In the last few decades, yoga has become one of the most popular physical exercises in the world. With about 300 million people practicing yoga today, this industry is thriving and steadily increasing every year.
The top reasons why the average person comes to yoga are:
- general conditioning
- stress relief
- improved health
When you think of the correlation between physical exercise and weight loss, your mind goes straight to the strong, fast-paced workouts that seem to be quite the opposite of yoga. You don’t really hear about yoga for weight loss, and it probably would not be your first choice when it comes to a weight loss exercise routine.
Yoga is, however, a very dynamic practice. It comes in many different forms and it is practiced at multiple different levels of proficiency. For most people, it’s easy to underestimate the actual power of the practice when they think of the slow movements and easy postures that are commonly associated with yoga. But if you have any experience in the practice of yoga, I’m sure you know that there’s more to yoga than anyone might think at first sight.
So while you might love the idea of yoga in comparison to the high-stress, high-impact workouts that are normally recommended for weight loss, you might be wondering if yoga is even something to consider when it comes to losing weight.
In this article, we discuss many different aspects of yoga and different ways in which practicing yoga may be beneficial for weight loss.
Does Yoga Help You Lose Weight?
Yoga is a physical exercise and it does burn calories! So yes, theoretically yoga does help you lose weight. But the efficiency depends on the actual type of yoga that you practice, as well as the level of proficiency that you practice at. So for example, a vigorous Vinyasa yoga class will burn a greater amount of calories compared to a restorative Yin yoga class.
However, it has been shown that yoga works to improve your mindset around food and way of living, two elements that could perhaps be even more impactful in your weight loss journey than physical activity.
On one hand, yoga can be seen as a restorative practice that you add into your life to relieve stress and stretch every once in a while. But on the other hand, some types of yoga can work your body in ways you would have never expected and leave you feeling perhaps sorer than what a weight-lifting workout ever will.
What is different about yoga in comparison to other types of exercises, is that even though it may look gentle on the outside, it can have a significant impact on your habits, behavior, and way of living, which are some of the most important aspects of weight loss.
So how exactly does yoga for weight loss work?
Yoga for weight loss— it works in two ways:
- DIRECT weight loss
- INDIRECT weight loss
Let’s break these two down a little bit more!
1. DIRECT WEIGHT LOSS
When it comes to yoga for weight loss, you tend to think more of the power yoga styles. These yoga styles have more movement to them, they will help you to directly lose weight and change your body composition.
- Ashtanga Yoga
- Bikram Yoga
- Power Vinyasa Yoga
Ashtanga, Bikram, Power Vinyasa— do any of these sound familiar? These types of yoga are exceptionally demanding not only on a physical level but on a mental and spiritual one as well. Whichever style you would choose to experiment with, I’m sure you would be fascinated by either the regularity and structure of Ashtanga Yoga, the purifying heat of Bikram Yoga, or the rhythmic movements of Vinyasa Yoga.
These classes last 90 minutes on average and burn anywhere from 350 to 600 calories. During these vigorous movements, you’re sweating, your heart rate is up, your muscles are getting toner, and your strength is building.
If you’re a beginner to yoga, or you don’t have much experience with power-style yoga, your classes probably won’t burn as many calories (as I mentioned above) from the get-go. It’s important to start with beginner-level classes and practice consistently, so you can reach a certain level that allows you to advance in the practice and eventually be able to carry out a more physically demanding session, which will ultimately burn more calories and help you lose weight.
And don’t worry! The power yoga classes still leave you with that soothing, stress-relieving feeling at the end. Even though they exhaust you on a physical level, they leave you feeling truly happy and free, your mind cleared and your breathing deepened.
Long story short— yoga will help you lose weight directly through its more physically demanding styles, burning up to 600 calories per session. On a purely physical level, yoga works to improve your strength, flexibility, mobility, endurance, balance, and breathing.
2. INDIRECT WEIGHT LOSS
It’s true— not everyone enjoys intense, fast-paced exercise routines. Some people actually completely give up physical movement for the sole reason that they think it has to be an intense, physically-aching experience. Have you heard of restorative yoga?
Yoga is a versatile practice and as previously mentioned, it can be practiced in so many different ways. Not every style of yoga will burn a crazy amount of calories but that definitely doesn’t exclude the weight loss aspect of the practice. Losing weight through a more restorative type of yoga is possible but in a rather indirect way.
- Restorative Yoga
- Yin Yoga
- Slow Vinyasa Yoga
Restorative, Yin, Slow Vinyasa— the more gentle and restorative types. But don’t think you’ll just lay down and look at the walls. Even though these types of yoga may not be as physically demanding, I would still consider them intense, especially on a mental and emotional level.
While it might be tempting to think of yoga as merely another exercise routine, its real healing benefits come from its integrated approach to working with the body and mind. Yoga poses work to change the mind’s established patterns, replacing negative networks and pathways in the brain with positive, healthful patterns.
A lot of people are driven to workout because they believe it’s what they need to stay fit or lose weight and are reluctant to more restorative approaches because they won’t get the same benefits. You often may need to temper the more active or stronger practices with more supportive practices. So if you think you want to take on power-style yoga or you want to practice other physical activities outside of the yoga practice, don’t hesitate from introducing restorative yoga into your routine.
Practicing restorative yoga alone is still beneficial in regards to weight loss. Let’s see why:
Restorative Yoga for Weight Loss?
So how does restorative yoga influence your weight loss journey?
Kino Macgregor talks about this in her book The Power of Ashtanga Yoga—
“Yoga is not just an exercise that demands the right amount of calories, it is a body awareness technique that asks you to feel your body on every possible level.
It is the experience of deep communion with the more subtle flow of energy through the body that creates a genuine urge to eat foods that nourish the soul rather than those that harm the body over time.
When your daily yoga practice helps you feel the deleterious effects of harmful or unhealthy foods in your own body, you will be motivated to change.”
Yoga works in a way to change the mind’s established patterns— so for example let’s say that you reach for food when you feel anxious, which leads you to just sit on the couch for the whole day, which makes you feel bad about yourself, and you end up feeling so miserable that you repeat doing this over and over; yoga works to replace these negative networks in the brain with more positive, healthy patterns, and helps you break free from this cycle of destructive behavior that is so deeply ingrained in you and really is the cause of your weight gain.
When you enter a yoga pose that triggers your emotions, you can’t reach out for a Starbucks Frappuccino and a big box of donuts, or whatever you indulge in when emotions take hold of you. You remain in the posture and realize that you don’t need something external, outside of yourself to help you deal with this particular emotion, and realize that it is, in fact, your self that you always needed, and you denied yourself access to for this whole time. You have all the power to control your life. And when this becomes clear, you understand the true power of yoga.
40% of US yogis claim that they eat healthily because of yoga. And it’s no secret that diet plays a huge role in your weight loss journey. Restorative yoga will significantly improve your relationship with food and lead you in the right direction to living a healthy lifestyle.
Restorative Yoga — Weight Loss Journey
One of my dear friends, Iulia, has agreed to say a few words about how restorative yoga has impacted her life.
“I have been practicing restorative yoga for the past two years and I must say that it has far exceeded my expectations.
For as long as I can remember I wanted to quit smoking. It was only when I discovered yoga that I finally succeeded. Yoga is helpful here, as it allows us to tap into our deep thoughts, and sort out the root of our desires.
In terms of diet, yoga has helped tremendously. As yoga became a daily practice for me, I have naturally started to show an interest in healthier food alternatives and an active lifestyle, and felt appalled by junk food and laying down for the whole day.
Since then, I have been following a vegetarian diet and I make the time to go for a run or take part in physical activity that I enjoy, every day.
I know it may be hard to believe that yoga can impact your life to such an extent. But I want to encourage you to take a leap of faith and stay consistent at practicing and you will, sooner or later, experience all of these alleged benefits.
Have patience and never give up, no matter what happens along the way. Good luck. ”
Yoga for Weight Loss: Tips & Advice
Yoga in all its forms brings a deeper connection to yourself, both on and off the mat. It will help you feel better in your skin and come to terms with how your body looks like. This is the first step you need to take before setting any weight loss goals.
“When I started practicing yoga I began seeing beauty all around me. The trees, the flowers, the sunsets all seemed to glow with a divine light. Then I started seeing beauty beyond physical form, expressed in compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and love. Finally one day I looked in the mirror and saw beauty within myself.”
Now that we got everything clear on how to lose weight doing yoga and you got a better insight as to what styles of yoga to experiment with, I want to share some tips to help you stay consistent to keep practicing and keep showing up on your mat every day.
- Buy a high-quality yoga mat
As much as you don’t want to spend money on one additional thing, and you think it’s okay to practice on a carpet or a worn-out low-quality yoga mat, the reality is that if you want to fully commit to this practice and you’re confident that it will positively change your life, then you must invest in a high-quality yoga mat.
And this is especially required if you’re interested in practicing power-style yoga. A low-quality yoga mat can actually create a more accident-prone environment. Because of heavy sweating and often hard-to-control movements and postures, you need a safe, grounding yoga mat that will not break down quickly and won’t allow you to slip on it.
Practicing on a towel, carpet, or a low-quality yoga mat will actually keep your mind focused on how to keep yourself from slipping and falling. You are absolutely taken away from the mindfulness and steady breathing you are supposed to be feeling.
The number one yoga mat brand that we recommend is Manduka. These mats will never peel and flake, the material is eco-friendly and it prevents absorption into the mat, which means that it’s less prone to bacteria and it’s very easy to clean. You will never slip on the mat & it will provide a safe, grounding experience. Check them out on Amazon here!
- Be patient
Let’s be realistic! Your weight loss goals are not a few weeks away. Don’t think you’re doing something wrong if you don’t see any results in the first days, weeks, or even months. The process is different for everyone and you should not compare yours to someone else’s and instead, keep going, keep your head up high and show up on your mat as often as you possibly can!
There are going to be yoga poses that are not accessible to you at the beginning— and that’s totally normal. You will be adjusted by the teacher, whether you practice online or in-person. There’s no need to be frustrated that you can’t get into one pose or the other. Be patient and enjoy the journey. You will get there!
- Know when to take a break
You might be really motivated to get things going. And if you made it so far in the article, I’m sure you really want to succeed. But the desire to get things done fast, to push through, might become overwhelming and lead you in the wrong direction.
Take it easy and don’t do more than what feels comfortable. Learn how to build a routine and see how you can adjust your practice so that it feels easier to stay consistent and practice as often as possible.
Knowing when to take a break— whether it is one day, one weekend, or for the whole week, will sustain the process of your weight loss journey. Be intuitive about it.
- Enjoy your practice (even when it’s hard)
It’s important that you enjoy what you’re doing. When things get hard, when postures are difficult, when you can’t balance on one leg, or when you feel like your core is on fire— it’s most important to enjoy, to feel the sensations in the body and fully embrace them. Know that these postures work to strengthen you both physically and mentally.
After you finish your daily yoga practice, don’t rush to do “the next thing”. Instead, take some time for yourself; take advantage of the soothing feeling you get after yoga. Move your body, dance, cycle, go for a run, a walk, buy groceries… anything that takes you away from stressful thoughts and encourages you to move your body.
I hope you enjoyed the read and that it has helped you find out something new about yoga, and I’m so excited for you to introduce this practice into your weight loss journey.
Would love to hear your thoughts and questions in the comments below!