Yoga has been known for centuries to be an effective method for reducing levels of stress hormones. New research led by Dr. Alan Kristal has found that regular yoga practice may have additional benefits, including the prevention of weight gain in people of normal weight range and weight loss in those who are overweight. The study, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, found that people who ate mindfully, meaning that that were aware of what they ate and stopped eating according to their hunger cues, weighed less. Most importantly, this "mindful eating" approach was found to be strongly associated with yoga.
The theory is that the practice of yoga increases one's awareness of the body and one's sensitivity to hunger and satiety. This is not so much related to the act of physical exercise, but to the increase in awareness that comes from focusing on the breath and the calm of the body during yoga participation. The research used measures of comparison for analyzing mindful eating, including disinhibition (eating even when full), awareness, external hunger cues (such as smell and sight), emotional response, and distraction eating. Results indicated that higher amounts of mindfulness were linked to significantly lower BMI's and also that regular yoga participants had significantly increased mindfulness which allowed them to gain less over a ten-year period than non-yoga participants, regardless of dietary patterns and activity.