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It’s the time of year when everybody is thinking about how to get the “perfect” beach body as quickly as possible. Once people find out that I practice and promote yoga, they want to know more about the benefits of yoga. The same inevitable question comes up time after time - people always want to know if yoga is a good method for weight loss. So what's the truth? The answer is yes and no.

Listen, there is no magic potion when it comes to getting in shape. While yoga can certainly help with increasing flexibility, building muscle tone and burning calories – I don’t like to lump it in with the latest fitness fads. In fact, I don’t like to measure the effectiveness of yoga by how much weight it can help a person lose at all.

Yoga is a discipline and a lifestyle, not necessarily a “weight-loss” plan. You see, at its core, yoga is more about GAINING than LOSING. Yes, true, deep, beautiful yoga will actually make you gain rather than lose. But don’t worry, it’s purely good stuff.

Yoga is about GAINING peace, perspective, empowerment and inner-strength. Now, you will likely see very positive changes in your body if you include regular yoga sessions into your lifestyle – but those will be side effects that accompany the spiritual and mental benefits.

There is no prerequisite of being a certain size or shape before you can be considered a true yoga devotee. We come in all shapes, sizes and ages. I think this fact is showcased perfectly by an up-and-coming yoga star named Jessamyn Stanley. Jessamyn is a self-described “fat femme” yogini who posts her Bikram yoga poses on Instagram under the handle @mynameisjessamyn for tens of thousands of followers to enjoy. The increasingly popular account was created because she felt that the yoga community was exclusionary to people with fuller figures and she wanted to showcase her passion for the practice and show people that the enlightenment that comes with yoga is for all people.

I completely celebrate what this Instagram account and movement are about and I really hope it encourages more people to embrace yoga without fear. So will yoga help you lose weight? All I can say it that yoga will help you gain something more important than anything that can be measured on a scale. You should absolutely incorporate yoga into your plan for getting in shape so you can look and feel your best.

My advice would be to never diminish yoga down to something that is purely about looking good. In addition, never base your perceptions of a yogini’s skill or dedication on their size. After all, any enlightened mind will tell you that the universe packages good things in all shapes and sizes.

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