One issue that has arisen from this pandemic is definitely weight gain. It’s the most prominent and consistent complaint amongst my clients of late.
Stress has certainly taken its toll, activating a very strong fight-flight mode within us all with excessive amounts of stress hormones like cortisol being released. The result is an increased armour of defense against COVID – or simply added fat – to distance the virus from entering us.
Our bodies do what they are designed to do. Conserving energy for a possible famine whilst going through lockdowns is a protective mechanism that our primitive genetic makeup does very well.
Calming the stress response can actually have a profound effect on how weight is deposited in our bodies. One of the most accredited and sought-after ways to relax the body is the ancient practice of yoga.
Yoga works in a very different way from traditional exercise. It takes into account our mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of our lives, rather than just our physical bodies.
Weight gain is a by-product of living a life that is out of balance.
It is vital and important to reduce stress because it is chronic stress that is directly connected to causing systemic body inflammation, hormonal imbalances, immune system disorders, chronic health problems, weight gain, as well as binge eating, emotional eating, and food cravings.
I know what you’re thinking. Losing weight through yoga sounds too good to be true.
On the surface, yoga seems like the polar opposite of a fast-paced high-intensity interval training (HIIT) circuit or a weightlifting workout, the two kinds of exercise usually recommended for weight loss.
A yoga class leaves your body feeling totally different: refreshed instead of wiped out, loose instead of tight, flexible instead of sore. It’s great for your mental health, helping you deal with stress and anxiety.
HIIT, weightlifting, and cardio are fun and effective for weight loss, but they’re also not for everyone. If yoga sounds more appealing and weight loss is your goal, a daily yoga practice can help you shed kilos too.
Yoga may not conjure up the same images of a calorie-burning, sweat-inducing workout as boot camp workouts or cardio dance-party routines.
But don’t be fooled by yoga’s deep breathing and sometimes-slow poses: doctors and personal training experts say it can seriously trim and tone your body – and also work on your mind and spirit to help you get healthier overall.
Gentle and restorative yoga can help with weight loss by kicking on the parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates breathing, digestion, and hormones.
By activating the parasympathetic nervous system, you’re gently stepping on your internal brakes and shutting down an overactive sympathetic nervous system that is responsible for your fight-flight mode. This lets everything take a rest: hormones rebalance, injuries begin repairing, and digestion proceeds normally – all of which can aid weight loss.
Yoga helps to slow you down mentally also so you can learn to distinguish between the urge to eat and the emotional impulses that sometimes drive us to eat to quell our feelings.
In addition, yoga also teaches awareness of the self, which is important for long-term change.
Losing weight has two important aspects, healthy eating, and exercise.
Yoga, when combined with healthy eating, has proven beneficial as it helps to lose weight along with keeping your mind and body healthy. Yoga increases your mindfulness and how you relate to your body. You will start seeking out food that is healthy instead of binging on food that can increase your fat accumulation.
The Benefits of Yoga Poses
Yoga is not just about weight loss. It has more benefits to offer such as:
- Increased flexibility
- Improved respiration
- Improved energy and vitality
- Balanced metabolism
- Improved athletic health
- Increased muscle tone
- Improved cardio health
- Stress management
Which Yoga Practice Is Best For Weight Loss?
If you’re looking for pure calorie burn, then fast-paced Vinyasa yoga is the practice to choose. It focuses on integrating your core and weight-bearing on your hands and feet.
A classic flow from plank to tricep-pushup to upward facing dog provides a core burn, works your triceps, and then uses your arms to hold up your body weight as you stretch. This kind of weight-bearing move increases heart rate and builds muscle.
The more muscle you build, the more calories you’ll burn even after you’re done exercising.
Power yoga is another good choice, though it’s more intense and better suited for people who are already in good shape. In power yoga, there is less meditation and more of a focus on standing poses and faster-paced movement.
Your heart will pump even harder than in a Vinyasa class, which is good news for losing weight.
And what about hot yoga? Surprisingly, Vinyasa classes burn more calories than hot yoga. Hot yoga makes you feel like you’re working harder than you actually are because your body is just trying to thermo-regulate. Basically, sweating more doesn’t mean you’re burning more calories.
A more gentle yoga class, such as Hatha, won’t burn as many calories. But it can benefit your mental health and stress levels and while helping you be more mindful, all of which have weight-loss benefits as well.
How Often Should I Do Yoga to Lose Weight?
For the best weight-loss results, it is recommended to do yoga three times a week. Continue to stay active and get your heart rate up on the other three to four days as well, whether through cardio, weightlifting, or HIIT workouts of 30 minutes to an hour.
If you eat clean and burn calories, though, the results will come, and yoga has a place in the process.
12 Yoga Poses/Asanas For Weight loss
- Surya Namaskar (or Sun Salutation)
A series of gracefully linked asanas, not only is the Surya Namaskar a great way to begin your exercise, but it is in itself also a great fat burner as it increases body heat and engages all the major muscles of the body. It stretches and tones most of the major muscles, trims the waist, tones the arms, stimulates the digestive system, and balances the metabolism.
Thus, practicing it regularly means that you start off your workout with a great fat burner.
- Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limb Staff Pose)
Yoga’s answer to the plank will have you sweating in no time with exertion. The Chaturanga Dandasana is the best way to strengthen your core. It helps in toning the arms and abdominal muscles and also strengthens the lower back. As simple as it looks, its benefits are immense. Regular practice of this asana can not only help in shedding weight but also improve your posture and prepare your upper body for more challenging exercises.
3. Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
A great way to stretch the body and challenge your flexibility and strength, this asana helps in honing your concentration and sense of balance and engages the abdominal and hip region while stretching the shoulders. With total body engagement, you will get the best results as you hold the pose for longer durations.
4. Navasana (Boat Pose)
Yet another all-body engager, this asana challenges your mind-body link as you hold the position which tones your stomach and stretches your hips and thighs. For a greater challenge, you can rock gently while holding the pose to give your shoulders and abdomen that extra burn.
5. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
This raise helps in using your own bodyweight to challenge your hips and thighs while opening up your abdomen and chest. Repeatedly striking this pose can help in engaging and toning the glutes, hamstrings, and abdominal muscles while giving your shoulders a break.
6. Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
A killer workout for the thighs and hips, this asana will challenge and tone your legs. Stay in this position as long as you can, and you will surely feel the burn from this asana. Keeping your hands raised also gives your shoulders a good stretch and helps in keeping your back in the right position.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog)
Deceptively simple-looking, this asana is a great way to tone the entire body with the engagement of the right muscles. Firstly, use your arms to push your weight back towards your legs, and make sure that your core is engaged by keeping your body in line. Rotate your thighs inwards and hold for as long as you can.
8. Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand)
A great remedy for thyroid and digestive issues, the shoulder stand also challenges your balance and strength – indeed, being able to pull this asana off without any support is considered a major benchmark of fitness. Working both the upper and lower body, this asana is also a great way to tone the waistline.
9. Virabhadrasana (Warrior)
There are three levels within this pose that strengthens and tones the arms, shoulders, thighs, and back muscles, all in one go.
Warrior 1 is perfect to warm up the hips of both legs for Warrior 2. In addition, Warrior 1 helps to lengthen the hip flexors and calf muscles of the back leg and guides your knee over the center of the front foot.
Warrior 2 is a great yoga pose to open the hips, chest, and shoulders and can improve your breathing capacity and increase circulation throughout the entire body.
Furthermore, maintaining this pose for a longer period of time can increase stamina and balance. Holding the body in the lunge position is a great workout for the core and stabilizer muscles and tones the muscles in the back, thighs, groin, buttocks, ankles, and feet as well as in the abs and the arms.
Finally, the alignment of the body in this asana is a great way to increase body awareness and improve the mind-body connection.
Warrior 3 pose is made to improve your balance along with toning your bottom, legs, and arms. It also helps to tone your tummy and give you a flat belly if you contract your abdominal muscles while you hold the position.
- Paschimottasana (Seated Forward Bend)
Primarily a stretcher for the back and legs and a hamstring opener, this asana nevertheless requires a great deal of strength to both strike the pose and hold it in position. Breathing evenly through this asana also helps in engaging the pressurized core, and re-extending your elbows will give you an extra stretch and burn.
- Utthita Parva Konasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)
Challenge your thighs and hips and work out your obliques with this great asana, which also helps in opening the chest and shoulders. Hold the pose up to a minute to really feel its impact, and do not forget to repeat on the other side.
- Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
As important it is to engage in a rigorous and challenging workout, it is equally important to rest and recover well. Just like the Surya Namaskar is a great way to begin your workout, the Corpse pose is an excellent way to end your workout. This pose is considered an ‘active rest’, where your muscles are not limp, but not working out either. A perfect time for meditation too, this asana can help in healing the body post an energetic workout.
*If you’ve got this far – thank you for reading and I look forward to bringing you more information in the future.
Now, enjoy some wonderful workouts with my favourite yoga instructor, Adriene …