Yoga has a well-earned reputation for increasing your flexibility and strength. It is also thought to have a beneficial impact for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains, depression and stress. The health benefits of yoga therefore, are not in dispute, but is yoga good for weight loss? 

Can you lose weight by doing yoga?

Yoga can be an effective way to lose weight. Especially by doing active forms of yoga (keep reading to find out which types of yoga have the greatest potential to burn those calories). However, a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) finds that restorative yoga helped overweight woman to lose weight and subcutaneous fat.

As you might know, weight loss is achieved when the number of calories you use each day, exceeds the number you take in though eating and drinking. Yoga can definitely help towards your daily calorie burn. Besides that, yoga also has other health benefits, which in turn affects your weight and fat percentage! For the best results, it is recommended to combine yoga with other activities such as walking and cycling.

Keep reading to find out which and what other effects it has that can help you losing weight.

Which yoga is best for my weight loss?

In a restorative yoga class you may spend long periods of time not moving, allowing the muscles to relax and release tension; you could expect to use about 190 calories per hour. Alternatively, a power yoga class will be intensive and highly aerobic, with a calorie-burn at over 600 calories per hour.

Each yoga class will be different and so it is worth contacting the teacher to discuss your goals and if the class is going to be right for you. As a starting point, look out for these types of yoga which are likely to be the most active and burn the most calories:

  • Ashtanga yoga - a dynamic and strong practice linking breath to movement in a series of quick sequences.
  • Bikram yoga – a 90-minute workout following a set series of powerful postures in a hot and humid environment.
  • Vinyasa yoga - a continuous form focussing on the flow between poses, so you are working all the time.
  • (Hot) power yoga – a more physically demanding form of vinyasa yoga.

The number of calories you use in an hour of yoga will depend on personal factors such as your current weight, your level of muscle mass, your level of exertion and the type of exercise you are doing. Make sure you have a good understanding of these factors before you start, by using a body composition scale like the Tanita BC-401. Once you understand your personal factors influencing weight loss, you can then start to consider which type of yoga will be best for you.

Reasons why yoga might help you to lose weight

Yoga has many health benefits, which in turn affect your weight and eating habits. Because of this, there are many other reasons - besides calorie burn - why Yoga might help you to lose weight:

Greater mindfulness and knowledge of your body - Most of us will admit to unconsciously eating sometimes because we are not listening to our body and thinking about whether we are actually hungry. All forms of yoga encourage greater mindfulness and a stronger connection with our body which might help us to be conscious of what we eat and whether we need to.

Less stress - Increased eating or reaching for sugar laden foods is often a reaction to stress. Most types of yoga focus on reducing stress through breathing and relaxation which in turn might help reduce ‘stress-eating’ of empty calories.

Increasing muscle mass and metabolic rate - As you move into and hold yoga poses your muscles will be working and over time this can help to increase your muscle mass. As you increase your muscle mass you will also increase your basal metabolic rate, or the rate you burn calories, which will make it easier for you to lose weight. To read more about how increasing muscle mass will help you to burn calories faster, read our blog on metabolic age

We know that the journey to a fitter, healthier body is helped by a greater understanding of ourselves as a unique individual. Including yoga in your fitness programme may not be a primary driver to help you lose weight, but it should help you be more successful in your fitness goals and support the other training you are doing as it increases your flexibility, core strength and awareness. 

Does yoga help burn fat?

Food gives us the energy to move and if our body needs more energy than it is getting from that food, it starts to use the molecules in fat cells, converting them into usable forms of energy. Hence, if you are using more calories than you are taking in through food, any type of yoga will help you burn fat.