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I think more and more people are starting to become aware of how effective yoga is at helping you lose weight. Yes, it is an amazing practice for stress relief, improving flexibility, and releasing tension, but it can also most definitely make you work up a sweat and tone your entire body.
Yoga is a body weight based workout, which has been shown to be one of the most effective types of exercise to help you burn fat and keep it off. But before we get into that, let’s talk about what even causes weight gain in the first place.
What Causes Weight Gain?
Before we see how yoga helps with fat loss, let us see what causes excess fat. Some of the common causes of obesity include:
- History of obesity in the family
- High consumption of junk foods
- Irregular eating habits including mindless eating, late night foods and excessive intake of food
- Lack of physical exercise
- Medical conditions including hypothyroid
- Certain digestive disorders
- Hormonal changes in women during menopause
How Yoga Can Help You Burn Fat
Yoga is one of the most powerful practices to burn excess fat for a number of reasons, and there have even been studies that have scientifically proven the effectiveness yoga has on weight loss. Here are a few ways:
- Improves Digestion: Certain digestive disorders including ulcer and acid reflux cause weight gain. Yoga strengthens your digestive system thereby supporting healthy weight loss.
- Targets Excess Fat: Practicing yoga poses that target specific areas of excess fat such as twists and bends will help to burn fat. Yoga is also a complete body workout thus helping in toning the entire body.
- Supports Function of Glands: Yoga poses stimulate glands and promote their functions thereby preventing weight gain.
- Relieves Stress and Depression: Stress and depression induce poor eating habits. Studies show practicing yoga regularly relieves stress and depression and promotes a sense of calm.
- Cures insomnia: Lack of sleep has an adverse effect on your appetite. Certain yoga poses promote quality sleep which support your weight loss goals.
- Develops Mindfulness: Yoga promotes mindfulness, which helps you listen to your body better and avoid overeating, stay stress-free and follow a healthy lifestyle.
Beginner’s Yoga Workout For Weight Loss
The following sequence is made up of two parts: 5 beginner friendly yoga poses for weight loss, and sun salutation. This combination is a great starting point for beginners to become accustomed to yoga while experiencing the benefits it has on weight loss.
Part I: 5 Best Yoga Poses for Weight Loss
The following yoga poses have been shown to be very beneficial for weight loss, and provide tons of other amazing benefits too! These poses can be practiced at any level, making them very beginner friendly.
1. Standing Backbend Pose / Anuvittasana
- Stand straight with your hands to your sides and your back straight.
- Place your palms on your lower back with the fingers pointing towards the ground.
- Inhale as you arch backwards. Expand your chest and drop your head backwards so you face the wall behind you.
- Hold the pose for 20 seconds.
- Release the pose by straightening your back and dropping your hands to your sides.
Once you are comfortable with the pose, you can bring your hands over your head and bend backwards with your fingers pointing towards the wall behind your back.
- Improves digestion
- Reduces excess fat in tummy and hips
- Improves lung function
- Relieves back pain
- Relieves menstrual disorders
- Supports heart function
Those with chronic injury in neck, back or hips should refrain from practicing the pose.
2. Standing Forward Bend / Uttanasana
- Stand straight with your feet close to each other and back straight. Keep your hands on your hips.
- Exhale, bend forward at your hips.
- Deepen the pose by stretching your spine so you can place your palms on the floor by the sides of your feet. Alternately, you can hold your lower legs from behind. Keep your knees straight.
- Pull your thigh muscles up.
- Hold the pose for one minute.
- Release the pose by straightening your body with inhalation.
- Tones the entire legs and reduces excess fat.
- Tones abdominal muscles and reduces excess fat in tummy and hips
- Promotes spine health
- Strengthens digestive system
- Boosts lung health
- Regulates blood pressure
- Cures headache
- Cures insomnia
- Relieves stress and depression
- Promotes calm
In case of difficulty reaching for the floor, bend your knees and perform the pose.
The pose is not recommended to those with chronic injury in the back, abdomen or hips.
3. Boat Pose / Navasana
- Sit down. Bend your knees and place your feet on the ground. Place your hands by the sides of your hips.
- Keeping the spine straight lean backwards slightly.
- Supporting your body with your hands, lift your feet off the floor and straighten your legs.
- Stretch your arms forward aligning them to your shoulders. Look straight. Breathe normally.
- Now you are balancing on your sit bones. You will resemble the shape of the alphabet ‘V’.
- Remain in the pose for 30 seconds. With practice increase the duration to one minute.
- To come out of the pose, place your legs and palms on the floor and straighten your body to a seated position.
- Reduces abdominal fat
- Stimulates function of abdominal organs
- Strengthens the core
- Relieves gas and constipation
- Boosts metabolism
- Relieves stress
If holding the pose is difficult, use a yoga strap to loop around your feet and hold the other end of the strap to support your legs. You can also place a block under your feet.
The pose is not recommended to those with insomnia or while experiencing headache or during menstrual cycle. Those with injury in the back or neck should perform the pose leaning against a wall.
4. Seated Forward Bend / Paschimottanasana
- Sit down with your legs stretched forward. Keep your toes pointed upwards and your back straight.
- With inhalation, lift your hands sideways and over your head.
- Exhale as you bend forward with your arms reaching for your feet.
- Hold your feet keeping your knees straight.
- Place your chest and head on your legs. Deepen the pose by stretching your spine.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds.
- Release the pose with exhalation as you release your feet and straighten your back.
- Tones your abdomen and reduces excess fat in your tummy.
- Stretches and tones the entire body.
- Relieves digestive disorders
- Stimulates function of liver, kidney and spleen
- Stimulates Root Chakra thereby promoting flow of energy to all chakras, known as the energy centers.
- Develops acceptance
If holding the feet is difficult, you can hold your legs where you can reach comfortably. You can also use a yoga strap to hold your legs.
Avoid practicing the pose in case of sciatic problems and slip disc conditions.
5. Half Lord of the Fishes Pose / Ardha Matsyendrasana
- Sit down with your legs stretched forward. Keep your back straight.
- Bend your left leg and draw your left foot over the right leg. Place the left foot on the floor on the outer side of the right hip.
- Slide your right leg on the floor towards your body. Draw the right heel in and place it near the left buttock.
- Turn the upper body to your left.
- Place your left hand on the floor behind your back. If your flexibility allows you can draw the left hand behind your back and hold the left ankle on the opposite side of your body.
- Turn your head to your left and look behind over your shoulder. Those with neck pain can look straight instead of turning back.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds initially. With practice, you can increase the duration to one minute.
- Release the pose by releasing your hands, straightening your body and stretching the legs straight.
- Repeat the same on the other side.
- Reduces excess fat in the tummy and hips.
- Tones back muscles
- Improves digestion
- Strengthens the nervous system
- Relieves menstrual disorders
- Promotes lung health
- Supports healthy function of kidney and liver
- Stimulates Kundalini power and supports flow of energy to all energy centers in the body
Avoid practicing the pose in case of chronic injury in the spine, back, hips or knees.
Part II: Sun Salutation / Surya Namaskar
Sun Salutation is a yoga sequence that consists of certain yoga poses which you perform in a flowing style. While the poses mentioned above are held for a particular time, in Sun Salutation, you keep moving into one pose from the other without holding. Hence, this sequence helps to burn excess fat quite fast and hence can be rightly termed the best weight loss yoga workout for beginners.
If you’re a visual person, check out our in-depth visual guide on how to properly do sun salutation for beginners.
- Stand straight keeping your palms together in front of your chest as in prayer position. This pose is called the Mountain Pose.
- Inhale, move into Standing Backward Bend, in which you arch your back with your hands stretched behind.
- Exhale as you bend forward to assume Forward Bend Pose, in which you place your hands on the floor by your feet.
- Keeping your palms firmly on the ground, inhale and stretch your right leg backwards without bending your knees. Tuck your toes in. Exhale.
- Inhale as you stretch your left leg backwards. Place the left foot closer to your right foot. This is called High Plank Pose, which works your core and reduces excess fat in the tummy.
- Exhale as you bend your elbows and lower your body closer to the ground. Your entire body will be now aligned in one line. This is Four-Limbed Staff Pose which tones your entire body.
- With the hips lifted, place your chin, chest and knees on the ground.
- Inhale, lift the upper body upwards straightening your hands and lifting your legs off the floor. Arch your back. You are now on your palms and the front sides of your feet. You are also in Upward Facing Dog Pose, which stretches the front side of your body.
- Inhale as you lift your body upwards straightening your hands and legs keeping the feet on the floor. Lift your hips high up so you now resemble an inverted ‘V’. Now you are in Downward Facing Dog Pose.
- Inhale and bring your right leg forward. Place the right foot on the inner side of your right palm.
- Exhale as your bring your left leg forward to place the left foot closer to your right foot. Stretch your knees straight and go into Standing Forward Bend.
- With inhalation, straighten your body and arch it back, bring your arms over your head as in Standing Backward Bend.
- Draw your hands down and bring your palms together in front of your chest as you straighten your body to release the pose.
Those with injury in back, hips or legs should refrain from practicing Sun Salutation.
Here are some tips to get the most out of your weight loss yoga workout:
- Practice only on empty stomach. While the ideal time would be in the early hours of morning, those who prefer to practice in the evening, should maintain a gap of four hours from intake of food.
- Keep the space ventilated so you enjoy fresh air.
- Avoid playing music during practice as the focus tends to shift from you to the music.
- Practice yoga the same time everyday so your body and mind stay fine tuned.