By Sarah Badger Updated July 20, 2017
Add yoga to your exercise routine and enjoy the physical, mental and emotional benefits of this ancient practice. Along with relieving stress and increasing flexibility and muscle tone, yoga can help you burn fat and shed pounds. While an hour of yoga might not burn as many calories as an hour of aerobics, full-body yoga poses can give your metabolism a boost, helping you burn more calories even while at rest.
Sun salutations consist of several poses connected to one another in a flowing movement. As you move through sun salutations in a yoga class, you’ll increase your heart rate and burn calories. Poses in the sun salutation series, including Plank, Downward-Facing Dog and Cobra, help you build muscle mass in your arms, abdominals and legs to increase your resting metabolic rate. Vinyasa yoga — sometimes called “flow yoga” — incorporates numerous sun salutation repetitions.
Warrior poses work your legs, abdominals and glutes, requiring energy and concentration to maintain balance. To perform a Warrior I pose, begin by stepping your right leg to the side, about 4 feet away from your other leg. Lunge by bending your right knee and keeping your left leg straight with your arms extended over your head and your hips rotated toward your bent leg. Extend your arms straight above your head. Hold this pose for three to five breaths to invigorate and challenge your muscles.
Planks help improve your stamina while building lean muscle mass in your core and arms. Perform a basic plank by placing your hands on the floor in front of your chest and extending your legs straight back so that your weight rests on your toes and your palms. Keep your hips and torso in a straight line and hold for five breaths. Give your obliques a workout by moving into a side plank. Rotate your body to one side and lift one arm straight to the ceiling as you stack one foot on top of the other.
Side stretches get your heart rate up while working your obliques. Perform a basic side stretch by sitting cross-legged and reaching one arm over your head. Exhale as you bend your torso sideways, and then inhale to return to your starting position. Repeat, bending to the opposite side and reaching your other arm over your head. Continue alternating sides with every breath. You can also perform side stretches standing or while holding lunging poses for a more intense workout.
Yoga can help you achieve your weight loss goals, but it doesn’t guarantee a slimmer body. Along with yoga, perform calorie-burning aerobic exercises like walking, cycling or swimming regularly to see quicker weight loss results and keep your heart healthy. You might also try “power yoga” or other variations that modify traditional yoga poses and sequences so that they move quickly, providing a more intense cardio workout and burning more calories.