Group-Based Yogic Weight Loss with Ayurveda-Inspired Components: A Pilot Investigation of Female Yoga Practitioners and Novices

Int J Yoga Therap. 2016 Jan;26(1):55-72. doi: 10.17761/1531-2054-26.1.55.


Introduction: Overweight/obesity is a pressing international health concern and conventional treatments demonstrate poor long-term efficacy. Preliminary evidence suggests yoga and Ayurveda may be promising approaches, although recent NHIS estimates indicate rare utilization of Ayurveda in the US. Group-based curricula that integrate yoga and Ayurveda-inspired principles to attenuate overweight and obesity across individuals may prove a feasible, disseminable clinical adjunct to facilitate psychosocial health and weight loss and/or maintenance.

Aims: Determine feasibility and preliminary effectiveness of a ten-week yoga - based, Ayurveda-inspired weight management curriculum (YWL) piloted in female yoga practitioners (Study 1) then refined and tailored for yoga naïves (Study 2), on self-reported psychosocial process variables and % of self-reported total body weight loss (%TBWL).

Methodology: Study 1 enrolled 22 yoga-experienced women (48.2 ± 14.3 years, BMI 30.8 ± 4.2 kg/m2) in a 10-week yoga-based program (YWL-YE). Study 2 enrolled 21 yoga- naïve women (49.4 ± 10.7 years, BMI 35.5 ± 6.8 kg/m2) in a revised 10-week program (YWL-YN). Self-reported weight and self-ratings of mindful eating behavior, body image disturbance, weight loss self-efficacy, body awareness, and self-compassion were collected at baseline, post-treatment (T2), and 3-month follow- up (T3).

Results: YWL curricula was feasible in both studies. While attrition rates for both studies favorably compared to other weight management studies, attrition was higher for YWL-YN (28.6%) than YWL-YE (18.2%). In both studies, self-reported process variables and self-reported % TBWL changed in hypothesized directions at T2 and evidenced greater improvement at T3; effect sizes across all process variables were medium (-0.4) to large (-1.8). % TBWL reached clinical significance (>5%) only at T3 for the YWL-YE group.

Conclusions: The YWL curricula employed here appear to improve psychosocial health among both overweight/obese yoga-experienced and yoga- naïve women. Results must be interpreted with caution due to study design, self-report assessments, and other limitations. Nonetheless, hypotheses are generated for future investigation.

Keywords: Ayurveda; Yoga; mindfulness; obesity; self-compassion; weight loss.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Overweight
  • Pilot Projects
  • Weight Loss*
  • Yoga* / psychology