Ashtanga yoga, or eight-limbed yoga, is an invigorating practice that focuses on good breath and posture. Why is it called eight-limbed yoga? Do you need eight-limbs to complete the poses? The eight-limbs of yoga cover the following life areas: One-Yama (self-restraint), two-Niyama (how to behave in the world and with others), three-Asana (movement within our temple), four-Pranayama (connection to our life force, breath), five-Pratyahara (mindful detachment), six-Dharana (studying the mind), seven-Dhyana (contemplation), and eight-Samadhi (indescribable unified bliss).
So… What Does This Have To Do With Weight Loss?
A practice of Ashtanga yoga is designed to teach us to focus within and to learn more about ourselves and become more aware of our bodies. While you won’t get a substantial cardio or weight resistant workout through Ashtanga, the asanas, or series of poses, will require you to move through movements quickly. The point is to have a specific set of inhalations and exhalations with each pose. The more you learn about your body’s cravings and needs, the easier it will be to address those issues when it comes time to make dietary and exercise decisions.
If you want to amp up your practice, try doing Ashtanga in a hot room. The added heat will further detoxify your system as you sweat through the workout. Yoga is all about releasing energy and tension, and while it may not be as intense as going for a run or lifting weights, it is still a practice you’ll want to add to your weight loss routine.
How Ashtanga Yoga Can Help You Lose Weight
An intense branch of yoga like Ashtanga will push you to lengthen your muscles and breath. This will improve posture and, in many ways, assist in muscle definition. Many people practice yoga on their “off” or “rest” days of training, for that very reason. Your muscles need a day to rest and recover from the constant fat burning and breaking down/building up process that other exercise systems may require. What better way to assist in that process than to lengthen and stretch those same muscles?
Ashtanga yoga also provides mental health benefits by forcing you to slow down in life, breathe, relax, and pay attention to you. When going through a weight loss program we are often so focused on the many ways we need to change our diets, or we focus on the numbers of our workout system, that we often forget to focus on inner healing. The breath work done through yoga will reduce stress and anxiety while also improving our self-image. When we are engaged in a staring contest with that last slice of chocolate cake, we really want to eat, some extra self-worth and love can go a long way!
A typical Ashtanga class of 60-90 minutes will burn anywhere between 250-350 calories. The poses require flexibility, core strength, stamina, and cardiovascular endurance.
The following are some great fat burning poses:
1. Setu Bandh (Bridge Pose)
- Lie down on your back and place your feet on the floor so that your knees are pointing at the ceiling.
- Your palms should be flat on the ground at your sides.
- Using your engaged core, raise your pelvis up until it is at the same level as your knees.
- Slowly release your body to the ground, repeat five to 10 times.
2. Bhekasana (Frog Pose)
- Lie on your tummy and reach back to grab your feet (or ankles or shins).
- Take a deep breath in and lift your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together (imagine you are trying to hold an orange between them).
- Fold your feet toward your buttocks and hold for five breaths before releasing.
3. Shalbasana (Locust Pose)
- Lie on your tummy with legs and feet extended behind you.
- Your hands should be resting at your sides, palms up. With your chin and forehead resting on the floor try raising your right leg off the ground about 10 inches.
- Keep the leg straight. Lower the leg down and try with your left leg.
- After you’ve succeeded in this, your next goal is to lift both legs off the ground about 10 inches.
- Hold for five inhalations.
4. Chakki Chalan (Mill Churning Pose)
- Sit in a comfortable position, with legs stretched straight out in front of you.
- Keep legs pressed together and lean back slightly with a flat back.
- Clasp your hands together in front of you, moving them in a circular motion over your legs.
- Circle ten times in each direction.
Yoga is not about “no pain, no gain.” It is about listening to your body. Make sure you are breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth with full breaths and that you are maintaining the right posture. Use yoga blocks, pads, and straps to improve your flexibility as you slowly work into each pose.