[Paleopsych] Science Blog: Yoga may help prevent middle-age spread

Premise Checker checker at panix.com
Sat Aug 6 01:29:34 UTC 2005

Yoga may help prevent middle-age spread
Source: http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/node/8477

A new study led by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center  has 
found that regular yoga practice may help prevent middle-age spread in  
normal-weight people and may promote weight loss in those who are  overweight.

The study  the first of its kind to measure the effects of yoga on weight  
appears in the July/August issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and  

Funded by the National Cancer Institute, the study involved 15,500  healthy, 
middle-aged men and women who were asked to complete a written  survey 
recalling their physical activity (including yoga) and weight  history between 
the ages 45 and 55. The study measured the impact of yoga  with weight change, 
independent of other factors such as diet or other  types of physical activity.

The researchers found that between the ages of 45 and 55, most people  gained 
about a pound a year, which is a common pattern as people age and  do not 
adjust their caloric intake to their declining energy needs.  "However, men and 
women who were of normal weight at age 45 and regularly  practiced yoga gained 
about 3 fewer pounds during that 10-year period than  those who didn't practice 
yoga," said Alan R. Kristal, Dr.P.H., the  study's lead author. For the study, 
regular yoga practice was defined as  practicing at least 30 minutes once a 
week for four or more years.

But the researchers noted the greatest effect of regular yoga practice was  
among people who were overweight. "Men and women who were overweight and  
practiced yoga lost about 5 pounds, while those who did not practice yoga  
gained about 14 pounds in that 10-year period," said Kristal, a member of  the 
Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division and a professor of  
epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health and  
Community Medicine.

What accounts for yoga's apparent fat-fighting potential? Kristal, himself  a 
longtime yoga student, suspects it has more to do with increased body  
awareness than the physical activity itself.

"During a very vigorous yoga practice you can burn enough calories to lose  
weight, but most people don't practice that kind of yoga," he said. "From  my 
experience, I think it has to do with the way that yoga makes you more  aware 
of your body. So when you've eaten enough food, you're sensitive to  the 
feeling of being full, and this makes it much easier to stop eating  before 
you've eaten too much."

Study co-author Denise Benitez, owner of Seattle Yoga Arts, agrees. "Most  
people practice yoga in a way that's not aerobic enough to burn a lot of  
calories, so it has to be some other reason."

One reason, she speculates, could be that yoga cultivates a form of gentle  
inner strength. "When we practice yoga, although it may look easy, there  is 
some mild discomfort. You bring your body to a physical edge that's  just a 
little bit challenging. And people who regularly practice yoga  develop the 
inner resources to stay with a little bit of discomfort. They  develop a 
softness inside and an ability to stay mindful. So that when you  go home after 
yoga class and open up the fridge and see a chocolate cake,  you have the 
resources to stay with the discomfort of not eating that  chocolate cake."

Whatever the reason behind the apparent impact of yoga on weight  maintenance 
and loss, Kristal stresses that these findings need to be  replicated.

"I think it's time now to do a carefully controlled, randomized clinical  trial 
to see if adding yoga to a standard weight-loss program can help  people lose 
more weight or keep it off longer. The other message,  particularly to people 
who might be overweight, is that yoga is a  noncompetitive activity. It's 
something that everybody can do. It brings  so many benefits, and if one of the 
clinical benefits is that it can help  you control your weight, then that's a 
great thing."

The participants in the yoga study were part of a larger ongoing  Hutchinson 
Center study involving more than 75,000 residents of western  Washington called 
the Vitamins and Lifestyle, or VITAL, study. This $4.2  million project, which 
began in 2000, aims to determine whether vitamin,  mineral or herbal 
supplements reduce the risk of cancer.



Study co-author and yoga teacher Denise Benitez, owner of Seattle Yoga 
Arts, offers the following suggestions for enhancing one's yoga

These tips may be particularly helpful for those who wish to maintain or 
lose weight:

1. Practice in a room without mirrors, and pay more attention to your  internal 
experience than to your outer performance.

2. Learn to feel sensations more and more subtly, so that you become  deeply 
involved in and curious about small movements, sometimes called  

3. In your poses, find an edge for yourself where you are challenged but  not 
overwhelmed. At this edge, practice maintaining a clear, open and  accepting 
mental state.

4. Give yourself permission to rest when you feel overworked.

5. Pay close attention to what you are saying to yourself as you practice,  and 
make an intentional effort to appreciate your own efforts and innate  goodness.

6. Go to class faithfully, arrive early, and talk to a few people in your  
class before class begins.

7. Buy your own yoga mat and bring it to class.

8. Realize that the development of qualities like patience, discipline,  
wisdom, right effort, kindness, gratitude and many others will arise from  your 
yoga practice. These qualities create a steady and soft mind.

9. Find a teacher who offers a balance of gentleness and firmness and  whose 
teaching inspires you to practice from your highest self.

10. Recognize that simply attending class is a major statement of courage,  
self-care, and positive momentum. Realize that you are inspiring others as  you 
become more true to your deepest desires.

At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, our interdisciplinary teams of  
world-renowned scientists and humanitarians work together to prevent,  diagnose 
and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our researchers,  including 
three Nobel laureates, bring a relentless pursuit and passion  for health, 
knowledge and hope to their work and to the world. For more  information, 
please visit fhcrc.org.

From Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

More information about the paleopsych mailing list