86485370 (2)Any movement is good movement as far as managing weight goes—whether it’s running, walking, lifting weights or riding a bike. But there’s a surprising form of exercise that scientists have recently uncovered as one of the best ways to slim down fast and keep fit—restorative yoga (simply meant, gentle poses that are held for an extended period of time).

Practicing yoga has a slew of health benefits—including increased flexibility, muscle tone and energy; as well as providing relief to those suffering from back pain.

A recent study by the National Institute of Health found that women who did restorative yoga burned 2 ½ times more body fat than those who just stretched for that same period of time. Similarly, a study in the Journal of Alternative Medicine found that overweight men who practiced yoga and breathing exercises daily lost an average of 4 pounds in 10 days.

What is the secret for weight loss behind this powerful practice?

Lowers Stress
When the stress hormone cortisol is high, it helps us collect unwanted belly fat. Research shows that yoga helps reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), making it much easier to shed unwanted fat.159290583 (2)

Helps You Eat Better
Stressed people tend to crave and eat foods that are high in calories. Since yoga helps calm you, you’re more likely to reach for (and crave!) celery instead of french fries.

Helps You Sleep Better
Research has found that practicing yoga consistently improves your overall quality of sleep. If you’re not getting enough sleep, the likelihood of weight gain goes up, as does your resistance to eating high-calorie foods.

Puts You in the Right Mindset 76746889
The great thing about yoga is it allows you to breathe—literally. Taking deep breaths allows you to increase your mindfulness in the moment and for the rest of the day. What does that mean for weight loss? You’ll become more aware of your body’s needs—when it needs exercise and when it needs to eat.

Yoga can be really intimidating if you haven’t tried it before, but there are many poses out there that even first-timers can do. If you’re not sure where to start, check out these 5 beginner poses (that are also great for helping back pain).