This is the #1 Yoga question and a very interesting one.
While the yoga teacher in me wants to say “That’s not what yoga is about,” the honest person in me has to admit I’ve wondered the exact same thing. Luckily, the answer is ‘yes’ — depending on what type of yoga you do, but mostly yoga will make you more toned.
If you are going to vinyasa, hot yoga or other types of flow classes, you will definitely burn enough calories to lose weight (assuming you don’t over indulge and make those calories back up, of course). Typical flow classes include an opening, a warm up, the peak pose and the cool down. The point of the warm up is to get your muscles warm enough so they can stretch safely during the cool down. Yoga does a great job of combining anaerobic and aerobic exercises — which is exactly what you want when you’re trying to lose weight. Doing sun salutations will increase your heart rate enough that if you do 10 in a row, you will most likely work up a big sweat — and burn some calories.
There are few poses that will work your abs, arms and legs — and definitely burn those calories! The first pose I would recommend is plank. Plank is basically holding the top of a push up (see above), but make sure you don’t lock your elbows (bend your elbows a little bit if you have a tendency to hyperextend). Firm your biceps and triceps as you hold this pose. Push the floor away from you and especially make sure to press down through your index finger and thumb. Engage your core to protect your lower back, and of course, work your abs. Try to keep your bum, chest and head aligned as you hold the pose. Try to see how long you can hold plank before you need a break! This pose will work your abs, shoulders and biceps.
Media Credit: Chris Andre/Yoga Journal
The second pose that will definitely work you (especially your abs) is called Navasana, or boat pose (see above). To do this pose, sit down on the ground with both your feet flat on the ground. Bend your knees and slowly bring your legs closer to you until your feet come off the ground and you’re balancing on your sitting bones. Making sure to keep your back straight, lean back until you’re at an approximate 45 degree angle. Straighten your legs any amount. The final version of this pose includes having your legs straight, but it’s more important to have your back straight, so don’t compromise your back and keep your knees bent. Straighten your arms out in front of you and hold this pose for 30 seconds. Just like in plank, engage your core. Press out through the balls of your feet, even if your knees are still bent (I’m still working toward being able to straighten my legs fully).
I hope this post answered your question about whether yoga can help you lose weight. Feel free to ask me about yoga on Facebook or Twitter. Use the hashtag #askayogateacher so I can see your question.