If all exercise burns calories, then does yoga help you lose weight?
It’s hard to imagine that such a seemingly relaxing activity could push you into the fat-burning zone. It may help you relax and de-stress when things are hectic, but can it really impact your waistline?
In recent years, yoga has seen a huge resurgence in popularity. Developed in India over 5000 years ago, it’s still expected to be one of the top 10 fitness trends for 2019.
Practicing yoga as a weight loss method hasn’t necessarily been the focus, since most people associate it with strength and flexibility. But emerging research is showing that it can be beneficial for mind, body, and possibly even a muffin top. So, how does yoga help you lose weight? Let’s look at this question in more detail…
What is yoga?
If you’ve never tried yoga before, you may think it’s just a series of stretches. From the outside, it can look like a load of mat-based balances with some occasional chanting. But in practice, yoga can be a seriously tough workout, both physically and mentally. It involves adopting specific postures that challenge the muscles and balance, controlling your breathing, and some basic meditation techniques too. It requires focus to coordinate these three aspects at the same time which is what helps you to switch off temporarily and forget about other things.
What is yoga best for?
Yoga has so many health benefits, which many people don’t realize. To list a few, yoga is good for:
- Improving flexibility
- Improving strength
- Improving posture
- Improving balance
- Increasing blood flow
- Lowering blood pressure
- Promoting mindfulness
- Relieving anxiety
- Improving sleep
- Improving mood
- Improving your self-esteem
- Promoting self-care
Does yoga help you lose weight?
Yoga can help you to lose weight, but perhaps not in the way that we’re traditionally used to. Common sense tells us that weight loss is achieved by expending more calories than we consume. So, by doing more physical activity, we can burn more calories. But in reality, weight loss is a lot more complex and is impacted by our environment, emotions, and mindset. This is where the effect of yoga on weight loss can really be felt.
How does yoga help you lose weight?
The science behind yoga and weight loss is a lot more complicated than calories in versus calories out. Does yoga burn calories? Absolutely. But not as many as running on a treadmill or sweating it out in a HIIT class. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s less effective – here are 4 ways that yoga can help you to lose weight…
1 – Increases physical activity
If you’re just starting out on your weight loss journey, then yoga is an ideal activity. It’s generally less intense than running or aerobics which makes it great for beginners. You don’t need to be super-fit to get started and can gradually build up your activity levels and muscular strength along the way. If you’re someone who isn’t used to exercise or physical activity, gentle yoga is an ideal introduction.
2 – Builds lean muscle
Although some yoga classes are slow and relaxed, others can really get your heart rate up. Power yoga involves constant movement and working through a series of poses quickly. This works your cardiovascular system and helps you build lean muscle too. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest so there are metabolism-boosting benefits too. Classes also tend to be longer than other forms of exercise, lasting between 60-90 minutes. This means that your heart rate can be elevated for longer which aids calorie-burning.
3 – Transforms your mindset
What’s particularly powerful about yoga is its ability to transform your mindset. The combination of controlled breathing and meditation helps you to develop focus. You’re encouraged to notice how your body feels which makes you better able to recognize impulses without reacting to them. If you’re looking to lose weight, this can help you to avoid mindless overeating and identify whether you’re truly hungry. It may not suppress your appetite but it can help you to control how you react when craving food.
4 – Reduces emotional eating
Yoga classes have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, both of which can trigger emotional eating. At the end of a session, most people feel a sense of peace and satisfaction that lasts for the rest of the day. This can help you to make healthier food choices and be less tempted to eat for emotional or stress-related reasons. Because you already feel satisfied, you’re less likely to use food as an emotional crutch.
Weight loss yoga for beginners
Yoga can be an unexpectedly fantastic way to kick-start weight loss. Not only is it great for resetting your mindset to take better care of your body for better overall health, some forms can also be surprisingly good at burning a large number of calories. Not only this, the increased flexibility you’ll experience as a result of practicing yoga will help you to perform other exercises with more ease too, no matter what your fitness levels were before.
If weight loss is your main motivator, you’ll want to ensure you’ve picked the most effective form of weight loss yoga for beginners.
Some of the most effective yoga moves for weight loss include:
- Standing deep breathing
- Half moon pose
- Awkward pose
- Standing bow
- Standing head to knee
- Eagle pose
- Balancing stick
- Separate standing leg stretching pose
- Triangle pose
- Tree pose
- Toe stand
- Standing separate head to knee pose
- Dead body pose
- Wind removing pose
- Sit up
- Locust pose
- Full locust pose
- Bow pose
- Fixed firm pose
- Half tortoise
- Rabbit pose
- Head to knee and stretching pose
- Camel pose
- Spine twisting pose
- Blowing in firm pose
All of these poses are part of the 26 Bikram yoga poses included in a typical 90-minute workout.
What are the best types of yoga for weight loss?
There are generally 2 types of yoga which most experts suggest when it comes to losing weight; bikram and hot yoga. But the truth is, one is actually more useful than the other.
Does Bikram yoga help you lose weight?
Bikram yoga is often recommended as the best type of yoga for weight loss. It’s quite a disciplined approach, with 90 full minutes dedicated to working your way through 26 challenging poses which really do get your heart racing.
This probably sounds exhausting, and that’s because it is. And it burns calories – hard.
If weight loss is your goal, Bikram is the type of yoga you’ll want to be focussing on.
Does hot yoga help you lose weight?
Doing hot yoga can help you to lose weight for the reasons we’ve discussed above. However, the jury is out as to whether it’s more effective than room-temperature yoga. Some people report greater weight loss but this is likely due to increased sweating. Losing water weight isn’t the same as burning fat and hot yoga doesn’t appear to have any greater impact on the latter.
Bikram is the way to go
It’s plain to see who the real winner is here. Bikram yoga is no ‘gentle, peaceful relaxation session’. A 90-minute workout can burn over 700 calories – and that’s exactly why we suggest you focus on it if you want to use yoga for weight loss.
Don’t know where to begin with Bikram yoga? Here’s a full 90-minute workout for you to follow:
How many calories does yoga burn?
The number of calories you burn will be influenced by the type of yoga you do, as well as personal factors. These include your height, weight, body composition, metabolism, and genetic factors. As a guide, here are the average number of calories burnt per hour in different types of yoga class:
- Bikram Yoga – 477 calories (although the average class is 90 minutes long)
- Ashtanga Yoga – 351 calories
- Hatha Yoga – 189 calories
How often should you do yoga?
Yogis will often tell you that doing yoga once a week will change your day. Doing it twice a week will change your mind. And doing it three times per week will change your body. If you’re looking to lose weight, then aim for 4-5 yoga sessions per week to see meaningful results.
Yoga for weight loss – Summary
Practicing yoga can support weight loss by helping you to become more active, increasing calorie-burning muscle, transforming your mindset, and reducing emotional eating. Although it’s not classed as a high-intensity workout, some types can really put you through your paces and get the blood flowing. But it’s the mental aspects that are the most powerful since they help you to change your habits and adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Yoga really can be helpful for weight loss. Just take a look at Nishi’s story to see what kind of difference it made to her life:
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Before / After pics; Before I began practicing yoga and after I started practicing yoga. ( Time gap here is approx 6years; younger vs the older me). Does yoga cause weight loss? Traditionally, the answer is NO. Its an organic process perhaps… the pics say perhaps I have… the beauty of it is, one has not tried, its happened gradually over the years, as one has walked the path of yoga. Just a sincere practice is enough; no need to skip meals, sweets or anything for that matter. #yogaandweightloss #yogagirl #beforeandafter #yogabeforeandafter #gratefulforthepractice #yogaeffect
It’s important to remember that in any weight loss journey, long-term healthy changes are far more effective at helping you to lose (and retain) weight loss – and long term results should be at the forefront of everything you do when losing weight. Yoga is the perfect way to get your mindset into that zone, and we can’t recommend it enough.
Did you try out the Bikram yoga workout in the video above? Did it help you lose weight? Tell us about it in the comments below!