Yoga for Weight Loss: 6 Moves to Get in Shape Fast

Yoga might not be most people's go-to exercise for weight loss—and that's a shame. Here's a circuit that proves why.

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What you need to know

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Not only can there be a cardio element to a yoga practice, but the mindfulness that yogis cultivate can help curb mindless eating—in fact, yoga can do a lot for your brain. Yoga for weight loss also promotes the discipline you need to make healthful living a permanent lifestyle habit.

"Yoga is about lengthening muscles and integrating muscles to your bones," says Olivia Young, the founder of Box + Flow, a workout studio that combines yoga and boxing. "Yoga uses body weight to engage every muscle using strength, core integration, alignment, and stability making it great to boost weight loss."

To bring a cardio element to the yoga flow outlined by Young, think of this series of movements as a circuit where one move flows into the next (read: don't take breaks!). Young recommends doing each move for about 30 seconds (so each set of six is about three minutes). Repeat the six-move flow five times.

Downward dog

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Start the flow in downward facing dog: Hands and balls of the feet planted on the mat, and imagine a string attached to your tailbone lifting your rear into the air. Make sure your hips are up and back. It's very important you keep your core tight (think belly button pressing into the spine). Your hands should be firmly grounded and your heels should be pushed as close to the floor as possible. Your gaze should be towards your feet. "Every muscle should be engaged," says Young. "Take deep breaths—inhale and exhale—to heat up your body."

If you decide to take a yoga class, make sure you memorize these 12 rules from yoga instructors, first.

Moving plank

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Roll your weight forward and straighten your body into high plank pose. Your hands should be pressing firmly down, your thighs squeezing together, and your ankles pressing towards the back of the room. Suck your belly into your spine and make sure your hips are in line with the floor. "Everything should be pulled into the center line of your body with this move," says Young. She reminds you to breathe deeper. "You will start to feel your body shake. Lower down to a forearm plank—a belly fat reducer!—and hold." Take care to keep your elbows directly under your shoulder. Hold for a few breaths and then go back up to high plank. Alternate high and low plank.

Locust pose

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Lay on your stomach with your arms by your sides and your legs hip-width apart; rest your forehead on the mat. Inhale as you raise your head and look forward, and then reach your arms back towards your feet as you raise your chest off the ground. If you can, interlace your fingers behind your back. Now use your inner thigh muscles to lift your legs up. Keep your chest lifted and as you exhale, release.

Start doing this workout daily, and these are all the ways your body—and brain—will change.

Side angle

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Raise back up into downward dog. Now, crawl your feet towards your hands and stand up. Step back into a side lunge: Your right leg bent at the knee is a 90-degree angle, your left leg straight out, foot at a right angle to your right foot; your trunk and head you be facing to the left side of your mat. Inhale, and then exhale as you extend your body out over your right thigh. Hang your right arm down and place the hand inside your right foot. Reach your left arm up over your head. Hold for a few breaths and then press into your feet and, as you exhale, extend up through your left arm as you stand up straight. Repeat on the opposite side.

Boat pose

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Sit on the mat with your knees bent, feet flat. With your spine straight, lean back from the hips slightly as you straighten your legs, feet in the air. Keep your chest lifted as you extend your arms forward so that they're in line with your shoulders. Balance on your sit bones for 30 seconds and then exhale as you lower your arms and legs.

More energy with yoga? You bet—check this out.

Bridge

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Lay on your back and bend your knees to bring your heels in towards your backside. With your feet flat on your mat, arms planted at your sides and palms flat on the ground, push into your feet and palms as you lift your mid-body up toward the ceiling. Hold.

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