Q&A with Fitness and Lifestyle Influencer Katie Uhran for National Yoga Month


Q1: How can yoga help you achieve overall better health?

  • The benefits of yoga are never-ending! It helps mentally, physically, emotionally.
  • Yoga can help to relieve or manage stress = better mental health and psychological well being.
  • Better stress management can lead to better sleep and more energy.
    • Researchers from Harvard found that 8 weeks of daily yoga significantly improved sleep quality for people with insomnia.
  • Yoga practice can lead to stronger muscles or muscle gains, which can lead to improved metabolism. Strength exercise can also yield stronger bones which helps with stability. These are important factors in healthy aging.
  • It also improves other areas of training such as running, cycling, strength training.
  • Yoga can improve flexibility and help you feel less stiff or tired.
  • A review of studies showed yoga may be as effective if not better than exercise at improving health-related outcomes/benefits
  • A recent Norwegian study found that yoga practice results in changes in gene expression that boost immunity at a cellular level. This can lead to less illness and complaints.

Q2: How do I decide what type of yoga is best for my lifestyle and needs?

  • There are more than 100 different types of yoga but they all have 1 unified goal: the state of pure bliss and oneness with the universe.
    • Try out different classes, teachers, & studios, to find what works best for YOU.
    • To get the most benefit, choose style that matches your current fitness level, your personality & goals for practicing yoga.
    • Some challenging, high intensity types of yoga include: Bikram and Ashtanga
    • Gentle and beginner yoga includes: Hatha and Iyengar

Q3: What is the best food/fuel before doing yoga and after yoga?

  • Pre-workout fuel depends on the type of yoga and how soon you'll be engaging in it
    • A healthy, balanced meal (fruit, vegetables, protein, carb) will be good for 2-3 hours before a yoga session
    • A small snack with simple sugars (like fruit) is best for 15-30 mins before a yoga session because your body can burn this energy quickly to use. If you eat something with complex carbs like bread or pasta, your body will use all the energy to digest this food instead of as energy for muscles and you'll end up feeling really tired.
    • If you are engaging in a power yoga class like Bikram, consider adding some protein to your snack (e.g. small protein shake) because this will help to prevent your muscle tissue from breaking down, especially if the length of the class will be more than 70 mins.
  • Post-workout fuel depends on the amount of activity you did.
    • For beginner/gentle yoga, a healthy balanced meal should be enough to replenish your fuel. Make half your plate fruit/vegetable, 1/4 protein and 1/4 complex carb (brown rice, sweet potato, etc.).
    • For difficult/challenging yoga, at least 25g of protein (from whole food or protein powder) immediately after your workout will help the muscles to recover. Alternately, you can consume a healthy, balanced meal including at least 25 g of protein.
    • Even if you didn't do much sweating, make sure you consume some water to hydrate.
    • Consider taking a multivitamin/mineral to replenish that which was used during the workout.

Q4: Are there basic yoga moves/meditations I can do while at the office or during travel away from home?

Q5: How can yoga help you to maintain or lose weight?

  • A review of studies indicates yoga is generally effective at reducing body weight among other benefits
  • Yoga can help to manage stress and thus decrease cortisol levels. High levels of cortisol are known to increase appetite and overeating.
  • Yoga can help you become more mindful or aware of eating and recognizing when you are truly full. This can help to regulate overeating and reduce weight gain.
  • Exercise like yoga can help you feel better and influence better eating behaviors. As such, you are likely to eat more healthful foods like fruits and vegetables.
  • High intensity yoga can help to build muscles and strengthen your core (ab muscles). More muscles can speed up your metabolism and burn more energy to help regulate or lose weight.
  • Gentle yoga might not burn enough calories to produce weight loss, but it can certainly ease the stress which would otherwise lead to weight gain.
  • According to WebMD, a 2005 study on 15,500 healthy middle aged men and women found that those regularly practicing yoga had a tendency to lose weight rather than gain weight.

Q6: What are some things I should know before starting a yoga regimen? Any beginner tips?

  • Practice proper breathing techniques before getting started--it can be frustrating and get in the way of your workout if you don't know how to do it.
  • Breathing deeply and peacefully will help the success of your session.
  • Give yourself permission to rest when you're tired--truly listen to your body.
  • Go with an open mind and don't get discouraged. If you don't like the style you chose, try a different one to find out what makes you happy.
  • Look for a teacher who you feel offers a balance between gentleness and firmness and who inspires you to practice.
  • Be patient. Just like any other exercise or physical activity--it takes time before you get good at it.
    • Make a commitment to be consistent. Going once or twice a month will not produce much progress.
  • Bring water. This is a must if you are taking a style like Bikram where lots of sweating is involved.
  • Almost every pose has a modification to different levels of difficulty. Don't move to the harder position until you are truly ready.

Q7: How can yoga help with chronic diseases like diabetes, CVD or COPD?

  • Yoga may be effective as a supportive adjunct to mitigate some medical conditions, but not yet a proven stand-alone, curative treatment.
  • A review of studies shows yoga can improve sugar control, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, fatty acid profiles, among other things in adults with type 2 Diabetes.
  • A study published in the April 2000 issue of Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology showed that yoga may be as effective as drug therapy in controlling hypertension.
  • Yoga is valuable at reducing stress & enhancing quality of life in cancer patients, according to one study.
  • Yoga has been shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure thus helping with hypertension and/or heart disease in this study
  • Review of studies found that yoga was generally effective at reducing high cholesterol. This can help with heart disease.

By: Fitness and Lifestyle Influencer, Katie Uhran

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