Have you ever considered adding a little umph to your yoga classes to not only turn up the internal heat but help your students gain muscle tone and ignite their metabolism? Can yoga really replace the calorie burn of a run? Although some may bristle at the idea of a “yoga for weight loss class” there are many simple strategies and small shifts you can make in your sequencing to give your students a calorie torching boost and ignite their internal fires while staying true to the roots of the practice.
Although it’s no surprise that this makes the list, increasing the number of times you do a sun salutation, adding variations, and even layering on some more challenge strength elements during sun salutations is one of the best ways to turn up the heat in a class. On average each sun salutation burns 14 calories each, so even doubling the average amount of repetitions of sun salutations can greatly increase the burn and strength exerted during this practice. Another yoga for weight loss strategy is to add variations like extra lunges, holding planks or double chaturangas during this flow, or doing several sets of sun salutations during the course of the practice to increase overall strength in the shoulders and core and turn up the caloric burn.
Building heat in classes and physically challenging your students isn’t just about the dynamic flows and sun salutations. Utilizing long holds of balance and strengthening postures can increase an overall strength in the trunk of the body, build muscular endurance and result in weight loss.
Holding standing and balancing postures like tree, warrior 3, and eagle requires the entire trunk of the body to hold itself up and activate the deepest level of the core to stay upright and balanced. These yoga for weight loss poses will also cause a strengthening of muscles that we aren’t quick to think about when we are trying to increase the metabolic intensity of our classes like the calves, ankles, and spinal erectors. These often forgotten muscles need strength as well to build a strong and safe practice.
Taking more time in poses like chair, warriors, and planks that use big muscle groups like your quads/hamstrings, biceps/triceps, and shoulders will automatically increase the strength and energy required to sustain them.
Don’t be afraid to mix it up when you’re sequencing and sprinkle in a few traditional strength and fitness elements into your classes. Although we may not think of squats, crunches, and push-ups as belonging in a yoga class there is a way to lightly incorporate them without breaking the vibe and flow of your yoga for weight loss class.
When sequencing think about where these types of movements might naturally occur in your classes. For example, when you’re in a chair, why not step your feet hips distance apart and add a short pulsing squat, or when you’re holding a plank why not incorporate a side plank series or some tricep push-ups?
Perhaps toward the end of the class when you are lying on your back you add a core segment or work on strengthening the gluts with a bridge series. Although too many of these traditional elements can make a class feel disjointed or falling away from the roots of yoga, but when used with a light hand it can be a wonderful way to add strength exercises and heat to your class.
The one area that almost everyone could use more strength is their core. Having a strong core is essential to functional movement and good posture each day. It is one area that you can almost always add to your classes and your students will thank you.
When planning a yoga for weight loss class, incorporating plank sequences, long boat holds or even getting creative with moves like eagle crunches or butterfly sit-ups can quickly add to the intensity of your class while giving your students a core strengthening blast. When in doubt, add more core.
Something that is paramount to a successful and uplifting yoga class is to make sure that your students know that they have options and can challenge themselves no matter what level of strength and endurance they are at.
It is important that when you are cuing that you always cue from the bottom up, meaning you start with the least challenge option, and then add on. This might sound something like this “Make your way to a plank on your knees, then if your body wants more perhaps you come to the toes, then if your body is craving even more perhaps you try to float one foot by activating the gluts.”
Instead of creating an atmosphere of making people feel like they can’t do it by giving the most challenge option first and making the others seem like modifications or less than, and don’t be afraid to tell students to increase the intensity if they feel like they aren’t getting what they need.
Building strength and igniting your student’s metabolic fire is something that any student can do, but that doesn't mean that they will do it all the same way. Just as with any form of movement and exercise, everyone is at a different level. When we give options and encourage our students to listen to their bodies and take the options that are challenging but still attainable for them, they will leave feeling like they worked hard. They will feel like they could successfully complete the class, and will hopefully feel inspired to return and continue to build on their strength.
By making a few simple sequencing choices you can easily turn any yoga class into an opportunity to build strength and explore the edges of the body’s capabilities.