I Lost 85 Pounds With Nothing But A Yoga Mat—Here's How It Happened

mbg Contributor By Jennifer Niles
mbg Contributor
Jennifer B. Niles is an author, yogi, vegan and health coach.
Composition of yoga brick, belt, mat and blanket placed on wooden floor in training room

The debate over whether yoga is an effective tool for weight loss has been discussed for years. Many believe that yoga is not fast-paced enough to burn the number of calories required for true weight loss. Others swear by yoga and say it's an extremely effective way to shed pounds.

While everyone is different, I believe yoga is extremely effective when it comes to lasting weight loss.

When I first rolled out the mat seven years ago, I was 85 pounds overweight. I was unhealthy, unhappy, and fueled by a passion for binge-drinking and pizza. When I first announced my mission to lose weight through yoga, I remember people laughing at me. "Yoga doesn't help with weight loss! You have to bust your butt in the gym to get real results," people told me.

Less than one year after practicing yoga six to seven days per week, I lost those 85 pounds. Here's how it happened.

It changed the way I eat.

My weight loss was a direct result of a committed yoga practice coupled with a whole, plant-based diet. No other exercise or gym equipment was required. I shed excess fat using nothing but a yoga mat and my own body weight.

I also began to take pleasure in what actually felt good. This insight led to better decision-making as a whole, leading to positive lifestyle changes and healthier food choices, and resulting in weight loss. In my experience, I eliminated unnatural substances—or non-foods, as I like to call them—such as meat, animal products, and processed junk. I also tried not to drink alcohol more than once a month. Just one measly drink, I felt, could sabotage seven days of hard work.

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It helped me burn calories while gaining lean muscle.

Although all types of yoga are effective when it comes to burning calories, improving flexibility and muscle tone, calming the mind, and providing a feeling of inner peace, if your goal is to lose weight, certain practices are more effective than others.

In order to burn fat and keep it off, I focused on power yoga and vinyasa flow.

These are both fast-paced flows that provide the perfect mixture of cardio and strength-training. The dual combination is a potent cocktail geared toward effective fat burning and increased lean muscle mass. These two types of yoga enable the body to burn anywhere from 400 to 600 calories per hour. This is equivalent to the number of calories burned during a typical hour in the gym!

It changed the way I think.

Yoga transformed me from the inside out—and in that order. The practice led me down the rabbit hole of truth, consciousness, and connectedness, and I became more self-aware. I was able to disconnect from the ego, also known as that incessant little voice in your mind that constantly dwells on problems.

Since the ego clings to unhealthy attachments, it is responsible for fueling bad decision-making. When my mind was tamed through a consistent yoga practice, I became liberated from identifying with the same old sad stories that the ego had been using for far too long. When I stopped living obsessively in my head, positive change followed.

Through my yoga practice, the things that used to please me just no longer cut it. I came to understand that destructive habits no longer served my ultimate goal. This awakening directly affects weight loss, because it encourages the elimination of unhealthy habits.

I quickly came to realize that detrimental behaviors did not please my soul. For example, eating until I was so full that I could barely move and had to unbutton my pants, or drinking to the point where I could barely stand up no longer felt good. In fact, it felt pretty bad!

When I got to this point of detachment in my practice, I realized that instead of identifying with the ego and allowing it to dominate my life, I begin to realize that I was the observer of the racing mind that encouraged me to overeat, get drunk, and gravitate toward unhealthy food.

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Thinking of trying yoga for weight loss?

If you are serious about losing weight and getting fit, you might want to implement a 60-minute power yoga and/or vinyasa flow practice at least five to six days per week. If you want to follow my example, think about coupling your practice with a whole foods diet for optimal results.

So roll out the mat. Connect with your breath. Detach from that destructive inner voice. Tune in to your spiritual nature that connects every cell of your body to the universe. Liberate the soul. And get ready to bask in the glory of all the positive changes that are coming.

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