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How to Do Yoga for Weight Loss | The Best Yoga Poses for Weight Loss

Updated on July 7, 2015
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Chet is a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher and has been practicing yoga for over 15 years. He teaches three to four yoga classes per week.

Yoga poses for weight loss
Yoga poses for weight loss

Wanting to lose weight is one of the best reasons to start a yoga practice, whether it involves going to yoga classes, practicing yoga at home or both. A weight loss commitment or goal means an interest in a healthy lifestyle. Yoga has the potential to be the central component of lifestyle change, improving physical and emotional health while gaining a better understanding of body, mind and self. It is important to realize that yoga is usually not a route to rapid weight loss, but it is certainly one of the healthiest ways to lose weight.

Can I Lose Weight With Yoga?

Yoga and weight loss are often assumed to go hand and hand, but that is not always the case. You can lose weight with yoga, but it is important to realize that it will take more than going to yoga class once a week. If yoga is the only component in your approach to weight loss, then it needs to be a mostly aerobic and active yoga sequence practiced several times a week. You will be more successful in both the short and long term, if, in addition to practicing yoga, you look at the type and quantity of food you eat and increase other types of physical activity, even if it’s just walking more often at a quicker pace.

Your yoga weight loss plan may be more beneficial than you initially realize. Yoga improves overall feelings of wellbeing, and helps us observe how the mind responds to different situations and events. As we retrain our physical body, we retrain our mind as well. These factors are all part of losing weight.

Daily Yoga
Daily Yoga
Yoga must be practiced consistently - every day if possible - if you want to lose weight

Yoga for Body Awareness and Weight Loss

If yoga only included physical movement and the yoga poses known as asanas, it would be just like any other physical exercise. It is the mental focus, the inward awareness and attention to subtle movements and actions that distinguished yoga. With practice and when attempted regularly, yoga begins to unite the body, mind and self. We begin to understand the interplay between the mind and body and how they affect, or are independent of, our image of self.

Increasing our body awareness can help significantly with our attitude toward weight loss. As we feel more connected with our body, we enjoy activities that make the body feel good. We also become more aware of actions that make us feel bloated, sluggish and dull. Yoga fine tunes that sensory feedback; we are less likely to overeat.

Yoga for Mental Discipline

One aspect of yoga is the development of an inner fire, a discipline and drive that keeps you returning to the yoga mat. Mental discipline certainly applies to more than just yoga practice. If you can build up your ability to discern, make decisions and apply yourself, that will certainly help you stick to a weight loss plan. Yoga can help you become more selective about what you put in your body, and stick to those decisions.

Colleen Saidman’s Yoga for Weight Loss
Colleen Saidman’s Yoga for Weight Loss
A popular yoga DVD for weight loss with good reviews

A Yoga Sequence for Weight Loss

There are lots of yoga poses and yoga sequences that help with weight loss. Yoga poses for weight loss include standing poses, poses that focus on abdominal or core strength and twisting poses. If weight loss is your goal, you will generally get better results by repeating the poses two or three times each, holding the poses for two or three breaths with each repetition. Of course you will want to work up to this. Know and work within your limits.

You will find more instructions for some of these basic yoga poses here.

Here is a short sequence of yoga poses that have the potential to help you lose weight. On days when you do not have a yoga class, you might decide to do this sequence. You can also pick another yoga sequence - there are lots of them available online - that has most of these poses included.

1) Adho Mukha Svanasana - Downward Facing Dog

Adho Mukha Svanasana - Downward Facing Dog
Adho Mukha Svanasana - Downward Facing Dog

In downward dog, flatten your palms, press your thighs back and keep your hips high. Balance the efforts of your arms and legs.

2) Parsvakonasana - Extended Sideways Angle

Parsvakonasana - Extended Sideways Angle
Parsvakonasana - Extended Sideways Angle

Repeat extended sideways angle to each side. Press the outer edge of the "back" foot into the floor; keep the hip of the bent leg pressing in toward the front of the body.

3) Virabhadrasana I - Warrior Pose I

Virabhadrasana I - Warrior Pose I
Virabhadrasana I - Warrior Pose I

Repeat warrior I to each side. Press the back heel down; release your hips lower while lifting your chest. Keep your pelvis vertical by drawing your navel back.

4) Parivrtta Trikonasana - Revolved Triangle Pose

Parivrtta Trikonasana - Revolved Triangle Pose
Parivrtta Trikonasana - Revolved Triangle Pose

Repeat this pose to each side. Press the back heel into the floor, and turn your ribs to open your chest. Use a block for the front hand as needed.

5) Surya Namaskar - Sun Salutation

There are many variations of sun salutations. This video shows the classic Iyengar Yoga surya namaskar. Though ancient tradition holds that the cycle be repeated 108 times (!), feel free to start with just one or two and work your way up to a half dozen or so. Sun salutations are often done at the beginning of a yoga sequence, but they will be easier if you have warmed up with a few other poses first.

6) Paripurna Navasana - Boat Pose

Boat pose is good for toning the abdomen
Boat pose is good for toning the abdomen

Boat pose will tone your abs. Keep your legs straight, press them together and lift your feet higher than your head, if possible. Keep your chest lifted. Repeat as many times as you like!

7) Maricyasana III - Seated Twist

Maricyasana III - Seated Twist
Maricyasana III - Seated Twist

Sit on a folded blanket or two if your hamstrings are tight or your lower back rounds out. Focus on releasing your torso around to the side rather than forcing it.

8) Salamba Sarvangasana - Shoulderstand

Note the use of blankets under the shoulders and upper arms in shoulderstand
Note the use of blankets under the shoulders and upper arms in shoulderstand

Always use blankets in this pose! Use your back, abs and legs to stretch toward the ceiling while keeping you neck and face passive. Stay in shoulderstand for one to five minutes.

9) Savasana - Corpse Pose

Yoga student in Savasana - Corpse Pose
Yoga student in Savasana - Corpse Pose

In savasana, completely relax the body. Keep the mind quiet and still. Stay for three to five minutes, or more.

The Best Yoga for Weight Loss

There are many yoga styles; some yoga methods are better than others for weight loss, but there is not one particular method guaranteed to help you lose weight faster than the others. It is important to find the best yoga for you. While vigorous, frequent practice will speed weight loss, you also need restorative, calming poses as part of a balanced yoga practice. Remember that you are working on both the mind and the body.

For variety in your yoga practice, try this 30 day yoga challenge sequence once a week.

As body, mind and spirit are all part of the individual person, they need to all be part of any effective approach to weight loss. If we only address one aspect of the self, the other parts suffer. A weight loss plan that is only exercise based will probably be less successful in the long run than one that seeks to unite the body and the mind. That is why yoga may be the best way to lose weight.

All photographs are by the author and may not be reused without permission.

© 2014 chet thomas


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