Does Yoga Flatten Your Stomach?

Yoga literally means "union" in Sanskrit and describes the unity of the mind, body, breath and spirit through physical discipline. Because its purpose is creating oneness, yoga focuses on the whole self rather than on spot reduction of a particular body part. However, if you regularly practice certain types of yoga and certain poses, you can lose weight that may show in your middle. Yoga also enhances your core strength and flexibility, improving your posture.

Spot Reduction Myth
Research from Texas A&M University's Jack H. Wilmore suggests that spot reducing -- removing fat from only one portion of the body through exercise or diet alone -- is unlikely. Few people have a protruding abdomen because of muscle; usually, a big belly comes from fat. Because you burn fat throughout your body and not just in one spot when you exercise, no exercise will flatten your stomach, although core exercises including yoga will give you better definition throughout your abdominal muscles.

Yoga and Weight Loss
While no amount of exercise turns a layer of subcutaneous fat into visible abdominal muscles, you can lose some of that fat overall through aerobic exercise. Yoga disciplines vary in the amount of aerobic exercise they offer. The fundamentals of Hatha and Iyengar yoga involve balance and flexibility, but provide less of an aerobic workout, while Bikram and Ashtanga yoga incorporate aerobic activity. How quickly you move between asanas, or poses, also determines how much energy you're using during yoga. Losing belly fat means losing fat in general, and yoga that involves aerobic activity helps.

Core Strength and Posture
Yoga of any sort can give you better posture that gives the illusion of a flatter belly. The muscles of your abdomen work in concert with your spine to hold you erect, and a more erect and graceful posture will naturally give you a leaner, flatter look. You'll also gain greater body awareness through regular and dedicated yoga practice. With more awareness of your posture, you become less likely to slouch and let your belly protrude.

Muscle Definition
As you lose the layer of padding over the muscles of your abdomen, you will likely see evidence of your hard work in the form of greater definition. Yoga may or may not help you remove the fat, depending on which form you practice and how you practice it, but it will help sculpt chiseled abdominal muscles. Holding asanas such as bridge, plank, full boat and wheel requires a strong core. As you hold these poses for a few breaths, you'll feel the tension throughout your torso. That tension translates into greater strength if you practice such poses regularly.

In addition to the more aerobic types of yoga to reduce weight overall; participate in regular cardio activities like brisk walking, jogging, swimming or cycling at least 150-300 minutes a week. Eat a healthy diet low in saturated fat and heavy on fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and low fat dairy products to help you achieve your goal of flattening your stomach.