Heading to yoga to get your workout in?
While yoga may not be the biggest calorie burner in the pantheon of fitness classes, it can help you lose weight if you need to and help you keep it off.
Not only can yoga help you build stronger muscles creating more calorie burn every minute of the day, but it also brings you into alignment with your body, something that many other forms of fitness neglect but is integral to maintaining a healthy weight.
Let me explain.
Once you’ve been practicing yoga for a bit, let’s say 6 months, you’ll notice that the breathing lessons and awareness of your body’s movement that you’ve cultivated on your mat “leaks” into the other areas of your life.
When you find that you are at peace with yourself on your mat, you are more likely to find peace with yourself at the dinner table.
You’ll want to eat to improve how you feel, and with your new found body awareness you’ll notice more quickly which foods agree and disagree with your body which helps you to make wiser choices.
So, if you’re the person who wants to rock a yoga class because it makes your body feel oh so good and you need to drop a few pounds, I will share with you 8 asanas that will challenge you to work a bit harder physically to build more muscle and burn more calories while not being a contortionist.
First, you have to be willing to sweat.
Second, move slowly between each movement using a 5 second inhale with a 5 second exhale (if possible through your nose) as your time guide. I strongly recommend you have a clock with a second hand on it so you can pace your practice more deliberately.
Warm up: Seated meditation for 5 minutes
3 movements of cat/cow pose which flexes and extends the spine in preparation for movement
Down Dog for 3-5 breaths
Move to a standing forward fold and hold here for another 5 breaths
Roll up to standing Mountain Pose and reach your arms over head, bending to each side 2 times
Now that you are prepared to practice, here are the 8 asanas
1. 3-5 rounds of Sun Salute A and
2. 3-5 rounds of Sun Salute B
3. Anjaneya (Crescent Lunge) – from a long lunge position with your weight on the ball of your back foot, heel raised high, lower your back knee up and down 5-10 times synchronized with your breath.
Directions: While standing in your crescent lunge, bring the back knee towards the floor using the 5 second breathing pattern, and then as you inhale return to the lunge.
Your back knee barely touches the floor which creates a stretch in the psoas muscle of the back leg while building strength in the quadriceps and gluteal of the front leg.
The movement up and down also builds strength in the knee. And did I mention these will get your heart pounding and your leg very, very warm!
When you complete 5-10 breaths, go through a vinyasa and begin on the other leg.
Then vinyasa and move into:
4. & 5. Down Dog to Plank 5-10 times hold each pose 3 breaths
Directions: These postures will help build shoulder, arm, chest, and core muscles.
From down dog, as you exhale lower to phalankasana (plank pose), hold this position for 3 full inhales and exhales then move back to down dog and hold there for 3 breaths. Remember to keep a calm and steady breath.
From your last down dog, lunge your right leg forward for the next series:
6. & 7. Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior 3) – to Utkatasana (Chair pose) 3X holding each pose 3-5 breaths
Directions: Once you’ve placed your right foot near your right hand, place your hands on the floor and slowly lift your back leg up to hip height, balancing on your front leg, raise your arms out to your sides like airplane wings which brings you into a variation of Warrior 3.
Hold here for 3 full breaths in and out then move into Chair pose
(rest in child’s pose 30 seconds to 1 minute)
8. Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand) Play
From Child’s pose move into down dog. (If you feel safer at a wall, bring your hands 4-5 inches away from the wall for your down dog.)
Step one foot under your navel, lift the other leg behind you to hip height, and shift your shoulders over your wrists. Look down at the floor and press your hands into the ground.
Bend the leg under your navel and kick up trying to tap your “navel” leg to the extended leg.
Practice this 5 times, rest, and then try again with your other leg leading.
Whether or not you get up into handstand doesn’t matter at all. The effort to lift your weight, find balance, and shift your perspective upside down will not only strengthen your core and shoulders but get your heart beating quicker too.
It also reminds you to be playful in your practice and have some fun!
To complete your practice, come into setu bandha sarvangasana (bridge pose) to stretch the abdominals and shoulders. Repeat 2-3 X holding for 5 breaths each time.
Then take parivartana (reclining twist) holding each side 1 minute.
Roll on to your back, draw your knees into your chest and relax here for about 30 seconds.
Finish in savasana (corpse pose) resting for at least 5 minutes.
Please don’t skip the savasana! In this pose your body can relax and release stress hormones that will help you with weight control.
Stress, as I’m sure you know, drives you to either eat more, eat poorly, or starve yourself, all of which are not good!
Use this quiet time to mindfully work at releasing stress in the visceral body, calming your breath, and giving yourself permission to surrender peacefully into the pose.
In my opinion, the biggest benefit to weightloss from yoga comes from the releasing of stress hormones and how you learn to become aware of your body signals during practice.
The more you practice, the more you will inherently know what your body needs.