Yoga offers a profound sense of physical and psychological wellbeing. Through the practice of yoga, your body and mind will become more and more closely integrated. That’s the central lesson of yoga: by connecting with our bodies more deeply, we go further into our experience as embodied beings in the world. That, in turn, will enrich our lives, as we bring the mindful awareness of yoga into our everyday world.
A word of warning needs to be said about the practices that follow. Some yoga poses can be dangerous if you’re not careful. You can get injured trying to get into some positions. So proceed with caution. Always pay attention to what your body is telling you, and don’t do anything if it starts to feel uncomfortable or painful. Sometimes your body will whisper, “Um, maybe not.” Sometimes it will scream, “NO WAY, STOP NOW!” Be careful and sensitive to these messages.
Benefits of Yoga
Over the past decade or so, a vast amount of scientific research has been carried out to investigate the benefits of Yoga for the human mind and body. The National Institute of Health has spent millions of dollars toward research on yoga. And nowadays it seems like new studies claiming new benefits of yoga are emerging every single day.
Thousands of peer-reviewed studies now been conducted on the benefits of yoga and the truth is practicing yoga has so many benefits that I could not possibly list them all in this article. So here are a few noteworthy benefits of developing a consistent yoga practice:
- Improves flexibility
- Builds muscle strength
- Reduces risk of heart disease and stroke
- Eases Asthma
- Improves memory
- Reduces insomnia
- Relieves pain more effectively than medication
- Perfects posture
- Lowers blood sugar
- Prevents cartilage and joint breakdown
- Protects spine
- Helps with weight loss
- Slows down the aging process
- Helps recover from addiction
- Helps beat depression
- Increases energy levels
- Increases endurance
- Enhances fertility
- Reduces pain associated with arthritis, fibromyaligia and other chronic conditions
- Boosts immune system functionality
- Increases blood flow
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Improves relationships
- Improves athletic performance
- Lowers blood pressure more effectively than medication
- Regulates adrenal glands
- Improves focus
- Cultivates mental strength
- Fosters creativity
- Helps sleep deeper
- Decreases muscle tension
- Improves balance
- Enhances feelings of happiness and vitality
- Enhances self-awareness
- Fosters peace of mind, happiness, and joy
- Develops intuition
- Builds wisdom
Yoga Poses to Lose Weight
There are many other yoga poses that promote weight loss. It is hard to single out just a few poses for this category, as weight loss is one of the many benefits of yoga in general, but I have selected a few that are especially good for shedding extra pounds. If you add these to a vigorous, fast-paced practice of Surya namaskara, you’ll be well on your way to losing weight, looking fit, and achieving overall mental and physical wellbeing.
1. One-Legged Prayer Pose / Ekapada Pranamasana
Stand straight with your legs together and your arms hanging loosely. Bend your right knee and grasp the ankle with your right hand. Tuck the sole of your foot on the inside of the left thigh. Bring your heel close to your perineum. Do this slowly, and make sure you have your balance before you proceed.
Bring your hands in front of your just in anjali mudra, the gesture of prayer. Hold that position for a minute or two – or for as long as you can keep your balance.
Then relax, bring your right foot to the floor, and do it again with the left foot this time.
Strengthens and tones the leg muscles. Stretches the groin and inner thighs. Helps to improve your sense of balance. This pose also encourages energetic harmony between the channels on either side of your body.
2. Palm Tree Pose / Tadasana
Stand with your feet together or slightly apart and find your balance, arms hanging loosely by your side. Raise your arms overhead and interlock your fingers, turning your palms upward so they face the ceiling. Then lower your hands until your knuckles are resting on the top of our head.
Look forward at a fixed point in front of you and do not move your gaze from this spot. As you inhale, stretch your arms high above you, pulling your shoulder and chest upward with them. Push yourself up on tiptoes, and stretch the whole body in that position, maintaining balance and stability while holding your breath for a few moments.
Then lower the heels and bring your hands back down to their resting position on top of your head, while exhaling. Do five or more rounds, taking a few moments to rest between each round.
Palm tree pose stretches the spinal column and can even increase your height. It strengthens muscles in the core, toning the abdominal and back muscles and improving the overall balance of the body. It also strengthens and tones muscles in the arms and legs.
For a variation of this position, once you have achieved good stability and balance in tadasana, try taking four steps forward and backward while balancing on your toes.
3. Waist-Rotating Pose / Kati Chakrasana
Stand with your feet about one and a half feet apart, with your arms by your side. As you inhale, raise your arms up so that they spread out on either side of you, parallel to the floor. Then, while exhaling, twist your torso around to your left, bringing your right hand to rest on your left shoulder and wrapping your left arm all the way around the back so that the left-hand rests on the right waist.
Twist your head as far to the left as you can without straining, taking care to make sure that your neck and posture are straight and upright. Hold the breath for several seconds, stretching your abdomen and allowing the muscles to relax. Don’t allow your feet to lift from the ground while twisting.
Then inhale as you resume the initial position, and repeat the twist, this time turning to your right. Again hold the breath, and again inhale as you resume the initial position.
Complete at least five rounds. The movements should be performed smoothly, without any sudden movements or jerkiness. For more of a workout, twist left and right at a faster pace.
Waist-rotating pose stretches and tones the muscles in the waist, back, and hips. It also loosens up the arms and shoulders. Taken together with the palm tree pose and swaying palm tree pose, the waist-rotating pose forms the third part of a sequence that can be performed at any time of the day when one is feeling tired or stiff.
This threefold sequence is especially useful for office workers who have to sit for long hours, as it loosens up the spine, elevates depressed mood, alleviates stress, and infuses your body and mind with extra energy.
4. Swaying Palm Tree Pose / Tiryana Tadasana
Stand with your feet about two feet apart. With your arms lowered, interlock your fingers and turn the palms outward. As you inhale, raise the arms above your head, as in tadasana. Then exhale and bend the body to the left without twisting your abdomen or moving forward or backward. Hold the breath for a few seconds without inhaling. Then, as you straighten out and resume the upright position, breathe in again.
Now repeat the bending movement, only this time bend the body to the right side while exhaling. Again hold that position for a few seconds without breathing in. Then inhale again as you resume a straightened position. Finally, exhale as you lower your arms again. Rest for a moment. Then perform several more rounds, as many as five to ten in total.
Swaying the palm tree pose strengthens the oblique muscles, toning them and removing love handles. It engages the hard-to-reach muscles that cover the rib cage. It adds overall balance to your core, improving the stability of your posture. This pose also stretches the spine, relieving minor back injuries such as a slipped discs. It also stimulates digestion and relieves constipation.
5. Boat Pose / Naukasana
Boat pose is meant to be performed from a supine (lying down) position and is best performed together with other supine postures. From the supine position, breathe in, then hold the breath as you raise your legs and trunk, together with the shoulders and head, from the ground. Hold the arms straight and parallel to the ground, palms facing down. The whole body should form the shape of a triangle pointing downwards, balanced on the buttocks. Keep your spine straight and gaze at your feet.
Hold this position without breathing for as long as you can—basically, until you need to breathe again. As you return to a supine position, breathe out again. Allow all the muscles in your body to relax. Then repeat four times, for a total of five rounds.
Boat pose exercises your core, especially strengthening and toning the abdominal muscles and helping to remove excess belly fat. It also strengthens and tones muscles in the shoulders, arms, and thighs. It benefits and improves the function of abdominal organs.
6. Camel Pose / Ustrasana
Kneel down on your knees, keeping them hip-width apart, with your back straight and arms hanging by your sides. Keep your feet and knees together. Lean back and grasp one heel with one hand, then the other heel with the other hand.
Thrust your stomach forward while keeping your thighs perpendicular to the floor. Arch your back and neck, and bring the head back until you’re gazing at the ceiling. Allow some of the weight to fall on your arms and some on your legs. So that the arms support the upper back. Breathe shallowly while in camel pose.
If you’re a beginner, you might find it difficult to get into this position. It’s worth repeating: Don’t force yourself. You might find it easier if you rest on the balls of the feet instead of extending them so that they lie flat on the floor.
Camel pose deeply stretches all the muscles in the front of the body, including the neck, chest, abs, thighs, and groin. It is an especially good stretch for the hip flexors. It’s also excellent for strengthening the back and improving posture. By stretching the abdominal muscles, it also improves digestion.
Important Note: Do not try camel pose if you suffer from serious back problems or high blood pressure.
7. Half Plough Pose / Ardha Halasana
Lie on the back in the supine position with your legs together. While inhaling, left both legs up slowly until they are at a right angle to the floor. Don’t lift the buttocks from the floor, but keep them and the back lying flat against the floor. Your abs should be doing the work in this position. Hold this position, and your breath, for several seconds. Then exhale and gently lower your legs to the floor.
That completes one round. It should be repeated for five to ten rounds. Alternately, you can bring your legs to a forty-five degree angle to your torso. In either case, with your legs held at ninety or forty-five degrees, you can experiment with separating them and bring them back together, and other movements, to reach different abdominal muscles.
Half plough pose engages and tones abdominal muscles, removes belly fat, and helps you get closer to achieving a six-pack. It tones the muscles in the thighs and hips, as well. It improves digestion and flatulence.
This is a preliminary position to the more challenging halasana, the plough pose, described later on and should be mastered before trying the latter position.
8. Bow Pose / Dhanurasana
Lie on your stomach with your chin on the floor and your feet hips-width apart. Bend your knees and bring the heels as close as you can to your buttocks. Grasp the ankles with your hands, and, keeping your arms straight, extend the legs so that your chest and knees lift from the floor and the feet move upwards, away from the body. Your abdomen and groin should remain on the floor. Arch your neck so that your eyes are directed upwards. Your legs should be doing the work to hold you in position, allowing the rest of your muscles—back, abs, chest, arm—to relax.
Continue holding this position and breathing for about twenty seconds. Then exhale and gently relax the leg muscles, slowly lowering yourself to the floor. Complete about five rounds.
Bow pose strengthens the back and abs and tones muscles in the legs, arms, and chest. It improves your flexibility and decreases stress.
9. Bridge Pose / Setu Asana
Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Place your hands, fingers pointing backwards, on the floor about one foot behind you. Keep your elbows straight. You should be leaning backwards slightly.
Inhale, then, holding the breath, lift your waist and torso, so that your feet and hands are touching the ground and the rest of your body is arching upwards. Ideally, the feet should rest flat against the floor. Relax your neck and allow your head to hang loosely.
Hold the position for as long as you are comfortable, then exhale and gently lower your body to the original seated position. This can be repeated for ten rounds.
Bridge pose strengthens and tones the lower back muscles. It also strengthens the arms and legs. It benefits posture, back problems, and stretches the achilles tendon.
10. Plank Pose / Phalakasana
Start by kneeling on the floor, then raise your buttocks so that your thighs are vertical. Lean forward and put your hands on the floor, palms down, beneath your shoulders, and at shoulders width. Lift the buttocks up, keeping your knees straight, so that you are balancing on your hands and toes.
Keep your buttocks slightly lifted, against the force of gravity that pulls your hips towards the floor and arches your back. Keep your back straight, your neck aligned with your spine so that the eyes are looking towards the floor.
In the final position, you should feel that the muscles in both your back and abdomen are engaged. Maintain this for as long as you can. You may even find that your body starts shaking while you hold this position. If it’s too difficult to support the weight on your hands, try lowering yourself on your elbows.
As a variation, from the final position, try lifting each leg alternately until it’s parallel to the floor and the weight is distributed to the other foot.
Plank pose tones the abdominal and back muscles. It strengthens the arms, shoulders, and wrists. It improves balance.
11. Side Plank Pose / Vasishtasana
From plank pose, shift onto the side of your right foot, so that your right foot and right hand support the entire weight of your body. Your left foot rests on your right, and the left hand rests on the left hip.
The right arm should not be directly below the shoulder, but a little higher. Keep your back straight, so that your spine is aligned with your legs. Breathe normally.
Alternately, you may find it easier to support your weight on your elbow instead of your hand. In other variations, lift your left arm so that it is vertical. You may also lift your left leg, or even try to hold your left foot with your left hand, while keeping both leg and arm straight.
Perform this pose three times on each side, right and left.
Side plank pose strengthens and tones the arms, legs, and lower back, as well as the abdomen. In particular, it targets the oblique muscles, reducing the appearance of love handles.
12. Lizard Pose Version 1 / Utthan Pristhasana
Start in downward-facing dog. Bring your left foot forward a little bit behind your left hand and to the outside. Keep your right leg stretched behind you. Lower your elbows to the floor and rest your forearms entirely on the ground.
Hold for about a minute, then return to downward-facing dog. Then repeat with your right leg forward this time.
If you want some extra stretch, extend your back leg farther behind you in the final position.
This is amazing for opening up the hips and stretching the legs, hamstrings, and groin. It strengthens and tones the thighs and opens and shoulders and chest. It prepares for body for more advanced poses that require very flexible hips.
13. Superman Pose / Vipareeta Shalabhasana
Lie on your stomach with your feet flat against the floor and your arms stretched out in front of you. Bring your palms together.
Breathe in and use your back and abdominal muscles to lift your feet, thighs, chest, arms, and head from the floor. The only part touching the floor should be your belly and groin. Really stretch your arms in front of you and your legs behind you. Your arms and legs should not be bent.
Hold that position for as long as you can, then relax, resting your entire body on the floor.
Superman pose is a great way to strengthen your lower back and your abs. It also stretches your arms, legs, shoulders, and chest.
14. Triangle Pose / Trikonasana
Stand with your feet apart about three feet. As you inhale, raise your arms to either side, holding them parallel to the ground.
Then turn your left foot, pointing it to your left. Exhale and bend your torso to the left, without bending it forward. Bend the left knee slightly. Keeping your arms straight, touch the toes of your left foot with your left hand. Your right arm should be pointing straight up to the sky. Turn your face upwards and rest your gaze on your right hand.
Hold that position for a few seconds without breathing. Then inhale and return to the standing position, arms stretched out to the sides. Repeat the same movement on the right side. Do five to ten rounds.
Once you are comfortable with this pose, try doing it with both legs straight.
This position tones the entire body and is good for weight less. It stretches your core. It stretches the legs and arms, as well. It improves digestion and appetite, and alleviates depression. Practiced daily—especially if you do it quickly, with ten or more rounds—it burns stubborn belly fat and will reduce your waistline.
15. Extended side angle pose / Utthita Parsvakonasana
This is a variation of trikonasana. In triangle pose, one hand touches the foot, while the other is raised towards the sky. In extended side-angle pose, you take the raised arm and lower it towards your head. The arm points straight past your head, in a direction roughly parallel to the ground. This might be a bit too much of a stretch for your sides at first. Just get it as close as you can. Keep your knee bent. Then to it on the opposite side.
The benefits are the same as in trikonasana. This pose gives an extra stretch to your side and tones your obliques. It also stimulates your abdominal organs.
16. Tiger Pose / Vyaghrasana
Start with kneeling on the floor, as in marjari asana, then move into the same cat pose. Keep your arms verticle, at 90 degrees to the floor.
Then, as you inhale, extend your left leg behind you, all the way back, lifting it up as far as possible. Bend your left knee and bring your foot towards your head. At the same time, arch your back down and your neck and head up and see if you can touch your toes to your head—but don’t strain! Hold that for a few seconds.
Then again extend your left leg. As you inhale, pull it in under you, bending the knee. Bring it towards your chest. Now your back should be arched in the other direction, and your head and neck curving downwards.
Repeat this a few times with the same leg in a swinging motion. Make sure that leg doesn’t touch the floor. Then switch to the right leg and do the same thing with that one.
The tiger pose serves to calm sore back and relaxes up the hip and legs joints. It additionally expands lower back adaptability by twisting it on the other hand in both headings, thus fitting the spinal nerves. The tiger pose additionally extends the abs, and by stimulating so as to enhance processing blood flow. It likewise advances weight reduction on the hips and thighs territory.
Tiger pose targets extra weight in the hips and thighs, burning fat in those areas. It loosens and the muscles in the back and gives a nice stretch to the spine. This also benefits the female reproductive organs. It also improves digestion and circulation.
I hope this article was able to help you understand how practicing yoga can bring peace, happiness, and joy into your life. The next step is to apply what you have learned and develop a long-term yoga practice. It can be a challenging process but I assure you that it is well worth it – You will enjoy a happier, more peaceful, and balanced life free from stress, anxiety, and depression.
I wish you success on your yoga journey and I hope you quickly start reaping the amazing benefits that yoga has to offer.