Have you ever considered using yoga poses for weight loss? If not, then it might be high time that you considered this form of exercise as a weight loss plan. In this article we are going to show you how to do yoga poses for weight loss, how to incorporate daily yoga poses for weight loss and many such tips to help you achieve your body goals in a more relaxed but still effective way.
Is Yoga Exercise?
This is a question that many people looking for a workout regimen find themselves asking. When we think of what exercise should be, we often imagine high-intensity examples such as cardio, HIIT or strength training. However, yoga is often done slowly and calmly without all the other heart-pumping excitement and muscle-straining effects of other exercises.
On the other hand, when yoga is discussed, it is often linked to benefits such as reducing stress and anxiety, reducing inflammation, reducing chronic pain, helping fight against depression, promoting sleep and generally improving your quality of life (4), and not necessarily weight loss, and thus it does not strike you as a form of exercise.
Despite all this yoga is still considered as exercise. Not only does it help burn calories and even build toned muscles, but it is also a full-body workout that effectively combines strengthening and stretching poses with deep breathing and meditation or relaxation (14). This will not only fast-track you towards getting the body of your dreams, but it will also help with the above-mentioned benefits like fighting depression, improving sleep quality, reducing stress and anxiety, etc.
Is Yoga Good For Weight Loss?
Yes, it is. As we have seen above, this is a full-body workout that can help you get in shape in no time. If you are still unconvinced and are still wondering how can yoga help you lose weight, here is how:
Helps you build muscle
In a typical yoga class, you have to stretch your body to the limit while holding several yoga asanas for a period of time. This in turn puts strain on the muscles which break down and once they heal grow and give you some defined muscle tone (7). The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn in a day; because a single pound of muscles burns six to seven more calories in a day that the same amount of fat does, hence you end up using more food energy and losing weight (11).
Improves your metabolism
Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. This energy is then used by the body for its daily functions which include automatic tasks such as breathing and blinking to harder tasks such as doing chores, gardening, working out, etc.
Those with a faster metabolism burn calories at a quicker rate, while those with a slower one tend to store more fat in the body and have a harder time losing weight (12). These however are not the only ways in which this exercise can lead to weight loss.
One study published in 2013 revealed that this practice may lead to weight loss through (18):
Heightening mindfulness, improving mood, and reducing stress, which may help reduce food intake
A calorie deficit is one of the best ways to induce weight loss.
Enhanced awareness of satiety
When you are more connected to your body, you are less likely to overeat as you can easily realize when you feel full.
Reducing back and joint pain
Yoga is a low-intensity workout and does not put much strain on your back or joints, which means if you had any issues with these areas, it can help you heal or reduce discomfort, allowing you to indulge in other higher-intensity more calorie-burning exercises.
Energy expenditure during yoga sessions
It is important to note that there are various types of yoga, some more physically demanding than others. Vinyasa, Iyengar, Ashtanga and Bikram/hot yoga have some of the most physically demanding and best yoga poses for weight loss (2, 9).
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The Best Yoga Poses For Weight Loss For Beginners
Adho Mukha Svanasana aka Downward-facing dog
This is a fantastic workout that can help you tone your whole body. It, however, is more beneficial for your thighs and arms.
- Begin on your hands and knees. Align your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
- Curl your toes under and push back through your hands to lift your hips and straighten your legs.
- Let your head hang and move your shoulder blades away from your ears towards your hips. Engage your quadriceps strongly to take the burden of your body’s weight off your arms.
- Rotate your thighs inward, keep your tail high, and sink your heels towards the floor.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds to a minute and then release by exhaling and bending your knees coming down to your hands and knees.
Kumbhakasana aka the Plank
The plank is a great yoga weight loss workout that mostly targets the muscles in your core and arms.
- Begin in the downward-facing dog position, and inhale and pull your torso forward until the torso and arms are parallel and perpendicular to the floor, respectively. Your shoulders should also be right above your wrists.
- Engage your abdominal muscles, and ensure that your body, from the ears to the toes is in a straight line. Do not sag or bend at the middle nor should you lift your shoulder toward your ears.
- Hold this position for up to 30 seconds before releasing to the floor.
A more advanced variation of this exercise is the upward plank pose, where instead of facing the floor, you are overturned, facing the sky with your hands and plans straight under you (13).
Chaturanga Dandasana aka Four-Limbed Staff Pose
This yoga posture helps strengthen and tone your core, arms, shoulders, wrists and back.
- From a traditional plank pose, inhale and push forward, reaching your chest forward until your shoulders are slightly in-front of your wrists and you are on the balls of your feet.
- Flatten your shoulder blades (so they are not sticking out), keep your core engaged, and slowly push your thighs and upper body up and away from the floor.
- Exhale, bend and push your elbows straight to the back as you lower your body until it is a few inches above the floor.
- Hold this position for up to 30 seconds before exhaling and releasing. You could either fully drop to the floor or go back to the traditional plank position.
Utthita Parsvakonasana aka the Extended Side Angle Pose
This position is one of those yoga poses for weight loss that targets multiple muscles. The Utthita Parsvakonasana works the muscles in your legs, hips, hamstrings, and helps open your chest.
- Begin by standing with your feet more than shoulder-width apart – about three to four feet apart. Point your left foot forward and turn your right foot out.
- Be sure that the arch of your left foot is inline with your right heel and then bend your right knee to a right angle.
- Slowly lower the right side of your body towards the top of your right thigh. Bring your right hand towards the ground besides your right foot to help support and maintain your balance.
- Lift your left arm and fingertips up and over your head to help you stretch. This should make you feel a stretch on the left side of your body, beginning from your toes all the way to your fingertips.
- Lift you head towards the lifted left arm.
- Stay here for up to 30 seconds before inhaling and getting back to standing position. Rest for a few breaths before repeating the movement of the other side.
Virabhadrasana II aka Warrior II
This pose helps to strengthen the legs and arms, tone the core muscles and opens the chest and shoulders.
- Begin by standing on your mat, legs together and arms at your sides. On an exhale, step your left foot back about 3 to 4 feet.
- Place your left foot parallel to the short edge of your mat at a 90-degree angle and line up the heel of your right foot with the heel of your left foot.
- On an inhale, extend your arms out alongside your body, raising them parallel to the floor with your palms facing down.
- Bend deeply into your right knee, stacking it directly over your right ankle and bringing your right shin perpendicular to the floor.
- Turn your head to face the front of your mat. Your gaze is forward over the right hand.
- Both thighs are rotating outward.
- Engage your triceps to support your arms, your quadriceps to support your legs, and your belly to support your torso.
- Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds before extending the front leg, and lowering your arms.
Can Yoga Help You Lose Belly Fat?
Yes it can. When doing yoga poses for weight loss belly fat is one of the main concerns that many people are often looking to combat. Thankfully, this exercise can help you get rid of abdominal fat and cultivate a slimmer waistline (8). According to Harvard Medical School, doing Hatha yoga, a relatively simple type of this exercise can help you burn anywhere between 120 to 178 calories in 30 minutes, all depending on how much you weigh (6).
Chakrasana aka Wheel Pose
This stance should be included in your daily yoga poses for weight loss and belly fat loss as it targets and strengthens your core, arms, wrists, legs, shoulders and chest. It also increases the flexibility and elasticity of your spine (1).
Here is how to do it:
- Lie flat on your back on the floor. You may bend your knees so that the soles of your feet are on the floor and closer to your buttocks. Make sure that your feet are hip-width apart.
- Your hands must be placed behind your shoulders, ensuring your fingers are opened up and pointed towards your shoulders.
- Once you feel comfortable in this stance, balance your weight on your limbs. Then, press your feet and palms, and lift your entire body off the mat. Let your head hang gently. Your neck should be long.
- Make sure you breathe comfortably. Take slow, deep breaths. Hold this position for 30 seconds to a full minute – or for as long as you feel comfortable.
For a more advanced variation, you could try lifting one leg for the duration, then repeating the above motion and lifting the other leg.
Bhujangasana aka Cobra pose
While this position (and its multiple variations) are mostly used to help ease back pain (15), it can also help reduce belly fat as it also targets multiple muscles including those in your core, chest, shoulders and can help tone the glutes (5).
Here is how to do the Bhujangasana yoga poses for weight loss:
- Begin by lying down flat on your stomach. Place your palms flat on the ground directly under your shoulders and then bend our elbows straight back and press them into your sides.
- Ensure that your neck is in a neutral position and that your pubic bone is pressed to the floor.
- Inhale and lift your chest off the floor. Roll your shoulders back and keep your lower ribs on the floor.
- Check your position to make sure that your elbows are still attached to your sides and that your neck is still neutral, with your gaze on the floor.
- Keep breathing and stay in this position for up to 30 seconds before coming down on an exhale.
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Dhanurasana aka the Bow Pose
This is among one of the most challenging but best yoga poses for weight loss on this list as it is essentially a full-body workout. The bow pose works the muscles in your arms, shoulders, chest, hamstrings, back, core, and everything in between.
Step-by-step instructions are as follows:
- Lie flat on your stomach with your hands at your sides, palms facing up and chin on the yoga mat.
- Exhale and bend your knees backwards, bringing your knees as close to your butt as you can.
- Lift your hand backwards and hold your ankles.
- With your hands still at your ankles, inhale and lift the heels away from the buttocks. Doing this will simultaneously lift your head, chest, and thighs away from the mat. Do not fight the motion and only stop when your abdomen is the only thing touching the mat.
- Push your tailbone into the mat to help deepen the stretch and keep looking straight ahead. Pay attention to how your arms, especially your shoulders feel. If you experience some discomfort try adjusting yourself. Release this position all together if you must, get back to the floor and try again, making sure that your shoulders are okay.
- Hold this position for up to 30 seconds and remember to keep breathing.
- To release the pose, exhale, lower your head, chest, thighs, and feet back towards the mat and let go of your ankles and return your hands to your side.
Ustrasana aka the Camel Pose
This is another one of yoga poses for weight loss that helps stretch your chest, abdomen, quads, and hip flexors, improve spinal flexibility, simultaneously strengthening the back muscles and improving posture (10).
Here’s how to do it:
- Begin by kneeling on the mat with your knees hip-width apart and your thighs straight and perpendicular to the floor.
- Rest your hands on the top of your buttocks, fingers pointing downwards and slightly arch your back inwards.
- Slowly lean back until you can touch your heels. If you can push further until you can wrap your hands around and hold said heels.
- Be sure to only straighten the spine without straining your neck.
- Hold this pose for up to one minute.
If this is too advanced for you opt out of reaching towards your heels and just lean back keeping your hands at the top of your bum. If you can reach the heels but cannot hold them, stop there. The aim is to feel the stretch without falling over or injuring yourself.
Naukasana aka the Boat pose
This is a great core-strengthening workout that also works the hip flexors, and adductor muscles. The step-by-step instructions are as follows:
- Sit on a gym or yoga mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Lean back slightly and lift your feet as high as you can and then fold them at the knees. Do not drop them to reach your thighs but let them hang with the shins parallel to the floor.
- Maintaining your balance, stretch your arms out in front of you, and lift them till they are about at the height of your shoulders. Remember to lengthen your spine (perfect posture), keep your core engaged and breath.
- Hold this pose for about 30 seconds. and then drop your legs and hands to the floor.
This is a beginner variation. For a more advance variation, do the following:
- Do the exercise again, but this time instead of bending at the knees, keep your legs as straight as you can so that your body forms a V-shape.
- Hold the pose as long as you can before releasing back to the floor.
- Remember to always breath and keep the core engaged. If you feel that you are losing the V-shape, bend your knees for a few seconds before pushing the legs straight and up again.
The Bottom Line
Yoga poses for weight loss are a great way of taking the first step into better health and fitness. Unlike other forms of exercise, these are low-intensity workouts that can be done by anyone irrespective of age, weight, or fitness level. A point to note, however, in spite of these positions being safer and of low intensity, please be sure to first consult your doctor so they may give you a go ahead to start incorporating these daily yoga poses for weight loss – especially if you happen to have a health condition.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 7 Reasons To Love Wheel Pose (2012, mindbodygreen.com)
- 11 Types Of Yoga: A Breakdown Of The Major Styles (2020, mindbodygreen.com)
- 12 Simple Yoga Asanas To Reduce Belly Fat (2020, stylecraze.com)
- 13 Benefits of Yoga That Are Supported by Science (2017, healthline.com)
- Bhujangasana: Know Impressive Health Benefits Of Cobra Pose; Here Are The Steps To Perform This Yoga Pose (2020, ndtv.com)
- Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights (2018, health.harvard.edu)
- CAN YOGA REPLACE STRENGTH TRAINING? (n.d, gaiam.com)
- Does Yoga Flatten Your Stomach? (2019, livestrong.com)
- Find Your Match Among the Many Types of Yoga (2007, yogajournal.com)
- How to Do Camel Pose (Ustrasana) in Yoga (2020, verywellfit.com)
- The Amount of Calories Muscles Burn (2020, verywellfit.com)
- The truth about metabolism (2018, health.harvard.edu)
- Upward Plank Pose (2007, yogajournal.com)
- Yoga (2019, webmd.com)
- Yoga Cobra Pose Modifications for Back Pain (2020, verywellhealth.com)
- YOGA FOR FITNESS (n.d., yogajournal.com)
- YOGA FOR WEIGHT LOSS (n.d., yogajournal.com)
- Yoga in the Management of Overweight and Obesity (2013, journals.sagepub.com)