Yoga Poses for Belly Fat

Yoga fights belly fat by combating stress.
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Deep belly fat has been inextricably linked to stress. Yale News says that the stress hormone cortisol affects fat distribution by causing fat to be stored centrally, around the organs. Yoga lowers cortisol levels and aids the body’s ability to manage stress. With less stress in the system, less fat accumulates around the organs. Cardiovascular exercise and diet are necessary components of managing weight and losing belly fat, but yoga creates the conditions in your body for exercise and diet to have a greater impact. Yoga deals with stress so diet and exercise can begin to have a visible impact on belly fat. When this happens, yoga not only continues to support the system’s ability to manage stress healthily, it can also help you begin to tone and deeply strengthen the abdominal muscles.

Release Stress, Release Belly Fat: Table Variations

The key to using yoga to tackle belly fat is to alleviate stress through focused attention on the breath instead of just the physical expression of a pose. Rolf Sovik, director of the Himalayan Institute in New York, describes breath awareness as an art that relaxes muscles and organs and calms the nervous system. You can incorporate the art of breath awareness into any yoga practice and in doing so alleviate stress. To release stress and belly fat, coordinate your movements with slow diaphragmatic breathing through the nose. Try coordinating your breath as you move through this variation on Table pose. In Table, with your hands below your shoulders and knees below your hips, inhale and extend your right leg back and left arm forward. Exhale and pull your elbow and knee toward each other, arching your back like a cat. Return to Table and switch sides. To amp up the ab work, add another movement into the mix. Inhale and extend opposite arm and leg. As you exhale, rotate the hip and shoulder to move the arm and leg perpendicular to the body. Inhale to return to the second position and finish the sequence.

More Moves From the Core: Boat Pose

"Yoga Journal" contributing editor Fernando Pagés Ruiz writes that all movement springs from the body’s center of gravity, just below the navel. Yoga can exercise all of the core muscles. When you learn to move from the core instead of from the limbs, you’ll notice your abdominal muscles are an integral part of almost any yoga posture. If you want to get to the core quickly, though, incorporate Navasana, Boat pose, into your practice. Sit with your knees bent and feet planted on the floor. On an exhale, pull from your low belly to lift the legs and rock gently back so the shins are parallel to the floor. Extend your arms to the outsides of your knees to counter balance the pose. For even more belly work, press your knees together and straighten the legs and lift the arms overhead to make a "V" shape.

Hold Strong to the Center: Forearm Plank Pose

A modified version of Plank pose, Forearm Plank pose demands full abdominal engagement. Begin in Plank pose with straight arms and hands aligned below your shoulders to establish a straight spine, your body straight and supported by your toes and hands. Tuck your low ribs in and curl your tailbone forward. Then, place your forearms one at a time on the ground so the elbows are directly below the shoulders and the palms of your hands are spread and pressed into the ground. Isometrically pull your forearms toward one another, activating the muscles without moving your forearms. Hug your muscles to the center of gravity in your body, right below the navel. Try holding this position for five breaths, and work on increasing your belly’s stamina to a minute and beyond.

Relax and Engage Intention: Corpse Pose

Ruiz says the fluid interplay between the abdominal muscles and the lungs is an excellent meditation focus. Continue the intention of your yoga practice, getting to know your abdominal core, into Savasana, Corpse pose. Lie on your back with your feet wider than hip-width distance and your palms facing up by your sides. Focus your attention on the diaphragm, a horizontal band of muscle at the base of your lungs. Exhale completely, and then allow the lungs to fill up with air, expanding the ribs in all directions. Notice the expansion of the diaphragm into the abdominal cavity. As you exhale, gradually compress the core muscles to empty the lungs completely.

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