It would be nice to do a few ab exercises and melt away the bothersome belly fat accumulated there, but unfortunately, you can't spot-reduce fat. To lose fat from around your middle, you have to take it off your entire body. Though yoga is low-impact and often associated with relaxation and stretching, it can be effective for helping trim your physique. The poses help strengthen, tone and lengthen your abdominal muscles, and reducing your stress levels with yoga can have a positive effect on belly fat, too.
Different Styles of Yoga
If you want to try yoga to lose belly fat -- and for reducing overall body fat -- you'll be faced with choosing which type of yoga to practice. The biggest difference between the dozens of styles of yoga is how they're practiced rather than the types of poses performed in them. Kundalini yoga focuses on activating energy through breathing techniques rather than on fitness. Gaiam Life explains that hatha yoga is a sort of catch-all term for any type of yoga that teaches poses. It's a fairly gentle style of yoga that won't necessarily get your heart rate up, but it is effective for lengthening your muscles, including the abs. While power and vinyasa styles of yoga may flow from one pose to another in different sequences each time, you'll do the same poses in the same order every time with Ashtanga yoga. It's a more demanding style of yoga that will work up a sweat, too, making it effective for burning calories to reduce body fat.
The De-Stressing Factor
Even though it centers on relaxation rather than challenging poses, restorative yoga may be the best form for reducing fat. An article published in the "American Journal of Managed Care" showed that women who practiced restorative yoga lost a total of 31 square centimeters over a six-month period. Additionally, the participants continued to reduce even after the researchers released them to practice yoga on their own. Restorative yoga is performed seated or reclining, and the poses are held for a longer duration, sometimes as long as seven minutes, so it doesn't fit the typical advice to get your heart rate up to burn fat. Researchers in the study found that restorative yoga is effective because of its ability to reduce stress. According to Harvard Health Publications, a hormone you produce when stressed, cortisol, is one cause of fat buildup around the abdomen. Researchers in the "American Journal" study, who presented their findings at 73rd Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association in Chicago, said that since restorative yoga reduces cortisol levels, it may lead to trimmer middles.
Yoga Poses for Abs
A number of yoga poses focus on the belly and core. Poses such as Bridge lengthen the abdominal muscles. The Boat, Plank and Upward Abdominal Lock strengthen and tone abs. Even your oblique muscles will benefit from poses such as Extended Side Angle, Triangle and Side Plank. Performing these and other ab poses as part of any regular yoga practice should successfully tone your abdominal muscles, but won't shed the top layer of belly fat. Only calorie-burning, stress reduction and dietary changes will help you lose the fat.
Frequency of Your Practice
"Yoga Journal" suggests that you practice yoga two to three times a week for at least an hour at a time. If you're performing Ashtanga yoga, it can serve as moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and help fulfill the 150 minutes weekly recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Depending upon how vigorous your yoga session is, even as little as 75 minutes per week can be beneficial if it gets your heart rate up to the point that your breathing is hard and fast, according to the CDC. If it's difficult for you to fit an entire hour of yoga in all at once, cut your sessions into easier-to-manage lengths. You'll benefit from 10, 15 or 20 minutes at a time of moderate to vigorous yoga.