Yoga’s Mindfulness Helps Control Weight
New, long-term research by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center shows that middle-aged people who practice yoga gained less weight over a 10-year period than those who did not, independent of other physical activity and changes in dietary habits. The difference is that yoga teaches mindful eating.
The researchers found that people who were aware of why they ate and stopped eating when satisfied weighed less than those who ate without that awareness. Yoga cultivates mindfulness in a number of ways, starting with being able to hold a challenging pose. A practitioner’s ability to be calm and observant during physical discomfort teaches how to maintain calm in other challenging situations as well, such as declining to eat when we’re not hungry or eating extra food when it tastes especially good. Satisfaction also comes in awareness of how food looks, tastes and smells.
The researchers concluded that mindfulness appears to be a state that can augment the usual approaches to weight loss, such as counting calories, limiting portion size and not eating when emotionally upset or depressed. Adding yoga practice to a standard weight-loss program may both make it more effective and promote eating behavior that is healthy and empowering.