Online Health Chat with Judi Bar, E-RYT 500

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Do you struggle with losing weight? Have you ever thought about practicing yoga to help your efforts? Learning simple breathing practices combined with mindfulness and certain yoga poses can help reduce blood pressure, increase sound sleep, reduce stress levels and, as a result, help reduce cortisol production, create more intuitive-based eating habits and increase motivation for more activity.

Certain yoga flows (moving from one posture to another) can also increase blood circulation and engage the cardiovascular system, which can, in turn, help boost metabolism. There are many benefits of yoga practice. In fact, yoga may be as effective as or better than exercise at improving a variety of health-related outcome measures. Yoga can make a big difference in your life by:

  • Decreasing stress
  • Reducing chronic pain
  • Lowering levels of inflammation
  • Enhancing immune response
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving posture and body alignment
  • Increasing flexibility and muscle strength
  • Providing a sense of joy and well-being

About the Speaker:

Judi Bar, E-RYT 500 and therapeutic yoga specialist, is an author, international speaker and yoga program manager at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute where she designs programs for patients, families and employees. In addition to specializing in therapeutic yoga to treat chronic pain and illness for patients, she has developed unique yoga programs that are accessible to everyone, even those not comfortable in a traditional yoga class. She created the Come As You Are Yoga DVD series.

Judi’s inclusive style of yoga has brought the ease, benefits and simplicity of yoga to patients, families and caregivers. She also has established one of the first Yoga Alliance-accredited yoga teacher training schools at a major medical institution. Follow her on Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials blog as a Featured Expert. Enjoy videos and articles

Let’s Chat About Yoga for Weight Management

Practice Particulars

health2016: How many days per week should a person practice yoga?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Ideally, it would be good to practice some yoga every day, stretching, breathing and relaxing. If you can take one to two classes per week and then do some at home every day, you will feel quite good. It's the consistency of doing something each day, even if just a bit, where you will find yourself feeling better.

sweetc8: Is there an ideal time in the day to practice yoga?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: The ideal time is when you have the time to dedicate and when it does not cause stress for you. Generally, yoga is practiced in the morning and/or evening. The key is consistency. It is an organic practice, meaning that you continue to do the practice as an ongoing practice.

Michelle P: How long should one practice when at home? If short on time, is 15 to 20 minutes long enough?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Yes, as long as you have a regular, bit longer practice once a week. It would be marvelous if you can do 15 to 20 minutes a day. Listen to your body and what you need that day. Try to include movement, breathing and meditation/relaxation if you can. This is a good question, and keep up the great work. Blessings.

CCFG: Should I eat before or after yoga?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: It’s best not to practice on an empty stomach. Have a light meal an hour or so before, and stay hydrated both before and after class. If you have a full meal, you may end up not feeling well because of the twisting and stretching that is done in class and perhaps not digesting as well. Then, if you are still hungry after class, you can have another snack or meal. You may find that you won't want to eat after a class. Remember, try not to eat processed foods; eat whole grains, cut out white flour, sugar and syrups, and eat lots of fruits and vegetables. You will find that you will want to eat healthier the more you practice yoga. Thank you for your question.

Diet Decisions

Z_F: Will yoga help me curb my appetite?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Yoga helps you stay on track and not succumb to food cravings. Practicing yoga helps you to become more focused and less stressed. The sayings “mind over matter” and “you are what you eat” go hand-in-hand with yoga practice. By becoming more conscience and more focused through the practice of yoga, you may make wiser food choices and may avoid junk food and sugary sweets.

Madabom: I can't get rid of sugar. If there is a cupcake or other pastry, I can’t say no. Could yoga help me to stop?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Yoga teaches us about mind-body control and gives us awareness of, perhaps, why can’t I say no? However, you may consider our program here, TrimLife, to delve deeper to support you in making better decisions.

The Yoga for Me

HonB: There are so many different types of yoga. How do I decide which one to practice?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Start by asking yourself three questions:

  1. What is my reason for practicing yoga? Is it for fitness and to get in shape, or is it to explore the mind-body connection? Are you looking for a vigorous, total-body workout or a gentler version to increase flexibility and help you move through the poses? For a vigorous workout, try power yoga, ashtanga yoga or Bikram yoga.
  2. Do I have an injury or medical condition that may limit me? There are classes that focus on alignment such as Kripalu yoga, Iyengar yoga or viniyoga.
  3. Finally - is my primary goal to explore the meditative and spiritual aspects of yoga?

Apnear: What is the best type of yoga for me to use for weight management, bearing in mind that I have fibromyalgia pain often accompanied with lower back pain. (I also have weak hamstrings.)

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Studies has shown that fibromyalgia pain can be improved by practicing the mind-body techniques of yoga. The gentle stretching, the breathing techniques and the meditation help with the pain. There are several types of yoga that are gentle and help increase body awareness.

erikap7: Is there a specific style of yoga you recommend (e.g. Iyengar, Hatha, Kundalini, etc.)?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: There are MANY styles of yoga. Each has a slightly different bend to it. My suggestion would be to observe or sample them. Some do more mediation, some very vigorous postures and breathing, and some are very slow. Many of the styles are not inclusive or accessible to the general population, so keep that in mind. It boils down to what you are looking for, then find a class and an experienced instructor to guide you and share their practice and experience with you.

Mitybenmomma: If you have never done yoga and have not been very active, where should you start?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Find a class that is beginning, gentle, chair or therapeutic. Visit the class before your sign up so that you have a better idea if the level is appropriate for you. I find that there are too many yoga tapes out there, and so many of them are not appropriate if you have not done yoga before, even if it is presented that way. I have two yoga DVDs out that you can purchase online and at our Cleveland Clinic Wellness stores if you are local. The Come As You Are Yoga DVD is gentle and a good place to start if you are not able to find a suitable class near you. Blessings!

Overton: Are there certain classes that you would recommend? I find some of them a bit too advanced for my capabilities. I am currently doing Yin and Gentle.

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Find a class that has an experienced yoga teacher with plenty of experience behind him or her. Look for gentle, chair, therapeutic classes that promote gentle movement, mindfulness, breathing and relaxation. Being mindful in your own yoga practice is what is most important. Always practice with self-care as you are already doing by monitoring and seeking advice. Great job!

Cat666: Do you have any specific suggestions for people with MS to help with balance and flexibility?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: I am glad that you asked. I did a study here at the Clinic for those with MS and the benefits of yoga. Our bodies will respond as in the “use it or lose it” saying. Safely practicing balance and using the chair in yoga to support our bodies while stretching is a wonderful way that yoga can help flexibility, balance and over all well-being. Keep up the good work!

Conditions Countered

sweetc8: I am 67 years old and have arthritis in both hips and knees for which I am receiving cortisone shots. How often should I do yoga to possibly receive additional help with pain relief?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: It is very good that you are asking about this because yoga is wonderful for the joints. First, listen to what your doctor tells you to do. Next, always listen to your body. Some days will be a bit harder, so you should do less. No pain, no gain does NOT apply to yoga. The motion that happens in yoga is so very beneficial to your joints and overall body. The key is that the yoga you do is accessible to your body’s needs and consistent in practice. I've heard it said that “motion is lotion,” and gentle yoga will help to keep you more functional. Seek out chair yoga, which is gentle and therapeutic, with experienced teachers. The Wellness Institute offers several classes that would suit your needs. Check out You will be glad that you did. Just please honor your body, knowing that some days you may need to be softer and gentler with yourself. Thank you for taking such good care of yourself.

Flavia33: I had knee replacement surgery three years ago and have been told by my doctor not to kneel. I also have difficulty getting up from the floor. What yoga exercises can I do to strengthen my core muscles?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: I hope you find you are pain free. Yes, you are not supposed to kneel with a knee replacement, as your new knee cannot take weight bearing. There are many ways in yoga to accommodate knee replacement by not using the floor. An experienced instructor will be able to help you so you don't feel that you are missing parts of the class because of your knee. As a matter of fact, a well-rounded yoga practice will help to strengthen not only your legs but your core. You can start to work your core right now by moving forward on your chair with a tall spine. Use your own body strength to begin to build more core power. Remember to sit this way when you are eating, at your desk or anywhere else you are sitting. Add standing straight and tall and you will see that your core will grow stronger. Any poses that you are holding against gravity will help to also build core strength.

When looking for a class, check to see that the instructor is a registered Yoga Alliance instructor and has at least several years of experience. The style of yoga that we teach at the Wellness Institute does not require you to get on the ground, but still gives you an effective well-rounded practice. If there is a class that the Wellness Institute offers that is convenient for you, I'd recommend you give it a try. Thank you for taking good care of yourself.

GrannyG: I am overweight but also have arthritis in my knees. Is yoga a safe option for me?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Yes, it is one of the best. The motion for the joints, the breath work, the balancing of muscle groups and that yoga can be adapted and fit your needs are some of the best aspects of yoga. Find the most suitable instructor and an inclusive class for you (the Wellness Institute offers many classes that would fit your needs.) The key is finding a class that is suited to your needs. Don't give up; work on finding a class. You will find that you will feel so much better. Continue to take good care of yourself. Blessings.

Hidden Fox: I have several arthritic problems: degenerative discs in lumbar spine, arthritic knees and shoulder pain. Is there some type of "low-Impact" yoga that you can recommend? Ideally, is there a specific program that I could use?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Yes. One of our styles of yoga here at the Clinic takes into account exactly the scenario you are describing. It is gentle range of motion, supported by a chair. It teaches you how to listen to your body and honor where it is that day. Yoga is not about pushing or even having to get on the ground. It’s motion, breath and relaxation done mindfully. Remember to eat non-inflammatory foods, drink plenty of water and get gentle exercise, and managing your stress will also help to handle your arthritic problems. Take care of you yourself. Blessings!

Ldsuz: I see the different types of yoga for different concerns, but I have bi-lateral knee replacements and have been told not to kneel or put that kind of pressure on my knees. I also am interested in yoga for weight loss and general well-being. Which type of yoga fits all these scenarios.

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Our Come As You Are Yoga and Therapeutic Yoga classes here at the Clinic are perfect for all your scenarios. You won’t have to get on the ground, the mindfulness will help you handle weight issues, and the mind-body piece will help with resilience and overall well-being. The yoga is adapted to those concerns and is fully a yoga class drawn from traditional poses. Check the attached link for classes near you. Thank you and I hope you begin classes soon. You will find them very beneficial.

Sweetp8: I have a friend with severe arthritis. She can't stand to hold on to a chair or get on the floor. What accommodations can be made for her?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Our classes here at the Clinic accommodate all students from a chair or standing, adapting to whatever the need is for the particular person. It can be a whole yoga class seated in the chair and be very beneficial. Call or see information attached for class times.

Wheezy: Is it true that yoga improves asthma? If so, can you combine the weight loss/breathing improvement poses?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Yes, it can. Yoga calms the nervous system and teaches us how to breathe more efficiently. Breath is always an integral part of yoga and enhances the effects of yoga poses.

Flavia33: Is yoga safe if you have scoliosis?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Yes. With a certified and experienced instructor, it can be very helpful to stretch the tightened areas and strengthen. Please check with perspective instructors for their experience first. If you have never done yoga before, please check with your doctor. All the best to you. Blessings!

Weight Loss Logistics

Overton: I've been doing yoga and have done some vigorous yoga flows, but it did not seem to help with weight loss. It made me more toned and helped my overall fitness, but no weight loss. Does it really help weight loss; it didn't seem to work for me.

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Vigorous yoga may not be conducive to mindfulness. The type of yoga best associated with weight loss emphasizes body awareness, which in turn lends itself to becoming conscience of “when, why and how much a person eats.” This type of yoga will also support healthy, mindful eating and body awareness, which leads to better weight management.

sarahmc: Is yoga alone enough physical activity to help lose weight? Do I need more cardio?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Thank you for asking that. It is a multi-level question. Not all yoga is accessible to everyone, meaning that it can be too hard for many to take the class. Yoga helps us to be mindful, so that we are more aware of our food choices and can begin lifestyle changes as a result. Yoga calms the stress response, which also can help us with food choices. We will burn calories during yoga and get our metabolism moving, but I believe, and do this myself, that adding a cardio workout to your fitness routine is important. In order for yoga to completely be your cardio workout, you would have to be pretty advanced in your practice and fitness level. Our personal fitness program should have variety. Yoga will help to balance the muscle groups so that you will not only feel better physically and will be mindful of your eating patterns, but also will begin to feel better in all levels, which will help your eating habits and overall well-being. Thank you for the question. Blessings.

C_Cap: Does chair yoga help promote weight loss at all?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Indirectly by calming the nervous system so that we make better choices. We eat more mindfully and we digest better.

C_Cap: Are there special yoga classes for losing weight?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Very aggressive power yoga can help with burning calories, but are only accessible to those who are in very good shape. There is more to losing weight than burning calories; therefore, a well-rounded practice, including cardio fitness, walking, healthy eating and yoga is the combination. We have a special program in integrative medicine called TrimLife that might be of interest to you in addressing the above components. Call 216.448.4325 for more information.

Slayaw: Hi Judi. I've been practicing yoga for five years and teaching for two. I didn't start my practice consciously trying to lose weight, but once I noticed the change in myself, I began to incorporate it along with changes in my diet and other types of exercise. I was able to move from being just over the line into the category of obese to a healthy weight. I hope to learn from the chat today advice that I can offer my students who come to me asking for help with weight loss. I'm open to sharing my story, but I also want them to know that because everyone is different, they have to seek out their own way in terms of figuring out how often to practice and what diet changes will work for them.

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: I understand and agree with you. Like anything, the path and passion we put into our choices will determine the outcome. I do find that you will have credibility with your students who ask for advice about yoga and lifestyle choices if you have walked that path. It is a natural progression to want to take better care of ourselves as we learn boundaries, patience, non-judgment and compassion for ourselves while we practice our yoga. That way of being allows us to let go of some of our hard beliefs and be open to new possibilities. It gives us the opportunity to find our inner wisdom and strength to make the lifestyle changes we need. It is hard to believe that this can happen from yoga, but this is the key, the elixir, the magic that develops as we grow in our yoga practice. From that realization will come the inner wisdom of the next steps to take to support our weight loss, eventually adding more fitness, improving our eating and nutrition, and handling our stress better. That lowers inflammation, helps us with our food choices and ultimately our weight loss. Keep up the great work. Please let me know if I can help you on your teaching journey.

Sax64: I am a 68-year-old Indian woman. I have been practicing yoga since 1976, and am also a certified yoga teacher. I have always had good health and a shining face with lots of energy. However, due to some severe family stress, I had a heart attack in 2011. I had never had high cholesterol or high blood sugar etc. Still, I went through this trouble. Now I live in Sweden. The doctor said that it was due to heredity and that I got the problem from my maternal grandmother’s family. Now I have four stents in my RCA, but still practice yoga for 45 minutes every day. The problem is that due to the side effect of some medications I can’t stretch my muscles properly. All tests are normal, so no remedy. The weight is stable, but I can’t reduce even one kilo. Can you suggest something?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: I am so sorry for your stresses and heart attack as a result. Stress is something that can be very harmful as you know. I am glad that you are continuing your yoga. Your lifestyle will help to support your feeling better. Drink enough water, eat whole foods, lower your stress levels and get sufficient exercise, which it sounds like you do. I guess it is irrelevant if it is heredity or not. The fact that you are taking medicines might be a side effect and thus the weight gain. If you have integrated medicine near you, you may want to check to see if you have reactions to some foods that cause inflammation. That might be a part of the weight. Keep doing your yoga, and perhaps, during your next visit to your doctor, discuss your concerns and see if there could be any additional resources he can offer to help.

I would suggest adapting your yoga to use a chair to see if you can get deeper into the muscle groups. Please see the link if you are interested in purchasing my yoga DVD. Use affirmations, breath work and meditations to keep your attitude up, and remember there is always so much to be grateful for.

Skills and Benefits

worknprogress: What are some examples of "mindfulness" skills?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: I love this question. I believe that mindfulness is the key to feeling better physically and enjoying our day-to-day lives. Mindfulness asks us to use our senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling to be in the moment. If you stop right now, take a breath and just listen to the sounds in the room, you are practicing mindfulness. Our lives are so hectic with so many stimuli that we often miss the simple pleasures of life by not being present. I believe that there are so many simple situations that occur during the course of the day that we miss because we are not focused on being present. Some examples:

  • Stepping into the bath or shower and feeling the water over your skin.
  • Getting into bed and allowing a big sigh as you feel the coolness of the sheets and the comfort of your pillow.
  • Eating raspberries and nothing else with them so you can taste the berries, feeling the texture in your mouth, the moisture and the flavor.

It only takes a few moments of focus to do this, but if you are thinking of something else when you get in the shower, or reach to put the light out or are talking when you are eating, you will be out of the moment. When you are able to knit together these simple pleasures during the course of your day, you will find a feeling of contentment, ease and peace. This helps to build resilience and well-being, which can calm stress and just overall make your day a better experience. There are several really good books on mindfulness, and there are mindfulness meditations. I try to live my life being mindful, and I find I am not putting off happiness. I am happy with each of those simple experiences.

Erikap7: Does yoga improve the functioning of our internal organs?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Yes. There is an increase in oxygenation through blood flow that supports organ function.

Username5520: Do you have to participate in a class in order to get a good workout with yoga?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Working out and yoga are not the same. Yoga is a practice that is beneficial to the whole body and mind. You will gain strength, flexibility and overall well-being. Blending a fitness workout with yoga promotes a well-rounded routine.

Worknprogress: How many times a week and how much time per session are needed to achieve the full weight loss benefits of yoga? One of my big problems with losing weight is managing the food cravings that come with a lower total calorie intake. Can yoga help manage food cravings? If so, how? If I cannot perform all of the typical yoga movements/poses, is there still a benefit to attending yoga classes? How do the benefits gained from yoga compare with other exercise methods used to lose weight, such as walking? Are certain types of yoga better than others for losing weight?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: A regular practice of yoga (that is about one to two classes per week and shorter daily practice at home) that is best suited for you will help you develop, mind-body awareness, better feeling of self-confidence and the tools to support your health. Yoga on its own can help you to lose weight because of the awareness and better feeling overall, which keeps you in moving on the path of weight loss. But generally, it’s best to combine yoga with a fitness and nutrition program. Contact a nutritionist who specializes in wellness to help you with food cravings, which will, in turn, be beneficial to your weight journey.

Our Come As You Are Yoga at the Clinic is inclusive, and anyone can take the class and benefit. With a teacher that is a good fit for you, you will be able to get many benefits in a yoga class even if you are not able to do all the poses. Walking and other types of exercises have one or two benefits. There are many more benefits to yoga, and yoga blends with any other modality to make it well-rounded. Thank you and keep on moving. Blessings!

Classes and Videos

worknprogress: If I cannot perform all of the typical yoga movements/poses, is there still a benefit to attending yoga classes?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Absolutely. Think of it this way, you are doing more then you did before. The mind-body piece that comes from practicing yoga is a wonderful benefit. Make sure you choose a class and instructor who can give you adaptations to poses, and be proud that you are taking care of yourself as you are. It is not about being perfect in the pose! You are learning self-care, patience and compassion for yourself, and with time you will find that you will be able to do more. Practice pride and self-love when you are in class and know that you are doing yourself a great service. Keep up your good work. You are taking an important step for yourself that you will feel good about. Be proud of yourself. Many blessings and good luck! :)

CC: Are yoga videos effective or do you need a live instructor?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: They can be, but they have to be the right ones for you. Just like there are so many styles out there, so there are videos. We can hurt ourselves doing yoga, so my suggestion is to find an instructor and class that suits your needs and wants, and begin a practice that way. You will have an experienced eye on you to help you with alignment, breathing and relaxation. Then you can choose a video that suits you best from that experience. Just a reminder: I have two videos out right now. Come As You Are is a gentle beginner video that was created so that anyone can do it. My second is a step up and more difficult, and it’s called Come As You Are Yoga; Nature. Thanks for your question, it is a good one. Blessings!

C_Cap: Are yoga videos effective or do you need a live instructor?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Learn the basics through a live instructor then find a video that supports your practice.

Yoga, Specifically

Barb: Do you recommend exercises for the psoas muscle?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Yes. That is a very important muscle group to keep flexible. If too tight, it will pull on the pelvis and lower back, which can cause back pain and misalignment. There is a pose that I do called Sea Horse that is done on a chair that will help your psoas. Please see the attached PDF for a look at the poses. Thank you for asking.

Health2016: Would you discuss chair yoga?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Chair yoga is my passion. I used it to help me get through chronic pain and the weight gain that happened from non-movement and depression. That experience helped me to develop an all-inclusive (not exclusive) style of yoga that anyone can do. It is heart-centered, which means that it meets the student right where they are and supports their path. The chair is used to work with gravity to get deeper into muscle groups to stretch and strengthen. The focus on breath and mind-body helps to calm the mind, ease the breath and find well-being. In every sense of the word, it is yoga; it is just more user friendly.

Like any other class, the instructor and their class will determine if it grabs you enough to hold your attention and support you on your path. Make sure that if you take a chair yoga class, or any other class for that matter, you do your homework to meet the instructor, observe and see how you feel about the class. Don’t forget to check with your physician to make sure he or she feels it is safe and OK for you to take yoga.

General Information

Drazbaj: Are there opportunities for CCF employees to have a yoga expert help them develop a personalized routine?

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Yes. We have several instructors who teach for us who are available for one-on-one yoga sessions. Call 216.448.4325 to schedule a session. Thank you for asking.


That is all the time we have for questions today. Thank you, Judi, for taking the time to talk to us today about Yoga for Weight Management,

Judi_Bar,_E-RYT_500: Wow! This was such a pleasure. I feel like I am speaking directly with you. Thank you for all of your questions. There is so much to share about yoga. I will answer those that I was not able to get to at this time. If there is another yoga-related topic you would like to cover, please send a request for that.

Use yoga as part of a balanced fitness and wellness practice. Take the time to choose healthy foods, walk and enjoy the feeling of the outdoors. Practice mindfulness and take the time to enjoy your day. My next web chat, which will be in September, is on Yoga and Chronic Pain. Thank you for your questions, and I look forward to staying connected. Blessings! Judi :)

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