The physical practice of yoga is often times strenuous as it tones the body and increases weight loss. Although many practice yoga because it relieves stress and clears the mind, the added benefit of maintaining a yoga practice is a healthy body. If weight loss is going to improve an individual’s quality of life, then incorporating challenging yoga postures is beneficial for that particular goal.
Physically demanding yoga postures call on numerous muscles for added strength and calorie burn. Here are 15 yoga poses for weight loss.
1. Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar)
The flow of controlled deep breath and movement warms the muscles and prepares the body for practice. Sun Salutations build heat, assist in blood flow, circulation, and helps with digestion.
2. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Although this posture may seem passive, it is extremely active. Forward bending tones the quadriceps and abdominals as well as stretches the calves and hamstrings. This active and deep fold massages the abdominal organs, calms the mind and nervous system, and helps reduce fatigue.
3. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
The misconception is that downward facing dog becomes a resting posture, however the opposite is true. This energizing pose ignites the entire body. To sustain downward facing dog, the muscles must support the joints and bones, thus strengthening the hands, arms, shoulders, chest, abdominals, and thighs.
4. Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II)
One of the most powerful of yoga asana, warrior 2 strengthens the muscles of the upper back, shoulders and arms. Finding balance in this posture calls on abdominal strength and requires use of the adductor of the hips, quadriceps, calves, and ankles for stability. Abducting the arms in this posture strengthens the supraspinatus muscle of the rotator cuff. This muscle is the most commonly torn of the four rotator cuff muscles. When strengthened, the supraspinatus will have a harder time tearing if misalignment, overuse, or misuse occur.
5. Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana III)
Proper alignment in warrior 3 requires a flat back while reaching arms forward and lengthening the extended leg on the same level as the rest of the body. As strenuous as this action is to maintain, there are tremendous benefits. Warrior 3 strengthens the spinal column and surrounding muscles such as the erector spinae group that runs from the cervical to the lumbar spine. This posture tones the arms, shoulders, upper back, and requires strong legs, ankles and an adequate amount of abdominal strength.
6. Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana)
This posture requires immense abdominal and leg strength in order to support the body for balance. Abducting the arms away from the body strengthens the muscles of the arms, chest, obliques, and lattisimus dorsi located on the middle back. The gluteus medius contracts and adducts the lifted leg while stabilizing the supporting leg. The focus and balance required for the fullest expression of this posture is what makes this an overall body changing posture.
7. Plank (Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana)
The arms, chest, shoulders, abdominals, quadriceps, gluteals, calves, and feet are working to assist in holding the body upright. Maintaining this high plank posture with hips level calls on the abdominal muscles for support. Plank pose tones from head to toe.
8. Side Plank (Vasisthasana)
Supporting the weight of the body on one arm doubles the amount of bodyweight and exerts more effort and energy by increasing calorie burn. The arms, oblique muscles, serratus anterior, quadriceps, and ankles work on overdrive, especially the supporting side of the body.
9. Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
Tree pose strengthens the supporting leg, gluteal muscles and arms as well as the abdominals for stability. When one side of the body is supporting the posture for balance, additional strength and calorie burn is added.
10. Dancer Pose (Natarajasana)
Dancer pose requires support through the standing leg, builds strength in the arm of the flexed shoulder and pectoralis muscles of the externally rotated shoulder. Balancing on one leg with the opposing limb extended is demanding as it creates a play on gravity. The strength created from this posture builds additional muscle strength which support joints, tendons, and ligaments.
11. Twisted high lunge (Parivrtta Anjaneyasana)
High lunge is considered a balancing posture as it recruits leg and abdominal muscles to maintain that lunge position. Twisting increases blood flow in the body as well as mobility to the organs. Movement of the organs increases blood flow and brings in nutrient rich oxygen to the body. When twisting, abdominal organs are squeezed, when the twists are released clean blood and oxygen enter the organs.
12. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Strengthens the arms, shoulders, lower back, abdominals, quadriceps, ankles, and calves. Try holding chair pose for more than 5 breaths and the legs will start to burn.
Twisted Chair Pose (Parivrtta Utkatasna)
Twisting the body in a chair position is calling on the abdominal muscles and strong leg muscles. This combination is toning and cleansing for the body all at once.
13. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
The power in this posture comes from the ability to keep the upper body lifted and aligned properly. Without leaning the body weight on the front leg, the abdominal will do the bulk of the work. The abducted arms are strengthening as this posture is maintained.
14. Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
In order to withstand the balance and stamina for eagle pose, the body calls on many muscles for support. The feet, ankles, calves, quadriceps, inner thighs, abdominal, shoulders and upper back are working together to maintain the wrapping and adduction of limbs while balancing on one leg. The wrapping and adduction of the shoulders and arms strengthens the upper back and shoulders. Allowing the spine to remain straight strengthens the spinal column and muscles surrounding.
Some turn to a yoga for weight loss and are initially in disbelief that the practice can burn calories. If performed properly and executed in a strong intended way, these yoga postures can help an individual lose weight. There are many added bonuses to practicing yoga besides weight loss such as healthy digestion, circulation, sleep, energy, strength, healing ailments, happiness and the desire to eat and live a healthy lifestyle.
Enjoy the benefits of a consistent yoga practice and notice how life changes for the better. When the time is right, weight loss will be an added bonus.