We’re constantly bombarded with various images putting forth society’s ideals for beauty, handsomeness, and fitness. But more importantly than the way you look is the way you feel—an indicator of how healthy you are.
Fat, particularly fat around your waist, raises your risk of serious illness. It can hurt your heart, trigger diabetes, and wreck your sleep and knees.
A yoga practice can be a great way to burn excess fat and replace it with lean muscles. By firing up many different muscle groups, you’ll build strength and burn more fat and calories even while you rest, thanks to a higher metabolism! Indeed, muscle burns over 2x the amount of calories than fat does: Christopher Wharton, PhD, a certified personal trainer and researcher with the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, notes that 10 pounds of muscle would burn 50 calories in a day spent at rest, while 10 pounds of fat would burn 20 calories. In addition to building muscle, yoga can help you lose weight in other ways.
Check out the five yoga poses below that are known for burning fat so you can get started on your health journey while enjoying the benefits of this ancient practice.
1. Crow pose (bakasana)
Crow pose is a great arm balancing pose that requires loads of focus and upper body strength. This pose will have you working your core in order to keep your entire body off the ground while balancing with your knees bent and placed on your triceps.
- Start in a deep squat then plant your palms down on your mat shoulder distance apart. Shift your weight forward onto your hands and place your knees on the backs of your triceps, or nestle them into your armpits if you can get them there.
- Focus your gaze 10-12 inches in front of you as you lift one or both feet off the ground. Tighten your core. Bringing your feet towards your butt as your toes point back behind you.
- Try to maintain this pose for at least 5 breaths before planting your feet back down gently.
- The stronger you get, the easier it will be to keep both feet off the ground and remain in the balanced pose longer.
2. Chair pose (utkatasana)
Chair pose is a challenging standing posture that works your core and your entire lower body.
- Start in a standing position with your feet touching. As you sink your hips down (as if you were getting ready to sit down into a chair), bring your arms straight up overhead, keeping the elbows as close to the ears as possible.
- Bring the weight of your body back into your heels and try to dip your hips down as much as possible. If you can get your thighs parallel to the floor, you’re getting deeper into the pose and working the thighs and glutes even more.
- Hold this pose for five breaths before straightening the legs and folding forward to release.
3. Plank and forearm plank (phalakasana)
Plank pose is the position that you get into when you’re getting ready to do push-ups. It works a large range of muscles, from your shoulders to your core to your legs.
- Start on all fours and then bring your feet back behind you until your legs are straight and you're on your toes with your heels pressing back. Your arms should be straight with the shoulders above the elbows and the elbows above the wrists.
- Push with your arms so that the area between your shoulder blades puffs up to the sky, versus sinking down. This will work your serratus, tiny muscles in between your ribs that help you push and pull without injuring your back.
- Hold this pose for at least five breaths, making sure to engage the thighs by pulling the knees up. Prevent the lower back from dipping down by keeping the abs tucked in.
- For an added challenge, alternate between holding plank on your hands to plank on your forearms for three to five sets.
4. High lunge with a twist
Lunges are great at working your lower body, which holds some of the largest muscles that, as they build, can help burn excess fat. Adding a twist pushes you to maintain your balance while also working your core. The spinal twist also helps those muscles, which can get stiff over time, remain mobile - helping you remain mobile as well.
- Start by coming into a high lunge or crescent pose with your right leg forward. Hold there, making sure your knee is directly above your ankle.
- Bring your hands to prayer at your heart.
- Slowly twist the spine to one side, hooking the elbow outside of the knee. Stack the shoulders on top of each other, keep the heart open and gaze up towards the sky. On the inhale, elongate the spine and on the exhale take the twist slightly deeper.
- Hold for three to five breaths before untwisting to center then switching sides.
Because inversions require that you hold all of your body weight on your arms, they’re great at building core, arm, and shoulder muscles and burning fat.
- Start by giving forearm stand a try. Get into dolphin pose first and make sure that your arms are shoulder-width apart. Then walk your feet in until your hips are pointing towards the sky.
- Lift one leg up as high as you can and gently rock your body forward so that you can lift the other leg as well. Whether you get both legs straight up into the air doesn’t matter, as long as you maintain the balance for five breaths.
More than just stretching
As you can see, yoga is more than just stretching the body; it actually works on toning the body as well. With the right poses and some dynamic Vinyasa sequences, you'll be burning calories and fat in no time as you increase the heart rate and metabolism.
Remember, though, that the key to successfully losing weight with yoga—or any other program, for that matter—is consistency. Try to do these poses at least 3-5 days a week so that you can build fat-burning muscles and get into the best shape of your life in both body and mind.
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