Most of us do not associate yoga with weight loss. That’s where we err. While yoga may not be a sweat-inducing, muscle-punishing workout, it does aid in weight loss. Here’s how you can use yoga to target belly fat…
Most doctors and medical health professionals agree that the weight we tend to put on around our waists, the belly fat, is the unhealthiest of all. It increases the risk of cancer, heart attacks, strokes, blood pressure, and all sorts of health uglies. And we tend to get thicker in the middle a lot faster than putting weight elsewhere on our bodies—most of it due to an unhealthy lifestyle. Too much fatty and sugary food, fizzy and alcoholic drinks, and too little exercise make us look like apples, minus the health factor. Before you punish your knees and feet with a run or become an exercise junkie, try some belly fat-busting yoga poses. You can also use them as extra exercise, over and above your normal routine, to really tone down the ab and bust the flab!
The Downward Dog (Adhomukhashvanasana or Parvatasana)
For downward facing dog, start by coming down on all fours on a yoga mat, like a table. The back forms the table top and your hands and feet become the legs. Inhale, and on the exhale lift your hips out and above, forming an inverted-V with your body. The hands need to be shoulder-width apart, the feet need to be hip-width apart, and the toes should point straight ahead. Try and touch the ears to the inner arms and take deep long breaths while holding the pose. Look towards the navel as you do and on an exhale, bend both knees and return to the table pose. Repeat this 10 times for noticeable results within a month. Other than aiding in belly fat loss, this pose relieves tiredness and stretches the muscles—thus increasing circulation.
Hand-Under-Foot Pose (Padahastaasana)
To do this pose, you need to stand up straight, with your feet slightly apart. Take a deep breath. Exhaling slowly, bend your body forward from the waist as you put your hands under your feet. Try and touch your nose to your knees—and make sure your knees remain unbent. Hold your breath, release, and come upwards, inhaling as you do. Repeat the pose ten times for improved digestion, relief from exhaustion, and of course, a slimmer belly.
Chair Pose (Utkatasana or the Intense Pose)
To perform the chair pose, stand straight, with your feet shoulder-length apart. Inhale and as you exhale, bend your knees slowly as if you were sitting on a chair, whilst you raise your hands parallel to the ground. Hold the pose for 10 seconds and pull in your abdomen as much as you can. You can go a little lower if you like, but your knees have to remain in line with your toes. Inhale while you come back up to the standing pose. Along with toning the abdomen, this pose also tones the buttocks and the legs.
Boat Pose (Naukasana)
To do the boat pose, lie down flat on your back on a yoga mat. Inhale and on the exhale, raise your arms and legs to about a 20-30 degree angle, forming a boat shape with your body. It sounds easier than done, honestly. It is a tough pose, but with practice, you will soon get better at it. (Try the modified boat pose if you have trouble with this one.) Hold it till your body starts to tremble, 10-15 seconds at least. Inhale as you bring your arms and legs back to the mat. If you do this pose 10 times every day, by the end of the month, there will be a noticeable tone to your belly. Also, this pose basically tones the whole body and adds to core strength.
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
For the bow pose, lie flat on your stomach on a yoga mat. Inhale, and on the exhale, lift your legs, bending your knees as you do, and grab your ankles with your hands. Inhaling, lift your torso up by stretching your legs taut so that your body resembles a bow. Now hold the pose—but the trick here is to keep breathing while you do, nice and slow. On an exhale, let go of your ankles and bring down your hands and feet back to the mat. Along with targeting the belly fat, this pose also strengthens the back muscles and tones up the limbs.
Raised Leg Pose (Uttanapadasana)
Lie flat on your back and inhale. On the inhale, raise your joined legs upwards, till they stand 90 degrees to the floor. Hold the pose as you hold your breath. On the exhale, bring down your legs back to the yoga mat. Keep the movements slow and steady. This asana tones the abdominal muscles and helps you lose the midriff fat and also tones the hips and thighs.
Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation Poses)
Finally comes the Surya Namaskar, a set of 12 asanas that give you a full body workout and if done repetitively can tone your whole body, along with the belly.
- Pranamasana (prayer pose): Begin with a standing pose, feet slightly apart and with folded hands and a bowed head. Inhale & exhale calmly.
- Hastauttasana (standing backward bend): Start with a deep inhale and raise your hands above your head, bending your body backward as far as it can comfortably go while pulling in the abdomen.
- Padahastasana (standing forward bend): Exhaling, bend your body forward, extending your spine as you go lower. Touch your feet and then the floor with the palms of your hands, keeping your knees straight. Go as far as you can without bending the knees.
- Ashwasanchalasana (the equestrian pose): Inhaling, take your left leg backward touching your left foot and knee to the floor. Bend the right knee till your thigh is parallel to the floor and keep your upper body erect. All this time, your hands should retain contact with the floor. Finally, look up as much as you can, exhaling as you roll your eyes upwards. If as a beginner you find this difficult, then do not touch the floor with your hands and bring them up to your bent knee instead.
- Kumbhakasana (plank pose): Inhaling, take your right leg backward and lower your hips and spine, keeping your hands rooted to the ground. Keep your body parallel to the ground as much as you can with your arms straight—divide your weight between your hands and toes, then exhale and hold your breath.
- Ashtanga Namaskar (eight-limbed salutation): Inhaling, lower your knees to the ground and slowly bend your elbows, lowering your chest to the ground also. Exhale and hold while you make sure your abdomen does not touch the ground—your forehead, hands, chest, knees, and toes should be in contact with the ground.
- Bhujangasana (the cobra pose): Inhaling, move your weight forward, keeping your lower body from the pelvis to the toes flat on the ground. Straighten your arms and elevate your upper body but do not hunch your shoulders. Hold your breath.
- Parvatasana (the downward dog): Exhaling, raise your body from the hips and spine, moving your feet forward to lie flat on the ground. Your body needs to resemble a mountain peak, with your hands and feet being the anchor points.
- Ashwasanchalasana (the equestrian pose): Inhaling, come back to the equestrian pose. Move your left leg forward (the opposing leg from step 4), and keep the right leg back with the knee and toe touching the ground. Mirror the posture of step 4 on the exhale.
- Padahastasana (standing forward bend): Inhaling, straighten your right leg and bring it forward to meet the left leg, keeping yourself bent at the spine and touching the feet or the floor with knees absolutely straight. This is repeat posture of step 3 on the exhale.
- Hastauttasana (standing backward bend): Inhaling, extend your arms out and raise yourself from the spine upwards, bending back to reach the posture of step 2.
- Pranamasana: Exhaling, straighten your spine and bring your arms down in the Namaste pose of step 1.
Remember, yoga can be a great aid in weight loss and the toning of your body. The idea is to maintain a healthy lifestyle so make sure to be active, eat only as much as you need to, and basically keep moving. Movement is life. Namaste!