You admire the lanky, lean legs of those Instagram yogis and want them for yourself. Although yoga offers a multitude of benefits, it's not going to guarantee you thin calves or the illustrious "yoga body." Yoga, along with a comprehensive weight-loss plan, may help you shed excess fat in your lower legs, but it alone isn't going to change the way your body stores fat and muscle 1.
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Standing poses that include balance will help activate the muscles of your calves, and stretching poses for the lower legs will help soothe them. But, there's no way to target one part of your body for thinning. Only if you lose weight, and your body type is naturally willowy, will you get those yogi legs you're after.
Thinner Calf Strategy
Stronger calves come from challenging the muscles there, which are the large gastrocnemius and the smaller soleus. However, thinner calves come from losing extra fat. Your calves aren't a common place to pack extra pounds — usually that's reserved for your thighs, butt or belly — but it's not unheard of. Even if your body is inclined to store fat in your lower legs, you can't then target them for fat loss. You must lose weight all over, and as you slim down, your calves — along with other parts of you — will shrink.
Dietary interventions that include smaller portions and healthier foods along with extra physical activity are your best bet when the goal is to lose fat. Yoga counts as more physical activity, especially a flowing practice such as vinyasa. Extra movement from walking, jogging or cycling augments the calories you burn in yoga for weight loss.
- Stronger calves come from challenging the muscles there, which are the large gastrocnemius and the smaller soleus.
- Even if your body is inclined to store fat in your lower legs, you can't then target them for fat loss.
Poses to Target the Calves
Do You Burn More Calories With Yoga or Pilates?
Yoga poses often aim to increase flexibility in tight calves, so you're better able to reach your heels to the floor in Down Dog or avoid a calf strain when you do other workouts 1. Strengthening poses will help develop the muscles there to reveal leaner, sleeker legs when you do drop pounds. If you've got a build with stocky legs, though, there's only so much you can do to get thin calves.
Crescent Lunge and Warrior I and II, which look like lunges with the back foot grounded, strengthen your legs. Bring even more attention to your calf muscles with Warrior III — balancing on one foot with the arms extended forward and the elevated leg reaching back.
Stack balancing poses together to further build muscle in your calves. Instead of performing a pose and then releasing before you move into the next; try doing three to four balancing poses on the right leg without putting the left leg down. Then repeat the same sequence on the left. For example, hold each of the following poses for three to five breaths:
- Warrior III
- Half Moon
The calf of the leg that stays grounded will feel the challenge, as will your butt and thighs.
- Yoga poses often aim to increase flexibility in tight calves, so you're better able to reach your heels to the floor in Down Dog or avoid a calf strain when you do other workouts 1.
Stretch the Calves
Limber calves make everyday activity — from walking to jumping to wearing heels — more comfortable. While being more flexible in your calves won't cause weight loss, it can make other physical activity more comfortable so you can burn calories and lose pounds.
Yoga poses such as forward folds, either seated or standing, engage your calves 1. To make the calves most active in these poses, flex the toes gently toward your shins. Downward Dog is also an extraordinary calf stretch. Concentrate on pushing your heels toward to floor and your buttocks toward the ceiling to maximize the sensation through the entire backs of your legs.
- Limber calves make everyday activity — from walking to jumping to wearing heels — more comfortable.
- To make the calves most active in these poses, flex the toes gently toward your shins.
Do You Burn More Calories With Yoga or Pilates?
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Andrea Boldt has been in the fitness industry for more than 20 years. A personal trainer, run coach, group fitness instructor and master yoga teacher, she also holds certifications in holistic and fitness nutrition.