Belly fat, or visceral fat, lies deep inside your abdomen, surrounding your internal organs. Excess visceral fat produces hormones that can increase your risk of serious health problems, including strokes, heart disease and some forms of cancer and diabetes. Toning your abdominal muscles with yoga asanas can help you look and feel better as you reduce belly fat. Get your doctor’s permission before starting a new exercise program.
Cow and Cat
This classic yoga exercise works the transverse abdominis, the deepest muscle in your abdominal wall. When functioning properly, the transverse keeps your belly flat, prevents back strain and improves your posture. Begin on your hands and knees. Let your belly hang out toward the floor and inhale, letting your back sink down in cow pose. Hold for 10 seconds. Exhale, pressing your belly button in toward the spine as you arch your back up like a frightened cat. Hold for 10 seconds, then release the belly out again for 10 seconds. Repeat, going each way 10 times. Do this exercise up to three times per day for three to four weeks.
The Sanskrit name for this asana is Urdhva Prasarita Padasana, often called UPP. It is done lying on your back, swinging your extended legs through a nearly 90-degree arc. The movements help reduce fat around the abdomen, strengthen the lower back and tone the abdominal organs, notes contributing editor and yoga instructor Richard Rosen in "Yoga Journal." This asana works your deep abdominal psoas muscles where they attach to the lumbar spine. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor, heels about 12 inches from your buttocks. Inhaling, slowly raise your right leg with your knee bent, until your thigh comes close to your abdomen. Now exhale, gradually lowering your right foot down. As your toes brush the floor, inhale and lift the right leg again. Continue for at least one minute and then repeat with your left leg. After you feel comfortable lifting one leg at a time, try the movements with your legs together. For stability, keep your belly firm, your lower spine in its natural curve and palms pressed down to the floor next to you.
Stand on a flat surface with your arms stretched straight out to the sides at shoulder height for this Kundalini yoga exercise. Bend your knees slightly and twist your upper torso and head to the right from your waist. Twist all the way to the left; and then continue twisting from right to left quickly in a seamless motion. Breathe normally throughout. This moving asana targets your mid-section. In addition, it edges toward an aerobic-type workout which is a key component of losing fat.
When you experience too much stress, your level of the hormone cortisol increases and more of your calories convert into fat, which is promptly deposited around the abdomen, notes Dr. Timothy McCall in "Yoga Journal." A spare tire around the belly may indicate insulin resistance -- a precursor to Type 2 diabetes, adds McCall. To practice Savasana, a Sanskrit word that means Corpse pose, lie down and take a few deep breaths. Spend five minutes relaxing all your major muscle groups. Conscious relaxation can help you manage stress and prevent excess belly fat.
Monitor how you feel during your asana routine and make sure you’re not forcing any stretches. Deep breathing will help you maximize the benefits of these asanas, except for the standing twist. Avoid feeling dizzy from the oxygen intake by doing deep breathing while sitting or lying down. Check with your doctor to see which yoga asanas are appropriate for your needs.