Yoga has a number of incredible benefits, from decreasing stress and calming the mind to improving circulation and respiratory function. Many people think this ancient practice is all about meditation and flexibility, but it can actually be an extremely effective exercise for weight loss, and unlike a number of other fitness and slimming fads, it is extremely enjoyable and easy to stick to, which means you can keep the weight off!
Fights Stubborn Fat
The reason yoga is such an effective workout for weight loss is because it fights stubborn fat stores, especially as you age. There are a number of reasons for that, including strength and muscle development, lower stress levels, connection of the mind with the body, and overall happiness. By changing your mood and attitude and making you more aware of your body, yoga naturally encourages you to eat what you need to nourish your body, rather than for a sugar fix or pleasure. And because you are using your own body as weight, you will build strong, lean muscles all over, from your arms and core to your back and legs, increasing your metabolism and burning calories. And it’s not just Vinyasa or power yoga that has been proven to aid weight loss; a study out of the University of California found that even restorative yoga can be the perfect option for some people, especially those who are starting out particularly unhealthy, weak or overweight.
The traditional sun salutation (surya namaskar) is one of the best flow sequences to get your heart rate up, your whole body working and your circulation, metabolism and digestion kick started. It’s a great way to start the morning before breakfast and is the perfect warm up to begin a weight loss sequence. Follow this easy video to make sure you practice your sun salutations correctly and safely.[iframe id=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/73sjOu0g58M”]
And either after your sun salutation or later on in the day, these 6 poses create the perfect sequence for rapid and permanent weight loss. It is best to use them in a flow, but if you are short on time, you can pick some of your favorites out to get your daily dose…
Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
This strengthening posture works your thighs and buttocks (which is where you’ll feel it!), but, without realizing it, you will also be working your core, back, arms and calf muscles, so it’s a great pose for overall strength.
Start by standing up tall and straight with your feet and legs together, exhale and then inhale as you raise your arms above your head, palms facing in. As you breathe out again, sit back as if you’re going for a chair, making sure you can always see your toes in front of your knees. Once you’re in position, take note of where your shoulders are – if they’re somewhere up near your ears, relax and let them drop to their usual position while ensuring your arms remain strong.
Try to take 3 to 5 long breaths in this position before slowly straightening your legs. As you become stronger and fitter, you can increase the length of time you hold the pose and the number of sequence repetitions you do.
Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II)
Sticking with the legs as the focus, but continuing to strengthen the whole body, this powerful pose is fantastic for muscle formation, posture, confidence and overall strength.
Again, begin standing tall, this time with your legs hip distance apart and as you exhale, step one foot behind. Turn your back foot 90 degrees forward and keep your front foot pointing forward. The middle of your back foot should be in line with your front heel. Firm your thighs and bend your front knee on an exhale so that it is aligned with your ankle (not leaning to one side or dropping further in front). Again, check that your shoulders are not attempting to touch your ears and send one arm forward and the other backwards, strong and straight. As you practice this pose, you can try to improve it each time by widening the stance and working on getting the line you form with your arms and feet straighter, as if you’re wedged between two walls. Also work on very slightly dropping your tailbone to stop any major dip in your back. You should feel that this gentle adjustment will firm your core muscles, which means they are also working. Repeat on the other side.
This one feels like it’s all about the arms, but when done correctly, it’s pretty much the best core strengthening and stomach flattening exercise you can do!
To move into plank from warrior 2, step your back foot forward again and move into a forward fold. Bend your knees and plant both hands firmly on the ground slightly in front of your feet. Step one foot back and then the other, standing on the balls of your feet and your hands, heels pushing back. Make sure your wrists are directly underneath your shoulders and your back is straight (not drooping down or folding upwards in a triangle shape). To achieve this, tighten your core and thigh muscles and make sure your buttocks is not pointing up. Remember to breathe during this strong posture and hold it for as long as you can. If you have weak or injured wrists, you can practice plank pose on your forearms instead of your hands.
Plank is usually used as part of a sequence in a yoga flow or sun salutation and there is an extremely beneficial move called chaturanga, which takes a lot of arm and core strength, so it’s best to work up to it by practicing plank for a few weeks first. To move through chaturanga, start in plank pose and then roll forward from the balls of your feet onto your toes and slowly begin to lower down until your arms are at a 90 degree angle, elbows by your side, always ensuring your core is engaged and your body is in a straight line (not dipping down or pointing up). Stop when you get to this point and try to hold the position for a few breaths, hovering slightly above the ground.
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