As a general practice, I try to always ask for requests at the beginning of my classes. This helps me get a feel for what my clients are in the mood for, their energy level and general state of mind. Usually folks request poses for certain body parts (neck, shoulders and back being the most popular). Sometimes I hear broader requests like stress relief, energy or a better mood, but last week I got ‘fat-burning’ as the request.
Often folks will ask me if yoga can help you lose weight and burn fat…My answer is often YES and then I go on to make these points. 1. Yoga helps you build strength helping to tone muscles and core strength. Yoga does this by using your body weight as your levers of strength instead of lifting a hand weight, you’re building strength by holding Plank pose or Downward Dog. 2. Yoga aids weight loss by improving your awareness and mindfulness. All of that “pay attention to your breath” stuff actually has an added benefit. It helps to make you more aware of sensations in your mind. This helps you discern whether you’re actually hungry or emotional or just bored. Over time, this will help with portion control and staying on track with your new healthy habits to support weight loss.
Now on to the workout. With any yoga workout, it’s important that you’ve warmed up first. So, either take a brisk walk or jog or move through your Yoga Sun Salutations (Full Flows) before these poses. These are some of the many poses we did for our Fat Burning Yoga Class:
First, the Chair Tour:
Chair pose is a great pose to build strength in larger muscle groups such as thighs and glutes. There are a variety of chair variations in yoga to meet you right where you’re at today.
Flowing Chair: From Mountain Pose (feet hip width apart), inhale and reach your arms out to the side and overhead. As you exhale, bring your arms and down to shoulder height in front of you while sitting back into your hips (as if you were sitting in an imaginary chair). Continue to move with your breath for 8-10 times.
Chair at the Wall: Standing near a wall with your back against the wall, walk your feet out so that they are hip width apart and far enough away from the wall that you can ease down to a Chair position. Your back should be supported by the wall. Take a few slow breaths here, drawing your shoulders down from your ears. For more of a challenge, ease your body down a little lower, working towards a 90 degree angle for your legs. Breathe slowly through the pose for another 4-6 breaths and ease back to standing. Repeat as you are able.
Twisting Chair: From Mountain pose, bring your feet together and sit back into a slight chair pose. Sit back into your hips and bring your hands to your heart as if in prayer. Keeping your feet, ankles, knees and inner thighs together, begin to twist from your belly, ribcage and chest toward the right side. If you have trouble maintaining the legs and hips together, lessen the degree of your chair to better align yourself and try again. Hold pose for 3-5 breaths and release. Switch sides.
Next step, the Lunge Lounge:
Walking Lunges: If you have a large space, you can make this a traveling pose as you move from Mountain Pose into a Crescent or High Lunge, alternating which foot is in front. If you have a smaller space, begin at the back of your mat and step forward into your lunges. Try 10 and then take a rest before another 10.
Twisting Lunge: From the High Lunge (left foot back), bring the upper body forward and arms back by your sides like Airplane arms. Then, bringing your hands to your heart, begin to twist to the right side while pressing back with the left heel. Hold for 3-5 breaths, slowly unwind and switch sides.
Finish with the Core:
Yogi’s Choice of Plank: I like to tell my classes that the best thing about Plank is that you can start small and still get the benefit of this pose. If you are brand new to holding Plank for core strength, start by holding the pose and slowly counting to 10. Then work up to 25 or 50. Overtime, you will get stronger to where you can hold Plank for 1 minute or 90 seconds. Choose to keep knees on the floor if you’re just starting out or if your back is prone to soreness. If your wrists are sensitive, come down on forearms instead. As you hold your plank, be sure to engage your abdominal muscles to increase core strength and protect your back.
For oblique strengthening and muffin top removal, try Side Plank as well. Holding Side Plank for 20 seconds on each side for 2 rounds is a great place to start.