Three Things You Need to Know About "Calorie Burn" and Yoga

I get asked a lot of questions about Yoga - especially as it pertains to the physical body.  Since asana (the physical postures) is directly related to the physical body one of the top questions I get asked is...."How many calories will I burn???"

The traditional yoga teacher would shake their heads and tell you that yoga should not be reduced to exercise and probably make you feel guilty for daring to ask such a superficial question of such a spiritual and ancient practice.  Well, I'm not one of those teachers....so here's the real answer!

1) Calorie burn varies greatly from person to person.  What you burn in one class will be very different than what the person next to you burns based on a few variables - age, weight, gender, level of physical fitness (how hard your heart has to work) and current ability to effort (e.g., I often burn more calories when my body is tired, not a good thing!).  Your body will also burn calories at a different rate for cardiovascular heavy activities (such as running) vs. resistance and strength style activities (such as body weight or lifting workouts) - both have great benefits!  Using a heart rate monitor helps you determine your specific calorie burn for exercise.  So all those Instagram pics of people's calorie burn in different types of exercise classes - doesn't mean anything as it pertains to you.

2) The more efficient your body becomes at a certain type of exercise, the fewer calories it will burn doing that type of exercise.  This is a good thing! Your body responds to the healthy stress of exercise and gets stronger!  

3) A lot of times, we want to know our calorie burn because of weight management.  It's not always best to have huge calorie burns (again, this varies on the person) - let me explain!  Your body needs a certain number of calories to function each day - to respirate, digest, pump your blood, basically to survive.  Let's say this number is 1300 calories a day.  That means you need to eat 1300 calories a day.  Let's say you burn 700 calories doing specific exercise.  If you are trying to lose weight, you'll need to eat back at least a portion of these calories so your body can perform the functions it needs to perform.  However, if you burn 700 calories, your body will signal to you that you just did some major work and you need to eat!  Runners call this the "rungries." So, if your goal is weight management, it's can be more helpful to burn a smaller amount of calories and focus more on proper nutrition and the right calorie INtake for your body.  

Weight management is more than just calories in and calories out.  The level of stress, your ability to cope with stress, quality of sleep and quality of nutrition has a big hand in a person's health and yoga has been found to help with many of these things! But I will leave you with this - your health is so much more than your weight. You are so much more than your weight.  Weight has only a small slice of the health picture, and it will not be your lasting legacy. Your tombstone will not read, "Here lies Jane. She finally got rid of those extra pounds."


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A Yogi Does Lent ~ Lynn Hancock

I grew up Southern Baptist so Lent wasn’t an Easter ritual we really participated in.  And I never really thought of participating in it until I got older and then it was by picking something pretty easy to give up.  Often times, it lasted about a week or so and I pretty much quit after that. 
 
Here’s why this year was different.  Warning, I’m about to be transparent (gasp).  #authentic.  My husband thinks I am too transparent at times – that I need to be more guarded.  But personally, I think that’s where people get in trouble.  When they hide or put on a good face on the outside when things are not going well in the inside.  Now this doesn’t mean that you need to share every single feeling with everyone, but I’m not the type of person to act like I’m okay if I’m not.  So this brings me to the transparent part.  After purchasing the studio in October, my life changed & change often brings extra stress into a person’s life.  I slipped into a habit of having a few beers or glasses of wine at night to help me unwind and de-stress.  No big deal, you say?  The big deal was that this was the main thing what I was relying on to help me manage my stress.  Except that it wasn’t.  I wasn’t sleeping well, I was gaining weight, I was over eating when I drank because it dehydrates you and that can lead to sodium cravings, resulting in eating foods higher in sodium, and making you feel more thirsty, and on and on.  It’s why bars offer pretzels and other salty foods.  So you’ll drink more. 
 
One day, while I was teaching class, I was really encouraging students to focus on their drishti, to not try and escape an intense pose and retrain your brain to breathe through the intensity and maintain their focus.  And that’s when I realized.  I was being a big, fat, boozy hypocrite.  Was I not using alcohol to help me escape the extra intensity and stress my life change had introduced into my life?  Using it to help me fall asleep (only to be woken up around 2 or 3 a.m. once my blood sugar went down and my liver was processing the alcohol).  Here I was telling my students to “just breathe” and I couldn’t do that myself. 

Julie, our account manager, wrote a blog a few months ago called Dry January and I thought well, if Julie can do it (and has been maintaining it, claiming she feels great), then why can’t I?  So I set off on my own dry month…Dry March.  It just so happened to coincide with Lent, so I stretched out Dry March into a spiritual focus.  After all, isn’t that what yoga is about?  Helping us clear out our own mental, emotional and physical baggage so we can have a better spiritual connection to the Divine?

I kept a calendar because I like data.  And I like checking things off.  The first week was hard.  It was about breaking habits more than really wanting a beer or a glass of wine.  It was trying to tell my body that it shouldn’t do something it was used to doing.  But I discovered something.  I really liked carbonation vs. really liking the taste of beer.  So several cases of La Croix replaced cases of beer.  I slept better.  I didn’t stay up as late and I didn’t wake up as frequently.  I recovered better between runs (I am marathon training).  I drank more water.  We saved more money (alcohol is expensive yo!).  Each week got a little bit easier but some were harder than others.  I felt lighter, did my yogi nidra more often to help me fall asleep easier vs. having a drink.  I prayed a bit more often, though not as often as I should have. 

Lent came to a close this past Saturday and so did my fasting.  I had some mimosas at Easter brunch.  But that was it.  Nothing at bedtime and I don’t plan on it for tonight either.  I don’t plan on going back to where I was before.  I know that I have tools in my toolbox that I can use outside of my yoga practice and I plan on using them.  I didn’t experience any breakthroughs or having any spiritual epiphanies but I recognize that life change doesn’t happen in big thunderous claps of change.  Instead in happens in small concentrated breaths.  And in one prayer at a time.  

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