October 12, 2007

Guest Post: Sara G. On Yoga

Today's Guest Post is brought to you by Sara Grace, who has a very cool blog called The Flying Trapeze. You should definitely check it out! Cranky Fitness is of the opinion that Yoga is a Good Thing, and Guest Posts are a Good Thing, so this works out well.

(Note: That is not Sara in the photo. Crabby does not mean to cause any confusion by swiping a stock image of a yoga pose.)

And now, here's Sara!

Light on Yoga: Five Benefits of Yoga for Weight Loss

If someone had told me 10 years ago that I'd be sitting here today, basking in Los Angeles sunlight, writing a blog about the virtues of yoga, I would have laughed my size-14 pants off. Yoga was for stick-thin, pretzel-bending new-age idiots who might try to read my aura if I got too close. (And while I'm at it, LA was for blondes with boob jobs, and blogs…did they even exist?)

And yet, yoga has become the single most important factor in the healthy life I live today – 40 pounds lighter, still not thin but a whole lot happier with myself. Yoga not only helped me get fit, but gave me reasons to love my body whatever size my pants were.

I encourage everyone to give yoga a try – a real try, meaning several months of classes with a real, live teacher. Or several teachers; finding the right one – in my case, one who didn't wax prolific about chakras – makes all the difference.

In case you're still skeptical, I offer some incentive: A list of five ways in which yoga will help you along your weight-loss journey.

Five Benefits of Yoga for Weight Loss

1. Yoga increases lean body mass. It builds and tones your muscles. More lean body mass means higher resting metabolism. In other words, you can eat more without gaining weight.

2. A secondary benefit of sculpting your muscles: As you see your yoga practice improving, your body toning up and becoming beautiful before your very eyes, it's hard not to marvel – and want to feed it healthy, wholesome food to allow it to function at its best.

3. Yoga has been shown in studies to reduce stress and increase beta-endorphins, one of your brain's built-in happy drugs. Besides being pretty unpleasant in itself, stress and/or depression often lead to cravings and binging. Stress has also been shown to promote belly fat storage due to elevated levels of the hormone cortisol.

4. The exercises and breathing in yoga are intended to focus the practitioner on the moment—not the past, not the future, just the sensations the body is experiencing in that moment. This mindfulness helps a yogini practice intuitive eating – that is, paying attention to hunger and eating appropriately in the moment. What you'll eat tomorrow ("when you're on your diet") stops becoming an excuse to overeat today.

5. During a class, you are your body; the Cartesian Divide slips away. Having that experience regularly makes it much harder to fall for our mind's typical rationalizations for shoveling in the junk: I've had a hard day. I'm already fat anyway. I'll work it off at the gym. With the regular practice of yoga, all those thoughts just start to sound like chatter. You learn to sit still, take a deep breath, and let them float on by.


  1. Excellent post, Sara.
    I do a few yoga stretches every morning. It's made quite a difference. I'm more aware of my body and I can reach stuff in the
    middle cupboard without standing on tiptoe.

  2. Great post, Sara! I really need to get back into yoga. I got so much out of it when it was a regular part of my life.

    Thanks, Crabby, for having Sara as a guest blogger!

  3. I used to hate yoga, it was nothing like the sweaty gut it out feeling of running, so I just couldn't see the use. But in the last year, I decided I needed to unwind my body a little and have found that I love yoga and it takes a lot more strength than one initially thinks

  4. Hmmm. I've always wanted to try yoga...I'm just so clumsy I can't get "into" it without plopping on mu butt and giggling and disrupting the rest of the class! I find bellydancing fun and a challenge, but I don't know how much coordination I'd need for yoga...I think it would be a great thing tho.
    Perhaps I should try a DVD. Anyone recommend a good one?

  5. Yes. yoga is a very good thing to do! Sometimes, at our fitness center, I just sit in with the yoga class. I don't do any of the exercises, but just listen to the soft music and the instructor's soothing voice. I always leave in a peaceful, better place.

  6. I'm with geosomin. I feel very uncoordinated for yoga. I can't stand on one foot to save my life. Does it get any easier with practice or am I just doomed to remain a klutz?

  7. Sara - I love the way you started the article about preconceived notions (although I'm from LA and never even considered a boob job). Anyway, I've been practicing asana about three days a week for over two years now.

    The difficulty with yoga for me is: to do more than three days a week, you have to learn to do it by yourself. It's not physically hard to do by yourself, of course - nothing could be simpler - but I have a hard time quieting my mind unless I have the cues from the class setting. I start the sun salutations and I'm already impatient. So, I throw in micro-yoga session throughout the day: do a down dog to stretch, or even a headstand after a particularly difficult meeting (I've thought about doing the headstand DURING the particulary difficult meeting).

    As for yoga and weight loss, I think the beauty of it is for many is, you lose weight in a large part because you reset your priorities. But, I might be getting too close to chakras and bundas here for you :D

  8. Geosomin and Hilary, I was that way too. For most people, the problem with balance comes from weak abs (sometimes weak ankles). If you want to be better at balance, start doing some abs exercises (and clamp that mula bunda when balancing! The mula bunda is the lower inner abs muscle.)

  9. I miss my yoga classes! I have been going to Pilates to try to strengthen my core and get a little bit of flexibility. I hope it works!

  10. Thanks quito. That's encouraging to know. I think I probably have both.. weak abs and weak ankles.. right along with weak willpower. :)

  11. Great post, Sara.
    I LOVE yoga! I bought a yoga DVD and want to use it on a regular basis. Once upon a time, I practiced ballet, and find yoga brings back the memory of those classes (can almost smell the rosin - sheesh, can't remember how to spell)...now if I can just get into doing the yoga on a regular basis! There's one pose (can't remember what it's called) where you hold your body straight up in the air, elbows on the floor, hands on lower back. The instructor on the DVD says to concentrate on your breathing - I always start laughing there, saying to her - I HAVE to concentrate on breathing 'cause my tummy is covering my nose...
    Kidding, really, I'm just kidding. It only flops down to my chin...

  12. Ok. You've convinced me. I've fallen out of the habit. To Hilary and Geosomin, I used to HATE Yoga and was pretty poor at it until I found an excellent instructor. He made all the difference. I only did it once a week but felt such a huge difference in my body and mind I never missed a class. Then we moved to a neighboring city and the extra 20 min. drive has kept me from going. But this tuesday I'm there! Thanks Sara.

    Oh and one more thing. Yoga helped me to be so much more patient with myself when I was really trying to lose weight. Especially on the weeks the scale just wouldn't budge.

  13. Good post Sara, timely too, I need to get back to doing my stretches. I kind of dropped it when I got myself a bike this summer.

    Hilary & Geosomin, have a look at this website I found, it has most of the poses animated.


    I figure once I am more accustomed to doing Yoga again, (and can afford too) I will find a class near me.

  14. I love yoga but I feel like such a clutz in class. I seem to be the only one with no balance, but I keep on trying. The same 5 benefits also apply to weight training, at least they are true for me. Thanks for the post. :)

  15. Wow, I learned a lot both from the post and from all the comments. Thanks Sara and everyone who's making me feel like I should really give yoga another shot!

    I actually think it's great and have incorporated a bit of it into my stretching routine. The main drawback for me is just time--and figuring out how many fitness related things I'm willing to take on. Between regular cardio, interval training, strength training and flexibility, it adds up to a lot. So I try to find the fastest way I can to do a bit of all of them. A commitment to a yoga class would be great but then I'd probably end up skipping my weights. But I agree, yoga rocks!

  16. Thanks Katieo.. tis something to consider for sure. And thanks to you too, Reb. I've bookmarked it and will check it out more fully when time permits.

  17. Hi everybody! Thanks so much for all these great comments. I want to respond to each personally, but I'm in Phoenix helping cook for my cousin's 84 person wedding, so I just have time to pop in and visit!

    To answer one question - it does get easier! I felt so clumsy at first, and those moments where you start to feel yourself getting good are so much fun!

    Thanks so much for reading - and to Crabby for letting me post here!

    Have a wonderful weekend all. :-)

  18. Thanks Sara,

    Yoga always looks so graceful and beautiful. I have always been told it is effective. It's nice to understand why.


  19. Quito,

    Thanks for the info on the mula bunda.


  20. i feel so dumb when it comes to yoga knowledge. i always thought of it as stretching and not working out.

  21. Twenty-four years of wobbly yoga, here. It's not my ankles, it's my inner ear. Still good, though.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  22. A DVD I found great success with even when my back was in a habitual spasm a few years back was called "Yoga For Inflexible People". I'd imagine Amazon has it. Rather dry and slow though in this case it's a good thing, as it's nicely laid out with several options for level of difficulty and areas of concentration; say hips, or neck and shoulders, etc. The good thing was the attention paid to the detail of EXACTLY how to do a pose correctly, how to relax into it, how to hold it, how not to strain anything. Also it has the usual props recommended for if you really are very tight physically; blocks, blanket, strap, chair. It's the only one I have that I kept going back to because of the emphasis on care and form.


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