrates that the overall programme and delivery environment are an important factor. 

Yoga Therapists are, of course, well placed to support clients on such a multi faceted journey.