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Yoga for Weight Loss: How to Get Started & The 4 Best Poses For Beginners

By Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LDN, CLEC, CPT

Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, RD

Expert Reviewed

If you’re looking for a low-impact exercise that’s good for weight loss — look no further than yoga!

 

To some people, the thought of practicing yoga brings up images of people twisting themselves like a contortionist. Sure, there are some advanced poses that can have your body looking like it’s in a competitive Twister match, but practicing yoga is so much more than moving your body into different shapes. If you are considering trying yoga on for size, know that you can successfully incorporate a practice into your life without having to participate in intimidating poses. Trust us, it’s more than just being a human pretzel!

 

Breath work, stretching, meditation and mindfulness are aspects of yoga that are unique when considering other exercise options out there. Plus, practicing yoga, yes — even the gentler versions — can help you reach your weight loss goals.

 

Including yoga for belly fat loss can be a simple thing to do for beginners and expert yogis alike. Practicing the right postures can make yoga weight loss something that is easily attainable. So clear some space (both mentally and physically), grab a mat and let’s explore some ways to include yoga in your weight loss plan!


yoga-for-weight-loss

Is yoga good for weight loss?

Yoga for obesity, weight loss and weight management are some things that can be included in any plan with a little know-how and motivation. You may find that including some yoga in your regimen can absolutely be good for weight loss.

 

Practicing yoga is well-known for its ability to help people feel stress relief, mindfulness and spiritual connection. Because of this, people who practice yoga may have an easier time making mindful food choices for their personal needs.

 

In fact, one study showed that people who participate in yoga and cultivate mindfulness practices may have a stronger ability to resist emotional eating and recognize hunger and fullness cues.1

 

Yoga can also help people get good quality sleep by helping them manage stress.2 And since studies show that quality sleep is linked to better weight management outcomes, supporting one’s ability to get a restful night’s sleep is a factor that should not be ignored.3

 

Finally, yoga can help with weight loss due to the fact that the practice involves physical activity. Additionally, a steady practice can help build lean body mass, which can help support the body’s ability to burn even more calories when in a restful state.

 

You don’t need to practice rigorous, intensive yoga to reap the benefits of its nature. Restorative yoga practices, ones that do not include a lot of physical movement, may help you become more mindful and able to manage stress better. Stretching, too, offers unique benefits for supporting weight loss goals. In one study evaluating overweight women, results suggest that practicing restorative yoga results in overall weight loss, including belly fat loss.4

 

Best yoga poses for weight loss

 

Practicing yoga is different for each person. While the traditional definition lies more on the historical and spiritual side of the practice, some people consider a more vigorous activity their ideal version of practicing yoga. 

 

What does this mean for you while you try to develop a new practice? It means you can find a practice that suits you and your goals, especially regarding weight loss. The reality is that including a yoga practice in any form can help support your weight loss goals. The more mindful and meditative practices can help your body relax and learn how to be more mindful when you are eating. In contrast, the more vigorous yoga practices, like vinyasa yoga, can help you burn calories and build muscle mass. 

 

While practicing yoga in any way can be a beneficial addition to your overall healthy lifestyle, there are some poses that may be especially worth focusing on that may specifically help you lose weight. 

 

1. Chair Pose

best-yoga-poses-chair-pose

 

Think about how your body is positioned when it is sitting on a chair. Now, hold the same position sans chair. Essentially, you are holding a squat pose, making your leg muscles work hard to hold up your body. 

 

This pose can burn calories and help build strong muscles. 

 

2. Plank Pose

best-yoga-poses-plank-pose

If your goal is to have a strong core, this pose is for you. Squeeze those ab muscles! Putting your body in a starting position of a push-up will engage your entire mid-section, helping you attain those strong belly muscles that you want.

 

3. Bridge Pose

best-yoga-poses-bridge-pose

While lying on your back, place your feet flat on the floor and bend your knees. Push down on your feet and squeeze your glutes so your bottom is raised and muscles are activated. Doing this will engage your hamstring muscles and help them gain strength. Remember, maintaining lean muscle mass helps burn calories, so practicing this pose can help you reach your ultimate health goal. 

 

4. Boat Pose

best-yoga-poses-boat-pose

Make your body go in the position of an old-school canoe by sitting on the floor and raising your legs until your abdominal muscles are engaged. Your body should be in a “V” shape, with your bottom being the only thing touching the floor. This pose will engage your abdominal muscles and burn calories at the same time. 

 

How a beginner can start a yoga practice

If you want to start including yoga in your healthy lifestyle, there are some great starting points to consider for the beginner

 

Thankfully, practicing yoga does not require any fancy equipment. As long as you have comfortable clothing that allows you to bend and flow, you will be in good shape (no pun intended). Make your environment yoga-friendly with a sticky yoga mat and a bottle of water for hydration.

 

We recommend you start your practice with some guidance from an expert if you are just getting started and don’t know where to turn. Attending a beginner's class or tuning into a YouTube video in the privacy of your home are excellent options for novices who want a little guidance.

 

Another thoughtful tip to ease any first-time nerves is to have an idea of what certain yoga terms mean before you attend a class. This can help calm expectations (but don’t worry, you can start without any prior knowledge!). While most yoga practices will include factors like meditation and breathwork, they can vary in terms of the actual practice. One of our most important recommendations is to determine which subsect of yoga you want to try so you don’t get a shock once you are in the class. 

 

To help yourself better prepare, we’ve compiled some terms and types of yoga, a cheat sheet if you will. Some of the most popular yoga language includes:

 

  • Restorative yoga — a practice where poses are held for a long period of time. The body does not move frequently and muscles are not engaged as a focus. This practice is a great way to practice mindfulness and allow your muscles to stretch.

 

  • Hatha yoga — a slower moving yoga practice that includes various poses that engage muscles.

 

  • Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga — a practice that is faster paced and can include some challenging poses that involve many muscle groups. 

 

  • Hot yoga and Bikram yoga — a practice that includes heat. In these classes, you will be in a room that is warmed to at least 90 degrees. Be prepared to sweat. 

 

If you want to start a yoga practice at home, beginning with a small handful of poses is an excellent starting point. Start slow, breathe and make sure your alignment is correct before you build on your practice.

 

Ultimately, only you can decide which yoga practice is best for you. The good news is that you can’t go wrong with your yoga choice. Each type of yoga can offer unique benefits that can help your body and your mind be the best that they can be. 

 

Include yoga in your overall healthy lifestyle for weight loss

Including a yoga practice in your routine can help you reach your weight loss goals in a simple and approachable way. Whether you are breathing through a restorative practice or sweating through a vinyasa flow, bringing some mindful movement into your day will serve you well. 

 

Combining a yoga practice with a healthy eating practice, like participating in Jenny Craig’s Max Up, our one-stop, most effective weight loss solution, will give your body a one-two punch in the weight loss department. Eating the right foods at the right time while incorporating physical activity will be a perfect recipe for success in the long run. Learn more about our most effective program and get started today!

 

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Sources

[1] https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2016/2914745/

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34207970/

[3] https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/41/5/zsy027/4846324

[4] https://www.ajmc.com/view/restorative-yoga-better-than-stretching-for-trimming-subcutaneous-fat-in-overweight-women

 

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Contributors

Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LDN, CLEC, CPT

By Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LDN, CLEC, CPT

Lauren is an award-winning registered dietitian-nutritionist for almost 20 years. Throughout her career, she has worked in various settings, including inpatient, outpatient, and industry. She currently runs a consulting and freelance writing business and contributes to outlets like VeryWell Health, POPSUGAR, EatThis.com, and TheKitchn.com. 

Favorite healthy snack: fresh orange slices and cottage cheese and a sprinkle of cinnamon
Briana Rodriquez, RD

Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, RD

Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.

Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)

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