Lengthen, Strengthen and Stimulate Digestion with Yoga to Aid Weight Loss
By Marla R. Miller
If you can’t get excited about spending an hour at the gym or on the treadmill, yoga offers an alternative that still torches calories, fires up metabolism and tones muscles.
Yoga is great on days when you want to move your body in a gentle way or recover from a strength-training session. Or, it can be used as your main form of exercise when combined with a sensible eating plan to promote weight loss.
As with any new exercise, yoga takes practice and time to become familiar with the poses. You should always listen to your body and start with a beginner class or asanas and move into more advanced postures. It’s meant to connect the mind and body through breath, stimulate blood flow, slowly elevate heart rate and provide a sustained burn. It should not hurt and you should go at your own pace to experience the full relaxation and restorative benefits.
Yoga incorporates breath work, body-weight exercises and flowing poses that move from stretching to strengthening to tone muscles and blast fat all over. This also increases heart rate and heats your body on the inside, helping to flush out toxins and water weight and boost performance of the lymphatic system and organs.
If you prefer taking a class, the best bets for weight loss are hot yoga, performed under hot, humid conditions to induce sweating, power yoga, designed to build strength and flexibility, or yoga fusion, which combines yoga with dance, kickboxing or other cardio.
But many DVDs you can do at home offer fat-burning yoga workouts that provide cardiovascular benefits, burn calories, create long lines and target trouble spots.
There’s also a deeper benefit: Yoga helps you to find balance and relieve stress. By connecting mind and body, you slow down mentally and become more conscious of your body and when you are eating and why. This helps you become aware of your feelings, reduce emotional and binge eating and make better food choices. By managing stress, you manage hormones, which are often overlooked as a reason why you are holding onto fat.
Try the following yoga poses to transform your body and maintain a healthy weight:
Sun salutation series: Surya namaskar is a set of yoga asanas done in succession. Also known as Vinyasa flow yoga, this invigorating sequence is a great way to start the day, offering a total body workout that gets your engine revving to burn calories all day long. It helps with weight loss by involving various forward and backward bending poses that flex and stretch the spinal column, abdominals, hips and thighs. It also detoxifies your internal organs through oxygenation.
Weight-bearing poses: Warrior 1 and 2, Chaturanga (yoga pushup), plank, side plank, chair and tree pose increase endurance and tone muscles. Many of these poses build arm, shoulder, leg and abdominal strength and require multiple parts working together in a challenging way to create the perfect alignment.
Inversions such as shoulder stand, plow and fish pose: Stimulate the thyroid and help give your body a metabolism boost. There are many benefits to inverting your body, including taking pressure off your internal organs and heart, boosting circulation and fighting gravity.
Spinal twists, triangle, side angle, half moon: These twisting poses and side bends massage the abdomen, target internal organs and stimulate the digestive tract to eliminate toxins and encourage regular bowel movements.
The dogs, bridge, balancing table, locust, camel and cobra: Downward-facing dog and upward-facing dog poses help lengthen the torso and tone hips and thighs, along with pesky arm flab. Bridge and balancing table pose work your glutes, thighs, hamstrings and abdominals. Locust, camel and cobra involve stretching and strengthening of the spine, waist and hips.
These exercises provide a full-body workout that helps reduce unhealthy fatty tissue and change body composition. These poses also relieve constipation, stress, nervous tension and bloating – all factors in helping the body let go of excess weight. A regular yoga practice contributes to a sound mind and a sound body, leading to mental clarity, a feeling of calm and insight and awareness into unhealthy eating habits and lifestyle choices that may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts.