Restorative yoga is a style of yoga that uses props such as bolsters, blankets, and blocks to help support poses for extended periods of times (for 8-10 minutes or at times longer). The practice is helpful to release tension in muscles, reduce stress, and is readily accessible for yogis of all levels of experience. The practice does not include a rigorous flow or balancing sequence and is not intended to be a strenuous "workout."
However, routine restorative yoga practice has been linked with both weight loss and reduction in subcutaneous fat. A study led by Maria G. Araneta, PhD, MPH, of the University of California, San Diego examined whether a 48-week restorative yoga program could help reduce body fat and help with weight loss in overweight women. They found that over the 6 months of restorative yoga practice, the 88 women in the yoga group had significantly more weight loss (2.9 lbs) compared to the 83 women practicing stretching exercises who lost on average 1.5 lbs-- a weight loss that was maintained at 48 weeks.
At six months, the women who practiced restorative yoga also had a pronounced difference in subcutaneous fat reduction compared to the stretching group (31 square centimeters reduction compared to 12 square centimeters). Unlike the stretching group, the restorative yoga group maintained this reduction in body fat at the 48 week mark. One potential explanation is that restorative yoga is able to reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels, a stress hormone known to increase abdominal fat.
This study offers promising results for those interested in practicing an accessible and stress-reducing form of yoga.
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