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Yoga’s Weight Loss Hormone

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It’s no mystery that incorporating types of physically demanding yoga — such as power yoga or Bikram — into your fitness routine can have an extremely positive effect on your waistline with consistent practice. But we wanted to dive deeper, past the obvious eat-well-and-exercise rule of thumb and discover what other factors come into play when it comes to how our bodies store fat.

We’re not doctors, so we asked an expert in her field. Meet Kimberly Olson, a fitness and nutrition pro with a PhD in this kinda stuff. She clued us in on a concept that instantly got our attention: how hormones can affect our weight. Yes, the very same chemicals that made our first day of high school a nightmare because of a breakout the night before play an important role in weight loss. Who would have thought? Needless to say, we were in dire need for her professional perspective.

How The Supermom & Working Professional Does it

Many don’t realize that your hormones affect your metabolism, mood and ability to burn energy efficiently. I know at a deep level yoga is critical not only for my sanity and well-being, but also to support a healthy hormonal balance for myself.

As a typical Type A, super busy working mom of two, I find that my go-go-go lifestyle seems to also carry over to my fitness regimen. When I plan out my weekly workouts on Sunday evenings, I get jazzed to tie in some spinning, kettlebells, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and running ¾ so much that my adrenaline goes up a notch just thinking about it. However, I have learned over time to quickly rein myself back in because tying in at least a couple of yoga sessions a week is exactly what this intense and driven woman needs.


Yoga Stimulates a Weight Loss Hormone

I like to think of yoga as my secret fat-burning machine. Yoga stimulates the production of adiponectin, which is the weight loss hormone often found low in overweight individuals. This hormone boosts your metabolism, enhances the ability of your muscles to use carbs for energy and even increases the rate which your body breaks down fat. One study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that the yoga participants experienced a significant reduction in weight, body mass index, systolic blood pressure and an increase in adiponectin.

How Stress Affects Your Body

If you can identify with a lifestyle where you feel as though you’re rushing from of life’s demands to another, there is a pretty good chance that you have excessive cortisol levels in your body. For my clients with this stress hormone, they often struggle with losing weight around the abdominal area. This is not in your imagination if you have tummy troubles, it can actually be triggered by chronic stress and the extra cortisol likes to hang out in fat cells right in the mid-section. This can be really frustrating, but what I recommend is building in stress management techniques such as yoga and meditation to help naturally balance out the cortisol in your body and find some peace of mind.


It’s All About Balance: The Yin & Yang of Exercise

Rooted in traditional Chinese medicine, hormones can easily be separated into either Yin or Yang categories. Yin hormones are nourishing, building and restorative whereas Yang hormones are activating, energizing and motivating. It makes sense to have a balance of both obviously, and this is where it becomes imperative to be mindful of what you may need more or less of in your own life. I have an excess of Yang in my life and I am also drawn to Yang-type exercises such as spinning and HIIT. Because of this, it is super important that I consciously tie in Yin-type exercises such as yoga. In fact, I actually need even more than I am currently incorporating, but this life is truly all about balance … take it one step at a time!


What do you need more of in your own life? If you know that you need more Yin but haven’t been doing any yoga at all, then I’d start with finding a regular day and time of the week that you can fit in at least one session. If you’re already practicing Yoga regularly, could you add in another session and maybe back off of some Yang exercise? Give it a try and notice how you feel differently on and off the mat.


Nutrition and fitness expert Kimberly Olson, PhD, CNC, CPT is the creator of FitKim, a nutrition and fitness blog that teaches people how easy it is to be healthy. Read more about her on her blog, and find her on Facebook, Instagram and twitter!


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