Can Yoga help you lose weight? The answer to this question lies in subtle aspects. You might think of the modern trend of people practicing 108 Suryanamaskars (sun salutations) every day as an intense form of weight loss. But this might not be for everyone. The same goes with powerful pranayama practices such as bhastrika, which is believed to boost metabolism and help with weight loss.
But the question is, is it really required?
A common problem area with weight accumulation is your belly. The answer to belly fat does not always lie in intense workouts and exercise. For many people, belly fat is an indicator of excess cortisol, congestion in the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue, and lack of diversity in the gut microbiome.
Excess cortisol leads to higher inflammation and poor hormonal balance, making you stay in a state of fight or flight. High stress and sympathetic dominance leads to poor digestive function, poor immune function, low output of hormones, and prevents weight loss. This is one of the biggest reasons that people do not lose weight.
If that is the case, you might only make things worse with excess practices like daily 108 sun salutations. You might need something which helps you dial down the excess stress; help you move the lymphatic system, and support hormone balance.
Think of having a practice that is strong yet calming. Vigorous power yoga sessions with intense sweating does not necessarily translate into optimal and healthy weight loss.
Here are some asanas which you can include in your practice to help you lose weight.
Shoulder stand (Image source: Shutterstock)
If you do not have cervical spondylosis or any challenges with your neck, this asana is a wonderful inversion to add. Shoulder stand presses the chest against your chin and stimulates the thyroid gland. It balances digestive, circulatory, lymphatic, endocrine, and nervous systems. It is also a pose that helps to improve calmness and patience. This helps to dial down the heightened stress response and allows your body to shift into a parasympathetic state where you can lose weight easily. Make sure that you practice with proper guidance.
Bow pose (Image source: pexels)
When you lie on your abdomen and bend your knees, grab hold of your ankles and gently pull yourself upwards. Arch your back, open your chest, and breathe mindfully for as long as you can.
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It is also great to improve hormone balance, improving respiration, lymphatic movement, and circulation, all of which assist with weight loss.
Triangle pose (Image source: Shutterstock)
with all its variations is another wonderfully safe asana to practice and can be adapted to all levels of practice. Stand with your feet apart forming an equilateral triangle between the length of your legs and the space between your feet. Turn your right foot to face outwards. Place your right hand in your right leg. Raise your left arm over the head and bend to the right while lengthening the left arm. Do not go too far down. Make sure that your chest stays open. A common mistake that many make is to move their hand all the way down which closes the chest.
Boat pose (Image source: Shutterstock)
The boat pose is a great way to reduce belly fat without creating elevated stress. Start by sitting with your legs stretched in front of you. Raise your legs up while slowly tipping back onto your sacral region with your arms by the side of your thighs. Your legs and your torso should be at the same angle. Make sure that your chest is open with your spine straight. Avoid hunching into the pose which can stress your back. Breathe slowly and hold until you can and repeat a few times. It increases agni which fires up digestion and helps to burn belly fat.
This is a dynamic twisting series. Start with your feet hip width or slightly wider apart. Stretch your arms out to the sides at shoulder level. Take a deep inhale and as you exhale, twist to the right and wrap your arms around bringing your left hand to your right shoulder and the right arm behind your back. Inhale when you rotate back to center and then repeat on the left side. Practice several rounds of this slowly with deep breathing and try to twist yourself as much as possible without your feet coming off the floor. This series tones your waist, hips, back and belly and also prevents general stiffness that can accumulate from being seated all through the day.
You can also use sun salutations to help you lose weight but the key to remember is whether you are more irritable when you do too many or when your practice is too fast. If you find yourself angry all the time, blaming others most of the time and struggling to change other habits which do not serve you well, then it can point towards your yoga practice needing some change.
Sometimes the more subtle the practice is, the more powerful it can be. Practicing holding poses for longer, or practicing dynamic flow series like sun salutation very slowly may be the key to unlock what you need to lose stubborn weight.