When you think weight loss, yoga probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But talk to anyone who’s tried yoga and they’ll tell you what they weren’t expecting: even beginner flows can be surprisingly intense.
For yogis, weight loss isn’t the main prerogative—it's strength, form, and mentality. This is good news: when you're practicing for strength, you get to know where your problem areas are...which will help you determine what you need to do for your weight loss goals on and off the mat.
The Benefits of Practicing Yoga
Yoga evangelists will tell you that yoga’s good for pretty much everything. They’re not too far off. Studies show that yoga can help ease depression, reduce cortisol (that’s the hormone that your body produces when it’s stressed—and it's bad for weight loss), reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and promote better sleep. Not to mention it improves your flexibility, builds strength, and teaches mindfulness, breathing techniques, and focus. A daily or weekly yoga practice will not only help your health over all—it’ll make you better in the gym and out of it.
How Can Yoga Help Me Lose Weight?
As with any weight loss, it’s all about a combination of exercise and diet. Yoga is no exception. You can burn a hefty amount of calories in a regular yoga class—adding to that deficit with a diet of your choosing will help you shed pounds faster.
That said, yoga can help you lose weight in a number of ways:
It's Perfect for an Active Rest Day
- It can be hard to take a day off and give your body the rest it needs when you have a weight loss goal. This is where yoga comes in: on your "off" days, let yoga be your restful workout. With stretches and breathing built into the practice, it's a perfect no-guilt recovery tool.
It Boosts Your Parasympathetic Nervous System
- Yoga, by strengthening and lengthening your muscles and encouraging calm breath, can activate your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). (That's the part of your body that helps slow you down.) Taking time for a restorative yoga class signals to your body that it's rest time and tells the PNS to do its thing: rebalance your hormones, repair injuries, and regulate digestion, all of which aid in weight loss.
It Reduces Cortisol Production
- When your PNS is activated, it's signaling to your adrenal gland that cortisol production is unnecessary. Cortisol, that pesky hormone that makes it impossible to lose weight, is produced during stressful situations (also known as: every day as an American.) It's essential that our bodies reduce its production of cortisol in order to lose weight...and studies show that yoga can do just that.
- Focus is the difference between weight loss efforts gone right and ones that fall apart. The benefits of yoga or more than physiological—they're psychological, too. The breathing you practice can help you when you're exercising; the focus you practice can help you stay in the zone; and the mindset you develop can help you stay positive when progress is incremental.
Best Yoga Moves for Fat Burning
There are some powerful moves you can work into your practice that can help you amp up the intensity. Here are our favorites.
Down Dog Split Knee to Nose Crunch
Get into down dog. Inhale your right leg up towards the sky. As you exhale, bring your right knee toward your nose, rounding your spine and drawing your bellybutton in and up. Inhale your leg back down. Do this 10 more times, and then do it on your left side.
Plank with Arm Leg Lift
Get into plank position, hands beneath your shoulders, spine straight, thighs lifted. As quickly or slowly as feels comfortable, lift your right arm up, reaching forward, and lift your left leg up, extending backwards. Take three deep, intentional breaths here. Lower and repeat. Do 10 reps and then move on to the next side.
Dolphin Push Up
From plank, lower yourself onto your forearms. Tuck your toes and lift your hips so that your body forms a triangle. You may have to shift your toes forward. From there, on an inhale, start bringing your chin towards your hands, shifting your shoulders over your elbows, so that your body is almost in plank. Then shift back up. Do this for 20 reps.
Start standing with your feet hip-width apart. Raise your arms up to reach over your head. Then, from the hips, begin to fold forward, keeping your spine straight, and bring your right leg up with it until it’s parallel to the floor. Hold and breathe.
At Jersey Strong, we offer yoga classes with certified trainers to help you take advantage of the benefits of this ancient practice. Want to give it a go, but don't want to commit just yet? Come in and take advantage of a free trial today!