Yoga Yields More Mindful Eating

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Yoga can lead to a lean, taut body, but its muscle-challenging poses may not be the only reason its enthusiasts stay slim. A team of researchers has found that the awareness associated with yoga may carry over into eating habits.

“We hypothesized that mindfulness-a skill learned either directly or indirectly through yoga-could affect eating behavior,” said Dr. Alan Kristal, who was part of the team that published their findings in a recent edition of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. According to Kristal, yoga fosters mindfulness that allows practitioners to face uncomfortable situations, whether physical or emotional, in an accepting, nonjudgmental way. “This ability to be calm and observant during physical discomfort teaches how to maintain calm in other challenging situations, such as not eating more even when the food tastes good and not eating when you’re not hungry.”

In an effort to confirm their hypothesis, the researchers created a mindful-eating survey that measured a number of factors, including inhibition, emotion, and distraction; and they distributed it to more than 300 people who participate in various fitness activities.

The yoga-practicing participants had the highest mindfulness scores and the lowest BMI numbers, a discovery that implies a possible connection between yoga, mindful eating, and weight control.

“These findings fit with our hypothesis that yoga increases mindfulness in eating and leads to less weight gain over time, independent of the physical activity aspect of yoga practice,” Dr. Kristal said. “Mindful eating is a skill that augments the usual approaches to weight loss, such as dieting, counting calories and limiting portion sizes. Adding yoga practice to a standard weight-loss program may make it more effective.”

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