Has your belly started sticking out far more than you would like since you turned 50? Do you now rank clothing on whether it will show your newly formed muffin top or not.
For women in menopause and beyond excess fat around your middle is a hazard caused by lowering estrogen levels, imbalanced hormones and aging. Often as you age there is a lack of exercise to keep your muscles working and burning fat, which makes weight loss more difficult but not impossible.
This abdominal fat forms a deep layer around your internal organs and is usually called visceral fat. High levels of this fat can lead to increased risk of:
- Heart attack
- Type 2 diabetes
- Alzheimer’s disease
- High blood pressure
- Breast cancer
Yoga is a great way for midlife women to exercise their entire body as it is low impact and can improve strength and flexibility without the need for expensive gym memberships and stress-inducing aerobic routines.
Is yoga good for reducing belly fat?
It is often questioned as to whether yoga is able to help with fat loss.
However, there are many powerful yoga poses that use body weight to strengthen not just your core muscles but your upper and lower back muscles, as well as your upper body including your arms. A wondrous benefit for women who have developed the dreaded ‘turkey flap’.
Working on your abdominal muscles is the best way for you to return to having a flat stomach. Imagine looking great in those figure hugging jeans again thanks to your yoga practice.
Yoga is good for the body, mind and breath and brings all three together in a harmony which brings confidence, peace, strength and focus to those practicing it.
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- Of course as with anything to do with reducing belly fat it is important to be eating a healthy wholefood diet. Below are my best tips for losing belly fat
- Cut out added sugar, including all its derivatives such as maple syrup, honey etc.
- Cut down on processed carbs such as pasta, rice etc. If you can change to brown rice and maybe a spelt or chickpea pasta.
- Eat plenty of soluble fibre, aside from helping to move everything through your system they help you feel fuller for longer. These include avocado, linseed, legumes and psyllium husk.
- Eat plenty of good quality protein. This will also keep you feeling fuller for longer as well as help to build muscle when couples with resistance training such as using weights.
- Reduce stress, this is the number one driver of adding belly fat. Stress produces cortisol which can interfere with the work your insulin does so energy will be stored as fat.
- Include some aerobic exercise into your routine. This can be a brisk walk, but it needs to be for at least 30 minutes a day for at least 6 days per week.
- Get at least 7 hours of quality sleep per night. As with stress, lack of sleep can turn on the hunger hormone and cause you to crave all the wrong foods.
- Drink green tea – Green tea contains EGCG which is shown to improve metabolism as well as antioxidants which are effective in removing toxins from the body.
As with any weight loss program we are always trying to acheive a nutrition-packed calorie deficit but without deprivation and constant feelings of hunger.
What is a Yoga Asana?
Asana is the name we give to the poses or postures we do in yoga.
Asana is a sanskrit word which means “seat” particularly the position you take in meditation.
An asana is the physical shape that you make with your body.
These shapes on their own are not yoga. They are the method we use to do yoga. A little like the method in a recipe. The method is not the finished dish, just a way to get to the finished dish.
What is Power Yoga and How Does It Differ To General Yoga?
Power yoga has evolved from Ashtanga Yoga and is still based around the traditional movements. It is a more robust athletic style of yoga exercise with a far more aerobic quality that gets your heart rate up. Strength training and aeorobic training in one session is a popular way to keep fit.
Often it is set to music. It is a popular contemporary style that is practised in classes for people who enjoy all the principles of yoga with the added benefit of extra fitness.
6 Best Yoga Asanas to reduce belly fat
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Dog)
Here’s how to do it:
- Start on your hands and knees. Wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- Stretch your elbows and relax your upper back.
- Press firmly through your palms and knuckles with fingers spread.
- Exhale as you tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor. Reach your pelvis up toward the ceiling, then draw your sitting bones toward the wall behind you. Straighten your legs, but don’t lock your knees.
- Lengthen your spine and lift your sitting bones up toward the ceiling. Now press down equally through your heels and the palms of your hands.
- Draw the inner muscles of your arms to the top of both shoulders. Draw your shoulder blades into your upper back.
- Rotate your arms externally so your elbow creases face your thumbs.
- Draw your chest toward your thighs as you continue to press the mat away from you, lengthening your spine.
- Rotate your thighs inward. Sink your heels toward the floor.
- Align your ears with your upper arms. Relax your head, but do not let it dangle. Gaze between your legs or toward your navel.
- Hold for as long as you need.
- To release, exhale as you gently bend your knees and come back to your hands and knees.
Naukasana (Boat pose)
Great for toning both your side and middle belly muscles.
Here’s how to do it:
- Sit on mat with knees pulled up and toes pointed
- Inhale and attempt to lift your feet and stretch out your legs to a 45 degree angle to the ground.
- Form your body into a V shape with your arms outstretched and your fingers pointing the same way as the toes.
- Hold for 30 – 60 seconds. You may have to build up to this.
- Breathing normally, hold the posture for 30 to 60 seconds to start with.
- Then exhale, relax and come back to sitting.
- Repeat this asana five times to begin with, working up to 30 times gradually. Relax for 15 seconds after each repetition.
Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation)
This infographic will show you how to do it.
Sun Salutation works all of your major muscle groups and gets your blood circulation moving. It trims and tones the waist and arms as well as activates and improves the digestive system, and helps keep your metabolism in balance. This is a fantastic asana to do first thing in the morning to wake everything up and get moving.
Bhujangasana (Cobra pose)
Often done as part of a Sun Salutation, this is a powerful back bend that will increase the flexibility of the spine and strengthen spinal support muscles. It can also relieve back pain.
Here’s how to do it:
- Place your palms flat on the ground directly under your shoulders. Bend your elbows straight back and hug them into your sides.
- Pause for a moment looking straight down at your mat with your neck in a neutral position. …
- Inhale to lift your chest off the floor. …
- Keep your neck neutral.
This position can also be entered from plank position. Be careful if you are doing this to keep your elbows directly over the heels of your hands and propel your chest forward before lifting your chest and curving your spin into cobra.
It is important in this pose to create an even bend along the whole spine, including your neck. Try not to bend too hard in the lower back as this could lead to injury.
Sethu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge pose)
This asana works well for the glutes, thyroid as well as fat loss. The Bridge pose improves muscle tone, digestion, regulates hormones, and improves thyroid levels. It also strengthens your back muscles and reduces back pain.
Here’s How You Do It:
- Lie down on your back.
- This time your body extremes, the neck and the toes remain on the ground as you create a plank with your body.
- The shoulder takes a little pressure as you lift your body whilst keeping your toes glued to the ground.
- Rest your hands beside you or use it as a gripper for your toes to maintain balance.
Utkatasana (Chair pose)
When I first saw this pose I thought how easy it looks. Looks can be deceiving though as is certainly the case here. You need flexibility in the shoulders, stability in your core and strength in your legs and keeping all three in this position requires focus.
Here’s how you do it:
- Stand with your feet together, big toes touching.
- Inhale while raising your arms above your head, hands straight.
- Exhale as you bend your knees, and bring your thighs as parallel to the floor as you can. Your knees will project out slightly over your feet and your middle will be approximately at a right angle over your thighs.
- Draw your shoulder blades up and reach your elbows back towards your ears. Stretch your tailbone down to the floor, and lengthen your lower back.
- Shift most of your weight onto your heels.
- Breathe smoothly and deep.
- Spread your shoulder blades apart. Spin your pinky fingers toward each other so your palms face each other, rotating your arms outward through your thumbs.
- Gaze directly forward. For a deeper pose, tilt your head slightly and gaze at a point between your hands.
- Hold for 30 seconds to a minute Then, inhale as you straighten your legs, lifting through your arms. Exhale and release.
Chair pose strengthens the feet, ankles, legs, knees, hips, glutes, lower and upper back, shoulders and arms; stretches the chest, shoulders; and alleviates lower back pain. This is a difficult pose for me as I have difficult knees and find it hard to hold but wow, it really does work those glutes.
Phalakasana (Plank pose)
Plank pose improves upper body, abdominal, wrist, hands, and bone strength as well as spinal stability.
Here’s how you do it:
- Begin on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly under your shoulders. Breathe smoothly and evenly through your nose. Bring your thoughts to focus on the present moment.
- Spread your fingers and press down through your forearms and hands. Do not let your chest collapse.
- Gaze down between your hands, lengthening the back of your neck and drawing your abdominal muscles toward your spine.
- Tuck your toes and step back with your feet, bringing your body and head into one straight line.
- Keep your thighs lifted and take care not to let your hips sink too low. If your butt sticks up in the air, realign your body so your shoulders are directly above your wrists.
- Draw your pelvic floor muscles toward your spine as you contract your abdominal muscles. Keep your head in line with your spine. Broaden across your shoulder blades and across your collarbones.
- Draw down through the bases of your index fingers — do not let your hands roll open toward the pinkie fingers.
- Press the front of your thighs (quadriceps) up toward the ceiling while lengthening your tailbone toward your heels.
- Hold the pose while breathing smoothly for five breaths. If you are using the pose to build strength and stamina, hold for up to five minutes. To release, slowly lower onto your knees, then press back into Child’s Pose and rest.
Be careful of your elbows in this pose and keep them soft. Locking them in place can cause injury. The strength comes from your biceps and triceps and for women over 50 the resulting toned arms are a definite plus.
Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
Putting this one here for those who are more advanced and have been doing yoga for a while. Many won’t have the flexibility for this a group which I also belong to.
The bow pose, so called for its shape of a bow, is good for reducing belly fat.
Here’s How You Do It:
- Lie flat on your stomach.
- Bend both your legs and slightly raise your chest.
- Hold your ankles and gently raise your thighs.
- In lifting your thighs and chest you will notice your belly muscles tighten.
- Hold for about 30 seconds.
- Repeat twice.
Caution: Avoid this pose if you have spinal injuries.
The Best Way To Develop A Regular Practice For A Healthy Body
Yoga should be practiced regularly to get the benefits. However, your practice on needs to be 20 minutes or so 2 to 3 times per week.
Try a few routines out to see what works best for you. I follow Yoga With Adriene on You Tube as I find her down to earth style suits me. Play around and find one you like and stick to that until you have mastered it.
Then try incorporating a few more moves to expand. If your feeling adventurous Adriene has a 30 day challenge for beginners which will give you a good understanding of yoga and improve your fitness as well.
The strength and fitness that comes from regular yoga is something that sneaks up on you. One day you just notice that you can do something that would have seemed impossible when you started.
See these posts for information on yoga