With all of that stretching, twisting and sweating, you sure feel like you are earning a flat tummy. But can yoga really shrink your stomach? Yes and no. The postures themselves do not remove fat from any specific area. However, if you use yoga as part of an overall weight-loss plan, your belly will get smaller along with the rest of your body. Even if you never achieve a perfectly flat tummy, yoga is healthy for your body and mind.
Yoga is much more than a workout; with roots in ancient Indian philosophy, it exercises the mind and body for total health. There are many varieties of yoga, such as Ashtanga, Kundalini, Bikram and Iyengar. These are all based on Hatha yoga, the most prevalent style in the United States and Europe. All yoga involves poses and breathing techniques, but some styles focus on gentle meditation while others require heavier physical activity.
The secret to a flatter tummy is fat loss, pure and simple. And for the most part, this boils down to calories in versus calories out. Since the average yoga class burns about 300 calories per hour and it takes 3,500 calories to lose a single pound of fat, yoga is not a fast track to a tiny tummy. In fact, diet has much more of an effect. That said, yoga will strengthen your core and create a tighter appearance, so combine it with a reduced-calorie diet for a trimmer, more-toned belly.
Yoga and Stress
Hold onto your yoga mat -- as important as calories are, they are not the only factor in fat reduction. Stress is emerging as a contributor to visceral fat, which lines the abdominal organs and leads to a thick waistline as well as chronic conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even breast cancer. Yoga is prized for its stress-relieving ability, and by improving your state of mind, it may also reduce your waistline.
So yoga burns a few extra calories and alleviates stress -- what else can it do for your health? As it turns out, plenty. Contorting into those complex poses increases your range of motion and improves balance, both of which reduce your risk of injury. In addition, yoga can help you maintain healthy blood pressure and lower your resting heart rate, combating cardiovascular disease. With a focus on mindfulness, yoga may even help you make better lifestyle decisions, further contributing to weight loss.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.