Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years by people who want to live a healthy and balanced life. Traditionally, yoga is a total lifestyle intended to balance your body, mind, and spirit through postures, breathwork, meditation, and more.
In the West, yoga is principally practiced as asanas, the physical yoga postures. Health care practitioners are increasingly interested in yoga for its many health benefits as modern science continues to validate ancient wisdom.
Studies have shown that yoga’s health benefits include improving symptoms related to chronic conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and cancer. People who practice yoga have better immune functioning and better mental health, with less depression and anxiety than people who don’t practice yoga. Practicing yoga can also prevent weight gain as well as improve pain control in patients with migraine, rheumatoid arthritis, and lower back pain.
People who practice yoga have reported that they sleep better, their energy levels improve, and they’re happier than when they didn’t practice yoga. Many also say that their diet is better because of yoga and that yoga helped them to attain or maintain a healthier weight.
Do you want to know if you can lose weight doing yoga? Let’s take a look at yoga for weight loss, including different styles of yoga, weight loss yoga for beginners, and the best yoga poses for weight loss.
As convenient as it would be, unfortunately there isn’t a perfect or singular way to lose weight. Attaining and maintaining a healthy weight involves the right mix of diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices. But yoga does have the potential to help you lose weight if you do it regularly and in tandem with other activities.
Yoga to lose weight: what it can’t do
As mentioned, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss. For that reason, if you only do yoga, you shouldn’t expect to shed extra pounds right away. To experience the ongoing health benefits of yoga, you have to practice it regularly — at least 3–5 times per week for at least 50 minutes each time.
Some types of yoga require little to no physical effort, while others offer a more vigorous workout.
One study in particular suggests that for yoga to be effectively used as a treatment for obesity, it’s important to also experience the non-physical aspects of yoga, including meditation and breathwork.
Some types of yoga require little to no physical effort (like restorative yoga), while others offer a more vigorous workout, like vinyasa yoga. If you’re only practicing yoga for the relaxation benefits and you’re not burning excess calories, it’s unlikely that you’ll lose weight.
Yoga to lose weight: what it can do
Yoga can make you feel more flexible and increase your mobility. Yoga can also improve physical performance in other activities, making it easier for you to add other workouts to your fitness routine, like running or cycling.
Practicing yoga can also positively influence hormones like leptin and ghrelin that regulate your appetite and affect your metabolism. One study on postmenopausal found that participants who practiced an intensive yoga program lowered their leptin levels. In addition, they decreased their waist and hip sizes and improved their posture.
Yoga can also improve how you feel about yourself on the inside, which makes you less concerned about what you look like on the outside.
Yoga can help you develop better self-awareness, making you more mindful in your daily life. As you become more in touch with your inner landscape, you might be less likely to continue bad habits that can lead to weight gain, like late-night snacking or binge eating.
Yoga can also improve how you feel about yourself on the inside, which makes you less concerned about what you look like on the outside. For this reason, yoga is a great practice for boosting your self-esteem and developing a positive body image.
Types of yoga for weight loss
There are many different types of yoga classes available, some more strenuous than others. These types of yoga will give you a workout that builds strength and burns calories:
- Ashtanga Yoga: Created by Pattabis Jois, an Indian yoga teacher who is recognized as a leading teacher who brought modern postural yoga to the Western world, Ashtanga yoga is a vigorous and physically-demanding series of poses that are always performed in the same sequence.
- Power Yoga: If you want to burn calories and break a sweat, power yoga is for you. You’ll move dynamically through different postures in a fast-paced class that usually includes strength-building elements like push-ups and core work.
- Vinyasa Yoga: The Sanskrit word “vinyasa” means to place something in a special way. Vinyasa yoga involves moving the body dynamically from pose to pose in unison with your breath. Fitness-focused vinyasa classes target specific areas in your body. Look for classes with names like Core Flow or Core Power — they’ll focus on the core muscles of the body.
- Hot Yoga: You can burn up to 500 calories in a hot yoga class. Bikram yoga is a popular type of hot yoga class that is 90 minutes long and practiced in a room heated to 40 °C with 40% humidity. Moksha/Modo is another style of hot yoga that can help you burn calories and gain strength.
If these types of yoga sound too intense for you, don’t worry. Gentle types of yoga, like Hatha and restorative yoga can help with weight loss by decreasing stress and anxiety. These types of classes can help balance your nervous system and are a good option for weight loss yoga for beginners.
Here are some of the yogasana that can help you strengthen your core:
- Parsva Balasana (Bird-Dog pose): Assume a table-top position with hands and knees on the floor, then lift and extend one leg back as you lift and extend the opposite arm forward. Hold for a few breaths and repeat several times on each side. To make this more challenging, bend your elbow towards your knee as your round your spine.
- Kumbhakasana (Plank pose): Come into a push-up position and hold the pose for 5–10 rounds of breath. Add yoga push-ups (Chaturanga Dandasana) or play with plank variations like side-plank or forearm plank to increase the intensity of the pose.
- Utkatasana (Chair pose): Stand with your feet together and bend your knees as if sitting back into an imaginary chair. Keep your hips back as you extend your arms forward while keeping your spine long and making sure your knees don’t extend past your toes. Stay in that position for 5–10 breaths or move dynamically from standing to chair pose as if doing squats.
- Navasana (Boat pose): Sit up tall with your knees bent and feet on your mat in front of you. Balance on your sitting bones as you lift your feet off of the ground without slouching your back. Reach your arms forward and extend your legs to a 45-degree angle if you feel comfortable. Hold for 5–10 breaths. Boat pose might not be comfortable for you if you’re doing yoga on your period.
- Bakasana (Crow pose). Bakasana is an intermediate arm-balance pose that requires a lot of core strength. Place your palms on your mat, slowly bringing your weight into your hands and your knees on your upper arms. Slowly lift your feet off of the ground and balance on your hands.
Wrapping up on yoga weight loss
It’s important to remember that yoga involves so much more than physical poses. And yet, yoga and weight loss can go hand-in-hand if you practice it mindfully and regularly. Try different types of yoga to find one that works for you, and be sure to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle to attain yoga weight loss benefits.