Yoga is one of the most practiced types of exercise in the world today. One of the reasons for its wide community is the fact that it doesn’t require anything more than a wish to practice it.
With this said, yoga is perfect for weight loss too. Naturally, poses are harder at the beginning, but they become easier and easier with time, allowing the person to flex into more complex asanas.
This article will tell you everything you need to know about yoga pose for weight loss and the best yoga poses you can do.
Does Yoga Help You Lose Weight?
Yoga doesn’t require any level of physical or emotional readiness. It starts with what the practitioner can do at this point and moves from there. With continuous practice, the body and mind ability of the practitioner widen and develop.
Yoga is known to help practitioners lose weight. For one, it helps burn calories, while also improving body and muscle mass. At the same time, it also provides the practitioner with mental benefits like relaxing, accepting oneself and meditating.
The set of physical asanas, breathing techniques, and meditation allow people who battle with weight to work on the problem from multiple sides. For one, they work on accepting themselves and their current situation. Yoga promotes mindfulness and a mindful way of eating habits that indirectly helps with weight loss.
Secondly, it helps with relaxing and relieving stress, while also working on the problem with calmness. Weight gain is known to be reinforced by stress as an unhealthy way of coping with said stress. In the end, it also gives numerous yoga poses that require a lot of effort and body flexing to achieve and hold. The whole yoga workout is in fact, a full therapeutic and exercising set for people that want to lose weight.
Types of Yoga for Weight Loss
Yoga, as a set of postures, it’s something we think of when we think about weight loss exercise. But, active types of yoga can greatly aid the losing weight efforts. These are the best types of yoga for weight loss:
- Ashtanga yoga
Ashtanga is a more challenging type of yoga that is made of sequences of positions. It first became famous in the West in the 1900s and is derived from Vinyasa yoga, which we will explain next.
Ashtanga yoga contains 6 series of specific asanas done in a particular order. There are practiced with flow from one pose to another, making the whole set continuous and without stops between poses. Ashtanga yoga, with already set sequences, gives accent to the breathing done during poses. Furthermore, since its more energetic, it is also physically demanding since there is not any relaxation between poses.
- Vinyasa or Power yoga
Vinyasa is a yoga style in which poses are done one after the other, without pauses for relaxation. Vinyasa yoga is also called flow yoga due to this fact.
It’s similar to Astanga, with the difference that Ashtanga yoga has an organized, planned set of asanas, while in Vinyasa you can mix any pose you want to at any time. In Vinyasa yoga, no two classes are the same.
- Bikram or Hot Yoga
Bikram yoga, today sometimes mixed with hot yoga, is a yoga workout that was developed by the Bikram Choudhury yoga guru in America. He made a set of 26 series of postures with breathing exercises, always done in the same order, in a heated and humidified room. After some time, the term Bikram yoga got mixed with hot yoga, in which there still is a hot and highly humid atmosphere, but there isn’t a set series of postures.
Bikram and hot yoga are done in a studio heated at 104℉ or 40℃ and with a humidity of 40%. In an atmosphere like this, the body sweats far more and releases toxins, while improving the cardiovascular system.
Numerous research done through the years has shown that yoga practice has numerous benefits. Yoga practitioners have reported all kinds of long-term life benefits including more life satisfaction, relief from pain and worries, better crisis management, and a higher level of mindfulness and peace of mind.
In regards to weight loss, Harvard University has an article whose research finds benefits that help practitioners “manage stress, improve mood and curb emotional eating”. By their researchers, all these segments help with weight loss and maintenance.
The next 4 sections will get into more detail about yoga benefits.
One of the most important benefits of yoga is physical health. Yoga helps practitioners to strengthen their muscles and tone their bodies.
Yoga also relieves pains and sore spots. Since it involves a lot of stretching, both bones and muscles stretch during practice. With that, each muscle on the body is flexed, something that doesn’t happen with regular gym work or other types of exercise. Only one session of yoga practice can relieve the practitioner from sore spots and pains. Regular and continuous practice helps with an overall improvement of physical health.
Most of the time, yoga beginners or non-practitioners think of yoga as something relaxed and slow. Even though relaxation is a valuable part of yoga practice, it’s not the whole story. Balancing into poses requires a lot of strength and dedication. Rhythmical tensing and relaxing of the whole body provides very thorough exercising of every body part.
Under the emotional benefits of yoga practice, we include all benefits non-physical. First of all, balancing the body and twisting it into numerous hard positions, for a practitioner gives a sense of control and self-esteem.
Yoga is known to help people feel happier, more relaxed, more balanced, calmer, and more mindful. Furthermore, they report higher self-value and a more fulfilled life, something that’s thought to be the baseline for self-esteem, feeling certainty and security, and living happily.
One of the biggest threats to mental and physical well-being in today’s society is stress. Modern people are constantly subjected to stress due to the lifestyle. Without proper stress management techniques, people are much more likely to feel depressed, have low self-esteem, and feel less overall life satisfaction. Yoga is one of the best practices that help with stress management.
As previously stated, yoga is a set of tensing and relaxing positions. Furthermore, it incorporated deep breathing and meditation. All of these aspects help with lowering cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the body.
Acceptance and Support
Another valuable aspect of yoga practice is the calm and accepting atmosphere that yoga offers. Most exercising practices, from gyms to sorts of sports, include some aspect of competition and the idea of delivering results. In yoga, there is a strive for betterment, but that betterment is only personal. The yoga community is very loving and open to all its members. It doesn’t body-shame or ability-shame, making it very comfortable for practitioners to spend time in.
Furthermore, it offers support. Exercising yoga poses with like-minded people offers a nice base for making friends, conversing, and sharing experiences. With it, yoga is not only a practice but also a ground for group support and understanding.
12 Best Yoga Poses for Weight Loss
1. Plank Pose
The plank pose is known to be a pose to burn belly and thigh fat while strengthening the muscles on the arms, legs, and stomach. If you want to lose weight, you can do the plank pose for up to 20 minutes, while making different variations of the pose. Also, be aware of your body and the signs it shows. If the plank pose gets too hard, you can either adjust it or finish it for the day. Don’t overwork your muscles, but give them regular exercise.
This is how the plank pose is done:
- Start from the tabletop position (supporting your body on both your hands and knees)
- From there, step back on your tiptoes
- Bring your body in a straight line
- Your arms could be either straight from the shoulder or bent on the elbows
- Strengthen your core, arms, legs, stomach, and butt
- Hold for at least a minute, up to three minutes at the beginning
As time passes, you will be able to hold the pose for longer periods. Variations of the plank pose include supporting your body with your knees on the ground or relaxing on the knees and getting up into plank again.
2. Warrior pose I (Virabhadrasana)
The warrior pose stretches the arms, chest, lungs, shoulders, belly, and neck, while also exercising the back muscles, calves, and thighs.
- Start the pose from the Mountain pose
- Move your left leg backward making a big step back
- Try to bring all of your foot to the ground, rotating it 45 degrees outwards
- Bend your right leg at the knee to 90 degrees angle
- As you inhale, bring your arms above your head, strengthening your back
- If you’re able to, bring your upper body a little bit to the back, further stretching your back
- Hold the pose for at least 5 seconds, or as long as you can
- Feel how your legs and spine and stretched
- During exhaling, put your hands down first, followed by your leg
- Repeat with the right leg moving backward
If this pose is too hard for you at the beginning, you can try doing it with a smaller step back. You can start by doing only a regular-sized step back at first. With each future practice of the pose, try to move your leg a little more back.
3. Triangle pose (Trikonasana)
The Triangle pose is another yoga pose for weight loss. This pose strengthens the hips, groin, and hamstrings while opening the chest and shoulders.
To start this pose you need the first few steps of the Warrior I pose:
- Start in the Mountain pose
- Move your left leg backward making a big step back
- Try to bring all of your foot to the ground, rotating it 45 degrees outwards
- Your body should be rotated to the side, with your femur locked into its socket
- Both your legs should be straightened and firmly standing on the ground
- Spread your arms horizontally, with your right arm forward in front of you and your left, behind you
- Now, bring your body forward towards your right leg, pushing your arm to touch the ground beside your right, front leg
- If you can’t go fully to the ground, stay where it feels comfortable
- By now, your left hand should be above you, reaching toward the ceiling
- Turn your head a towards your left arm, looking at your fingertips
- Stay for a couple of breaths, or as long as you’re comfortable
- Release and redo the pose with the right leg back
If you find this pose hard at the beginning, do it without bending forward with your upper body, until you feel comfortable with your legs being in the position they should be. Once there, start lowering your body forward and your front arm towards the leg to the degree your comfortable with.
4. Downward dog pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Downward facing dog is a pose that flexes your calves and your hands while straightening your spine. It also contracts all the muscles on the backside of the body.
There are more ways to get into a downward dog pose. One is starting from the Mountain pose, the other is starting from resting on your hands and knees, in the tabletop position.
Since the easier way is from the tabletop position, I will explain that one.
- Your arms should rest at the same width as your shoulders are, while your knees should be right above your hips, making a 90-degree angle with the floor
- From there, push with your pelvis and your knees upwards, at the same time
- Now, the toes on your legs and your hands will provide the only support
- At this point, your pose is as an upside-down V letter
- Straighten your back and spine, as well as your legs
- You will feel the backside of your legs stretching
- Hold the pose for a couple of breaths
- To get out of the pose, bend your knees and lower your body until you come into the first, starting position
During this pose, try to keep your knees as straight as possible. If you can’t, focus your attention on that and push them little by little. With time, you will sense how much more you can straighten your knees, coming to a point where your legs are completely straightened, as well as your hands and back.
5. Shoulder stand pose (Sarvangasana)
The Shoulder stand pose is another yoga pose for weight loss. It works with and straightens mostly the abdomen and the upper body, but also tightens your thighs and butt muscles.
- Start this pose by lying flat on your back. Your legs could lay flat on the mat, or be bent at the knees
- From there, inhale and move your legs above your head, pushing with your hands and arms to help the process
- Once your legs are up, turning almost 90-degree angle with the floor and your upper body, help the pose by placing your hands on your lower back, resting your pelvic bone on them
- Hold this pose for a couple of breaths, or as long as you feel comfortable
- To get out of the pose, slowly move your legs down. The slower you do this, the more flexing you do to your full leg muscles.
If you can’t get your legs up without any help, in the beginning, you can adjust this pose. To do so, as soon as you start to move your legs upwards, place your hands on your lower back right away. That way, you will avoid any possibility of sliding back down, since your hands will hold your pelvis secure in the air. You can see a step-by-step way of doing the Shoulder stand here.
6. Chair pose (Utkatasana)
The chair pose mainly works on the thighs, ankles, and knees, and tones the shoulders, lower back, hips, and butts.
This pose is fairly easy to perform, but it gets harder to longer you stay in it. A couple of seconds won’t make a difference, but I do challenge you for a 30 or 40 seconds hold.
- Start the pose from Tadasana, or Mountain pose
- From there, start bending your knees as you would when sitting on a chair
- Once you get your thighs and calves to a certain angle of around 100 degrees, you can either raise your hands above your head or straighten them in front of you
- Keep this pose while making sure that you keep your spine straight and not bent to help balance
- Stay in the pose for a couple of breathings, or while you can
If this pose is hard for you in the beginning, you can keep your hands at your waist for better balance. Also, you might want to start with a bigger angle, to not overwork your thighs and calves.
7. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
The bow pose is another excellent yoga pose for weight loss. It stretches your inner thighs, spine and back, front muscles of your legs and hips, and abdomen. It also promotes flexibility.
To explain the pose, I give space to Kino McGregor, co-founder of Miami Life Center and Miami Yoga Magazine, to show you this pose through this Youtube tutorial.
If at any point of this pose you feel like it’s enough for you, or you aren’t able to do the whole pose, stop there. With time, you will become better at this (and every other) pose, and you can safely learn new yoga asanas.
8. Warrior pose II (Virabhadrasana II)
This variation of the warrior pose has the same benefits are Warrior I. It strengthens the legs and the back while opening the chest.
To get into the Warrior II pose, start the same as in Warrior I pose – step back with one leg, turn the foot to 40 degrees outwards, lower the front knee to 90 degrees angle and strengthen the back.
In the Warrior I pose, your torso is turned forward, but for the Warrior II pose, you need to turn it sideways. In this pose, instead of straightening your arms above your head, spread them sideways – if your left foot is front spread your left arm in front of you too. If your right foot is upfront, put your right arm straight in front of you, while the left one goes in the opposite direction behind your back.
9. Bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
The bridge pose exercises all of the muscles on the body, predominantly your belly, thighs, and calves.
- Start the pose by laying on your back
- From there, fold your legs at the knee, placing them firmly on the ground. They should be as close as they can to your sitting area
- Your arms should rest beside your body
- From there, push your pelvic area up, resting your body on the back of your shoulders, your neck, head, and your feet.
- Hold the pose for a couple of breaths and release during exhaling
- Repeat the pose 5 times
If it helps for pushing upwards, you can join your hands closed on the floor as soon as you lift your pelvic area and your upper body. This will offer more support and you can also strengthen your arms too.
10. Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar)
Sun Salutation is a set of poses, one of the most famous asanas in yoga. The Sun salutations are a good example of Ashtanga yoga – a set of poses that the practitioner does in a particular order with flow from one pose to another.
If you want to do a higher level of difficulty of the Sun Salutation pose, do so by either keeping yourself longer in some poses or by speeding the pace up.
- Start by standing up (Mountain pose) and inhale while lifting your arms above your head, straightening your spine
- Exhale during bending forward into a Forward bend pose
- Place your hands in front of you on the floor, while moving one leg backward with a big step
- Join the other leg back and place yourself in a Plank pose
- Hold this position for a couple of breaths, 5 if you can
- Drop your knees first, and then the rest of the body, lying flat, with your hands at the shoulder line
- Now rest the top of the feet on the mat, not resting on your toes
- If needed, adjust your palms under your shoulders
- From there, raise your upper body as much as you can, in the so-called Cobra pose. Inhale during this movement
- Exhale while lowering yourself back down and push the middle part of your body into Downward Facing dog pose
- Stay in the pose for a while, at least for 5 breaths
- From there, move first one, than the other leg close to the hands, basically coming back to Forward Bend. During this movement exhale
- Inhale while lifting your arms above your head, coming to the starting position
- While exhaling, slowly lower your arms beside your body, basically coming back to the Mountain pose
11. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
The Camel pose is perfect for a good stretch of the back while opening the chest up. It also aids the hamstrings, the buttocks, your back muscles, and the abdomen.
To do this pose follow these directions:
- Start the pose at your knees, with the legs a little apart from each other
- While inhaling, bring your elbows behind your back, stretch your shoulders and open your chest up
- Drop your hands towards your ankles, grabbing them
- Push your spine upward, further stretching it. Open your chest and extend your head and neck backward.
- Keep this pose for up to a minute, or as long as you’re comfortable
- To end the pose, first, bring your chin towards your neck and place your hands on your lower back, offering support. From there slowly push with your lower belly to come to the first pose of kneeling
If you can’t do this pose fully due to a stiff back and spine, don’t force yourself. Place yoga blocks on the outer sides of your legs and strive to touch them. If that also is too much for you at this stage, stop at the second step and place your hands on your hips. Make sure that you still push your chest up and outward, and that your elbows are not on your sides, but as much behind you as possible.
12. Boat Pose (Navasana)
The Boat pose is perfect for the whole body since it works on the core while releasing stress and tension.
- Start in a sitting position on the floor, with your legs together straightened in front of you
- Bend your legs at the knees, bringing your shins in front of you, parallel with the floor, while the thighs are close to your stomach
- Extend your arms forward, making them parallel to the floor too
- If you can keep this position, move to straighten your legs in the air, in front of you
- Hold the pose for a few breaths, or as long as you feel comfortable
- Repeat the pose 5 times
If you can’t bring your legs straight up in the air – don’t. Stay at the position until that point and if you move to lose balance, go back to the pose. Only once you can comfortably hold the first part of the pose, start practicing the rest.
Yoga Pose for Weight Loss FAQs:
1. How often should you practice yoga to lose weight?
Practice it as often as possible. I would recommend doing at least half an hour of yoga each day, with one rest day. Or, you could do it 3 to 5 times a day for an hour. Don’t forget to speed your journey by cycling, walking, or running in the park.
2. Which styles of yoga are best for fat loss?
Ashtanga, Vinyasa (power), and Bikram (hot) yoga are the most active and fast-paced types of yoga. Therefore, they will help you lose belly fat faster.
3. Is there anyone who shouldn’t practice yoga?
Yoga is suitable for everyone. Faster-paced types of yoga might provoke high blood pressure, faster heartbeat, dehydration, excessive sweating, or exhaustion. If you have a health risk from any of these things, you should consult with your health care provider or doctor to make sure that you can practice yoga.
4. How much weight loss can you expect from yoga?
Half an hour of hatha yoga burns around 120 calories in a 125 pounds person; 144 calories in 155 pounds person; and 168 calories in 185 pounds person. A full yoga class of one hour will double the number of burned calories. Even though these are some reference points, the number of burned calories depends on the type of practice, the metabolism of the practitioner, and the pace of the practice.
5. How much weight can you lose by doing Yoga?
By regularly doing yoga you can expect to burn around 250 to 320 calories an hour, depending on the pace and the type of yoga you practice. Yoga helps the weight loss journey from multiple sides, helping the person physically, mentally, and emotionally. People who lost weight with the help of yoga and then continue their practice, are far less likely to get weight fluctuations (or gain weight again) later in life.
6. Yoga vs. Gym: Which is Better for Weight Loss?
Even though classically, the gym is thought to be the best way to lose weight, yoga aids the weight loss journey from more perspectives i.e. physically, mentally, and emotionally. Gym exercising still gives results sooner, but yoga practitioners are better at long-term weight stability and happiness since yoga works at changing the habits, instead of just burning calories.
7. Is power yoga effective for weight loss?
Power yoga, also called Vinyasa yoga, is one of the most effective weight loss yoga practices. It’s fast-paced and active, incorporating breathing techniques and natural “flow” from one asana to another. Each asana of Vinyasa or power yoga can be considered as a form of exercise.
8. What is the best time for yoga?
Yoga is best practiced early in the morning or late at night, depending on the needs. People who want to be relaxed and concentrated during their work hours, enjoy practicing yoga in the morning. People who want to relax at the end of a stressful day, practice yoga in the evening. They exhale their stress and negative daily experiences, by relaxing before sleep.
9. How many calories does yoga burn in 30 minutes?
During a half-hour of yoga exercise, you can expect to burn around 120 to 125 calories. The number of calories burned depends on your metabolism and the type of yoga you do. If you practice restorative, yin, or hatha yoga, which is slower-paced, you might burn fewer calories. If you practice hot, ashtanga, or vinyasa yoga expect to burn more than 120 calories in 30 minutes.
10. Which yoga is best for weight loss in 7 days?
Hot yoga is proven to be the best for faster weight loss, but it also might have certain health risks. Since it’s done in a very hot and humid room, hot yoga provokes excessive sweating and faster fat melting. But, at the same time, it might exhaust far more than other yoga styles while speeding heart and breathing rates. Besides hot yoga, Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga are great for weight loss.
Yoga has shown to be a benefactor to losing weight and never going back. A lot of research has shown that people that practice yoga are healthier and happier, so this is a practice for everyone to try.
I hope that this article was helpful and told you everything you wanted to know about yoga for weight loss. If there is anything I’ve missed, or if you want to share your experience with our loving yoga community, please feel free to do so in the comment section. I would love to hear about your yoga for weight loss experience!