Tuesday, February 2, 2010

yoga and weight-loss, worth a shot?

Yoga Journal had a very interesting article about weight loss and yoga. I have read at least 3 separate mentions of this in other fitness magazines in light of a study that was recently completed. I'm writing this article in my living room and the fitness magazines are upstairs otherwise I would give you more detail (who authored the study, how many participants were involved yadda yadda yadda). The point is, the study was about the correlation between yoga and weight loss. I tend to be kind of old-fashioned when it comes to weight-loss. I believe in big scary deadlines (Costa Rica in two weeks) lots of salad and hours strapped to the treadmill.

Past experience dictates, (as does the experience of many others) that this kind of yo-yo weight-gain and loss combined with miserable crankiness (I have to be fed every 3 hours or I'm unbearable to be around) makes this kind of thing unmaintainable.

The solution for many could be yoga. I know, yoga is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of weight loss. The ginormous stack of magazines on my bedroom floor would urge me to run, swim, eliptical (which is, as far as I can tell some evil made up exercise) do kick boxing, join the army, really anything for weight loss but yoga. Don't get me wrong, they always advocate yoga to de-stress, manage sore muscles and generally be as healthy as possible, but to suggest that yoga could help with weight loss or weight maintenance seems to be relatively new in the yoga dialogue.

Go to a yoga class and you cannot help but wonder why. Pre-injury I remember visiting and trying out some studios and I was absolutely flabbergasted looking at the lithe and fit bodies around me. Ultimately this makes sense, these people were clearly regular practitioners and regular practitioners seem to have a sort consciousness that wouldn't allow for mindless snacking in front of the TV, or emotionally downing a pint of ice cream after a rough day (or 4 drinks for that matter).

However, part of me is also going to raise my eyebrows in skepticism a little bit. Yes the Yoga Journal issue featured a personal story about one woman's struggle with her weight and how yoga helped her overcome it, but I wonder if this article, or even if the study it was sort of based on considered certain socio-economic factors that could be at play. In my search for the perfect yoga studio, with varied class times and affordable monthly membership I inevitably noticed once again how classist good health can be in North America.

The average cost for monthly membership at yoga studio in Toronto based on my little Internet shopping excursion was around 100$ for a student. To me that is almost totally unaffordable and I come from an upper-middle class family, I live at home and I earn around 600 a month. Even with all of the charitable and not-for-profit organizations oriented around yoga out there, it is simply not accessible to a huge chunk of North America's population.

Furthermore, we know that the wealthier tend to be better informed about health, often because they have the luxury to spend more time and money on their health (and if you didn't know I highly recommend that you read something by Michael Pollan). Because of these reasons I tend to be more then a little suspect when a study announces that yogis lose weight because of body acceptance and increased self-awareness.

All that said, I have found yoga to be beneficial in terms of weight management and my health has certainly been affected by my forced sabbatical.