06/09/2014 01:37 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 01:06 EDT

How Yoga Helps You Lose Weight

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As we are moving into the summer, and try to slip into our summer clothes, many of us remember those New Year's Resolution. One of the most common resolutions we make is to lose those extra pounds.

With the upsurge of yoga, people always ask me if yoga actually works for weight loss. We see the pictures of yoga bodies in attractive yoga clothing and start to wonder... If yoga actually works, how does it work?

First off, there are many different yoga styles. You can practice from the intense hot & flow variety to the slower yin & restorative styles. We are taught that weight loss is all about calories -- decreasing calories intake and increasing calorie expenditure.

The styles of yoga that are more power-like, are obviously going to be greater calorie burners. After much research, it has been 'studied' that the average person burns 250-350 calories per 75-minute power class. Of course, this may vary depending on factors such as your current weight and intensity of your physical practice among others.

In a slower class such as yin or restorative, the number of calories burned is significantly less, but the internal benefits may be more beneficial for long term weight loss

So how does yoga -- regardless of the style -- help you to lose weight? One of the main purposes of yoga is to calm the mind & body down for the purpose of meditation. Most yoga practitioners can relate to leaving a class and feeling better. Why do they feel better? People feel better for one main reason -- and that is because they are breathing better.

So regardless of the number of calories burned, here is a list of four ways yoga can help you lose weight:

1) Breathing slower. When we breathe slowly and more relaxed, we actually accentuate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Amplifying the PNS actually increases blood circulation to the digestive tract and thereby increases metabolism.

2) As we accentuate the PNS, we actually are more conscious. We chew our food slower, we are more conscious about our food choices and how much we eat. Another huge benefit is that we are more aware of how full we actually are. These actually help us to eat less but feel fuller.

3) Certain yin and restorative yoga postures are excellent at increasing blood circulation to our digestive organs. As a result, we metabolize our food better, feel less bloated, decrease acid production in our stomach and feel lighter in our whole body.

4) Practicing yoga regularly helps us to feel happier. When we feel happier internally, we will feel better about ourselves as a whole. This sensation of feeling better in our mind and our bodies has a positive impact on our mind-body connection. Feeling better about ourselves and increasing self-esteem is actually studied to help our bodies function better & thereby digest our food with greater ease.

Personally, I have recently transitioned from over ten years of regular hot -- power styles of yoga to a more chilled, relaxed serene style of Yin yoga. I can tell you that the relaxation obtained from the softer styles has had a very positive impact on my mind, that now food is more my friend and the obsession with calorie counting has taken a back burner to the joy of breathing!

So, does yoga help us to lose weight? It is much more than just calorie expenditure. With regular practice you will be surprised as to how good you feel and how your body responds with such ease.