Yoga isn’t often the first thing people think of when it comes to wanting to burn belly fat. Call it your love handles, the muffin top, or a spare tire, when you want to banish the midsection bulge, you’re more likely to pick another form of exercise. After all, crunches are all about the core, cardio heats up the body to get calories burning, and strength training builds muscle, which is a fat burning machine all its own. But yoga? Isn’t that something just to relieve stress and stretch muscles?
The quick answer: nope.
Yes, there are yoga practices, such as Yin Yoga, where the goal is for your muscles to get a deep stretch while your mind blissfully zens out. However, many yoga styles can have similar slimming effects to workouts you’d do in a gym. If you think of yoga as bodyweight exercises, it’s easier to understand this concept. While you might not be doing push ups, pull ups, or burpees on your mat, many of the poses you do will require similar muscle use and control. Some yoga practices also amp up the cardio by flowing postures from one to the next so that the movements feel more fluid and less pose-and-hold.
Regardless of the style, if you’re looking for a different way to tone and tighten your tummy, give these yoga poses a try. Once your body is warmed up, complete three rounds of the following pose cycle, holding each posture for five full breaths.
Warrior II Pose: From a standing position, step your feet apart about three to four feet. Turn your back foot perpendicular and align the front heel with the arch of your back foot. Extend your arms while gently twisting your body so that the right arm extends over the right leg or vice versa. Turn your head and gently focus your gaze over your front-facing fingertips. Bend and sink into your front leg so that it is in a lunge position. If your knees bends in front of your toes, step your foot out further. With a strong core, hold this pose and breathe. Repeat in the opposite direction.
Triangle Pose: From the Warrior II position, straighten the front leg. Holding your upper body strong and in the same extended arm posture, reach forward with your torso allowing your hips to shift toward the back of the room. When you can’t reach any further forward, rotate your upper body so that the back arm is extended toward the ceiling and your front arm in extended toward the floor. Use a strong core to keep your upper body parallel to the floor. If you need additional support, use a block or stack of books to help prop up your lower hand. Hold this position and breathe before repeating on the other side.
Opposite Arm Opposite Leg Pose: On your mat, make a tabletop position where your hands are below your shoulders and your knees are below your hips. Start by lifting your right arm and extending it so that it is straight and in line with your back. When you feel steady, extend your left leg back so that it too is in line with your back. Reach through both extended body parts, with your right arm reaching toward the front of the room and your back toes pointing and reaching toward the back wall. Hold this position and breathe before repeating on the other side.
Bow Pose: Lie face down on your mat. Bend your knees and bring your heels toward your butt. Reach back with both hands and grab each foot from the outside of your body. Take a deep breath in and on the exhale push the tops of your feet into the palms of your hand allowing the front of the body to lift and stretch and your knees and thighs to rise from the floor. Keep your chin and gaze in a neutral position looking toward the floor. Hold and breathe, and if comfortable, rock slightly from front to back.
Side Plank: Start in the traditional plank position, which is similar to the top of push up. Your hands should be below your shoulders and your legs should be straight with the weight in your toes. Lift up one hand up and place it on your hip as you rotate your body to the side. The hand on the floor should still be in line with your shoulder. Keep your body tight, so that it is in a straight line, making sure not to let your hips sink to the floor. If this is too difficult, bend the leg closest to the floor and support your weight on your knee. If you’re ready for more, raise the hand on your hip toward the sky so that it is in a straight line with your opposite arm. If you still need more, raise the top leg and balance on the lower leg.
What is your favorite yoga pose? Tell us in the comments!