If you think that yoga’s “too soft for cardio” to help you lose weight… you’re about to be proved wrong. Even if you don’t choose Vinyasa-style session (that can seriously kick your butt), other types of yoga will still help you shed pounds in different, probably unexpected, ways.

Yoga works at a very deep internal level; from increasing the power of digestion to lowering the stress levels that keep the body in a weight-gaining rut. And as yoga happens both on and off the mat (it’s an entire lifestyle!), embracing its wholesome principles of self-care means that weight loss comes with greater ease.

Here, we’re not sharing a calorie-burning yoga sequence, but 5 bigger-picture ways to lose weight with yoga.

1. Practice postures that stimulate the abdominal organs.

If digestion is sluggish, food turns into toxins rather than healthy body tissues. This toxic buildup can lead to weight gain. In order to lose weight, the digestive fire must be burning brightly.

Yoga has the power to boost digestion. Many postures twist, squeeze and compress the digestive organs. This pushes out old blood and invites an influx of nutrient-rich blood once the pose is released. Plus, these movements aid in elimination, stimulate the detoxifying liver and pancreas, and stoke the digestive fire through deep abdominal breathing.

Invite these actions by practicing postures like seated forward bend pose (paschimottanasana), leg lifts (pada uttanasana), half lord of the fishes pose (ardha matsyendrasana), boat pose (navasana), locust pose (salabasana), bow pose (dhanurasana), and revolved head to knee pose (parvritta janu sirsasana).

2. Use agni mudra as weight-loss medicine.

A mudra is a gesture that influences the prana (life-force) and mind in a particular way. You’ve probably seen the iconic chin mudra in stereotypical photos of meditation; thumbs and index fingers touching, backs of the hands resting on the thighs. Because mudras have an intimate connection with the mind and secondarily influence the body, they can be used for healing. The agni mudra can even aid in weight loss by increasing the digestive fire.

To practice agni mudra, extend your fingers. Bend your ring fingers toward your palms. Rest your thumbs on the nails of your ring fingers. Rest the backs of the hands on your thighs. Hold this mudra for 3 minutes, 3 times a day.

Wonder how mudras work? Yoga teaches that each finger relates to a different element. The thumb relates to fire, while the ring finger relates to earth. In agni mudra, the fire element is activated; increasing the digestive fire. The earth element is subdued; helping to decrease the heaviness of earth that’s related to excess weight.

3. Sit in thunderbolt pose after meals.

If you’re looking to lose weight (or just be healthy!) it’s extremely important that you give your body a chance to properly digest after each meal. If you instead dive right into physical activities or even napping, you interfere with the process of digestion. Weight gain can ensue.

Even yoga postures aren’t recommended after eating, but there is one exception: thunderbolt pose. Known as vajrasana in Sanskrit, this posture involves simply sitting tall with your legs folded underneath you. Thunderbolt is an ideal post-meal yoga posture. It directs the flow of blood to the lower abdominal region, meaning digestion is enhanced. Plus, it keeps the abdomen upright, giving the digestive organs the space and alignment they need to do their jobs effectively.

Sit in thunderbolt pose for 5 minutes after each meal to get its full weight-loss enhancing effects.

4. Get things moving with a warm lemon water and honey.

If you want to lose weight, it helps to eat and drink like a yogi. Fear not; this doesn’t necessarily mean going to extremes like vegetarianism. It can involve simple changes like a fat-busting morning tea. After waking up and brushing your teeth, heat a cup of water and add a squeeze of lemon. Once it’s cooled slightly add a teaspoon of honey (never heat honey or it turns toxic). Drink this on an empty stomach before your morning yoga session.

This yogi beverage has several weight-loss actions. The warmth of the water stimulates peristalsis, flushing away toxic waste. It also ignites the digestive fire which is inherently low in the morning. The lemon cleanses the blood, and the honey has a scraping action on fat.

5. Relearn the art of basic abdominal breathing.

If you’ve developed bad breathing habits but want to lose weight, it’s time to relearn breathing from the belly.

Our bellies are supposed to expand and contract with each inhalation and exhalation, but many of us constrict our abdominal muscles and breathe into our chest instead. This robs the digestive organs of oxygen, makes the mind anxious, and can indirectly cause weight gain.

Relearning basic abdominal breathing aids in weight loss in many ways: it stimulates the digestive fire, aids in peristalsis, drains lymph fluid, nourishes the digestive organs with proper oxygen, and has a soothing, stress-relieving effect on the mind.

To practice, sit tall in a comfortable position. Place both hands your belly. Relax your abdominal muscles. Breathe through your nose, feeling your belly expand with each inhalation and contract with each exhalation. Practice this breath for 3 minutes before each meal. It will put your mind in a calm state, encouraging healthy food choices and discouraging overeating so that weight loss comes easily.

Yoga is an amazing practice for weight loss. As you can see it’s not just a way to burn calories, but it has subtle effects on the processes of digestion, elimination, and mindful eating. It’s an all-around weight-loss tool that’s far more powerful than physical workout alone!

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