I have been asked the question if Yoga can help lose weight countless times and my answer is always emphatic “No! What it will do instead is – it’ll reduce stress, strengthen the body from the inside out, tone and strengthen the muscles, calm the mind, make you more aware of your body and mind, and regulate your digestion and hormones. If you manage to lose weight, that would be a side-effect of the above benefits.”
In our fast-paced lifestyles, weight loss and calories burnt are the only yardsticks to judge the effectiveness of a health and wellness program. When we do this, we end up short-changing ourselves and miss the forest for the trees. Yoga is a holistic tool for managing life keeping stress at bay through awareness we build in our practice, keeping the mind calm through breathwork or pranayama and strengthening the body and regulating our internal systems and organs through the asana practice.
That being said, there are particular Yoga styles and Asana groups that are more intense and movement-focused which are conducive to strengthening and cardio fitness. There is, however, a mindset change needed for practising Yoga as compared to other fitness forms. We should not push ourselves to go beyond our limit, never ignore pain, keep the breath comfortable, and most importantly, not have a competitive mindset. Here are some of my top picks:
Surya Namaskara is a complete body workout with 12 poses, addressing all the spinal movements. If done at a reasonable pace and in sufficient numbers, they are a great way to warm up the entire body, get the heart rate up and eventually burn fat. However, always stay at a pace and number that keeps the breath comfortable.
Standing asanas like Trikonasana, warrior series, Uttanana and Utkatasana work on the large muscle groups of the lower body which help in strengthening and toning the legs, glutes and core muscles.
These postures strengthen the entire body especially the shoulders, back and core, and help in toning the abdominal area. However, care should be taken to not overexert the shoulders and maintain proper alignment or scale down the postures if needed.
This family of postures, apart from strengthening the back, stretches the throat area and regulates the functioning of the thyroid gland. This in turn regulates metabolism preventing thyroid-related weight gain issues.
Breathing exercises like Kapal Bhati, Agnisar kriya, Bhastika, etc. work on expelling toxins from the body and raising the heat quotient and metabolism of the body. Higher the metabolism, higher the calorie-burn during the resting stage, and hence more scope for weight loss.
Apart from physical practice, Yoga also emphasises the importance of a healthy and balanced diet. Maintaining a slight calorie-deficit, healthy diet focusing on fresh fruit and vegetables and having an active lifestyle is important for weight loss; otherwise, we can exercise all we want but our diet will undo all our efforts. Yoga is an overall system that works with the body, rather than against it. It is not a quick weight loss pill and hence one needs to be patient and regular while practising Yoga to see results.
Always consult your doctor before beginning any new practice and train with a certified Yoga instructor who can modify the practice as per your needs.
Swati is a techie turned yogi. After spending more than a decade in the corporate world, she decided to follow her passion to spread the love for wellness and yoga which would allow people to manage stress, burnout and lead healthier lives. She is an RYT 200 trained hatha yoga teacher with 1500+ hours of teaching asana and pranayama practice across prominent studios and in personal sessions.