Colleen Saidman Yee, whom the New York Times just called the First Lady of Yoga, recently released her first solo Gaiam DVD (sans husband Rodney), called Yoga for Weight Loss.
But don’t think Saidman Yee is going to tell you how to lose three pounds in five days or banish bra fat—her approach to using yoga for weight management is one hundred percent holistic.
“I didn’t want it to just be an aerobic workout to burn calories,” she says. Instead, Saidman Yee focuses on the often-ignored elements of weight loss that lead to lasting change, like mindfulness and getting a good night’s sleep.
Here, she shares three reasons that yoga is effective when it comes to reaching your optimal weight. —Lisa Elaine Held
All Photos: Lisa Elaine Held for Well+Good
1. Yoga teaches you mindfulness—about your body. Practicing yoga gives you an intimate connection with your body that can be truly beneficial when trying to lose weight. “When you get in touch with your body, you really tune in to what it wants and needs,” Saidman Yee says. “Very rarely does somebody leave a yoga class and say ‘Oh my god, I’m craving a hamburger, french fries, and a milkshake. They go straight to a juice place to grab a green juice.” Mindfulness also applies to how, and not just what, you eat. “You’ll start to smell foods and feel the texture, and pay attention to chewing and swallowing,” Saidman Yee says. That attention can help prevent mindless overeating.
2. Yoga helps you get a good night’s sleep. Saidman Yee devoted one of the three sequences on her DVD to relaxation, using hip openers, forward bends, and twists, because sleep, she says, is essential to the weight loss process. “It’s all poses that promote exhalation and ring out the body from the day’s stress. So that when you lay down in bed, you’re ready to go to sleep.” Research, in fact, has shown that sleep deprivation can affect the hormones that regulate hunger, ghrelin and leptin, so that the less you sleep, the more you eat.
3. Yoga builds strength and gets your heart rate up. Of course, while physical exertion isn’t everything, it obviously matters. Saidman Yee’s approach to yoga-that-sheds-pounds is all about getting your heart rate up while also building strength. “When you build muscle, you’ll burn more calories,” she says. So Saidman Yee leads you through strengthening standing poses while adding on aerobic elements, like repeated arm movements, and she also focuses a sequence on strengthening all of the muscles in your mid-section, including abs, obliques, lats, and lower back.