How Many Calories Does Yoga Burn? Decoding Yoga for Weight Loss
The weight loss benefits of yoga go beyond the answer to how many calories does yoga burn. Find the number of calories burned in yoga, and other benefits right here.
You aren’t that much into huffing and puffing your way to a slim physique (think jumping jacks and sprints on the treadmill that almost make you throw up your heart) but you also want to shed some pounds — no wonder you are wondering “How many calories does yoga burn?” Yoga does sound like (and can be) a wonderful alternative to crazy cardio routines; just chill out on the mat, and stretch and bend your way to the waistline of your dreams! After all, yoga is very widely used as an alternative therapy for weight loss and can be effective when combined with a balanced diet (1).
During a yoga session, you are involved in active (and some passive) physical poses, breathing exercises, and mindfulness techniques. All of these combined can have a positive impact on your weight loss or weight maintenance goals. The active part of the process is what helps burn the calories — but the amount of calories burned during yoga does depend on several factors, including the style of yoga you practice. Let’s get into the details.
Can Yoga Burn Calories And Fat?
As we covered, yoga does help burn calories, but the range is wide — you can burn anywhere between 180 and 460 calories from 60-90 minutes of intense yoga practice.
Our contributor Joanne Highland, Certified yoga and barre fitness teacher, says, “An average-sized person might burn around 150-400 calories per hour of yoga, based on their weight, intensity of their yoga session, and their personal metabolic rate. However, remember that yoga's focus is on the union of mind, body, and spirit rather than merely a calorie burn.”
How much you will surely burn will depend on quite a few factors, most importantly what kind of yoga you are practicing. For instance, Corpse Pose will not really cut it for calorie burning (albeit it has its benefits for weight loss), while Hot Yoga can skyrocket the figures. Other things, such as your intensity levels during practice, your body weight, the duration of your yoga session, and your gender can directly impact the number of calories burned while doing yoga.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that continuous movement — from one active yoga pose to another in quick succession — as practiced during any yoga flow, especially in Vinyasa, can imitate aerobic activity and help with calorie burning. The bottom line: the more high intensity your yoga session, the more chances you burn a significant amount of calories.
Yoga practice also helps tone major muscle groups and build lean muscle mass, and the more muscles you have, the more calories you can burn, even when you are off the mat, due to improved metabolism (2), (3).
The exact Hot Yoga calories burned or Vinyasa calories burned will widely vary between individuals, but for a fair estimate, read on.
How Many Calories Can You Burn with Yoga Compared to Other Activities?
Bikram Yoga, Vinyasa, and Power Yoga — all involve active poses done in quick succession, which can amp up the heart rate and help burn a considerable amount of calories.
According to research, Hot Yoga (Bikram Yoga) can help increase calorie burn and weight loss significantly, compared to other forms of yoga. A study conducted by Colorado University presented evidence that the calories burned in a standard 90-minute session of Bikram Yoga in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit resulted in 460 calories and 330 calories burned on average for men and women respectively. These figures are equivalent to a 90 minute-session of brisk walking (4).
To compare, in another study looking at Hatha Yoga, it was seen that a 30-minute session resulted in a calorie burn of 2.23 kcal per minute — 118% higher than resting on a chair and 53% lower than walking at 3.5mph (5).
Vinyasa Yoga involves practicing a series of yoga poses one after the other and helps tone and strengthen the core, improve the range of motion, increase oxygen intake, and build muscle mass. An hour-long session of Vinyasa Flow can burn approximately 100-450 calories, depending on weight, intensity, and pace.
Despite these figures, pragmatically, yoga isn’t the first choice of exercise when it comes to calorie burning; even walking around the golf course carrying around golf clubs for 60 minutes can burn 330 calories straight. Comparing yoga with slow running, aerobics, and freestyle gentle swimming in terms of calories spent paints a rather dismal picture of yoga’s prospects as a weight-loss tool: 590, 480, and 510 calories respectively versus 180 to 460.
So, should you give up on yoga for weight loss and consider something else? You may, but wait till you are done reading all we have to share and you may yet be pleasantly surprised and re-inspired.
Yoga for Weight Loss: Is It Effective?
Our contributor Anna Passalacqua, a certified yoga therapist, and yoga teacher, says, “Yoga is not the most effective form of exercise for burning calories. If weight loss is your goal, yoga can help in a wide variety of ways, including creating new patterns (such as avoiding poor eating habits and adopting better ones), reducing stress (which can lead to weight gain), and improving self-awareness (which can curb overeating or late-night snacking).
If you want to choose styles of yoga that are better suited to burning calories than others, consider faster-paced options like Vinyasa yoga, Power yoga, or Ashtanga yoga. These styles of yoga tend to be more vigorous and active, leading to greater calorie burn than slower styles focused on stretching.”
Yoga can certainly help you lose weight, and it has less to do with how many calories it helps you burn and more to do with how it impacts your mental, physical, and emotional states. Let us elaborate.
There are two primary ways to lose weight and it has all got to do with being in a calorie deficit. To be in a calorie deficit, you can do one of two things (or both):
- Burn more calories than you consume
- Consume fewer calories than you burn
Applying both these tools can help you lose weight and keep it off, and that is where yoga as a weight management tool comes in.
According to a study published in 2016, yoga can promote physical, behavioral, and psychological changes that help with sustainable weight loss (6). In other words, it encourages practitioners to regularly come to the mat (for exercise and calorie burning) and has positive effects on dietary and lifestyle changes, such as lowered alcohol consumption, better food choices, etc.
We take a deeper look ahead.
Long-term Weight Management with Yoga
Yoga, even the most active form, may burn considerably fewer calories than other exercises, but the benefits of yoga for weight loss and management are not primarily from calorie burning. Yoga for fat loss has far-reaching positive consequences on health and lifestyle choices. Here is how:
- Yoga Practice Increases Mindfulness
Practicing yoga regularly can help make you more self-aware and increase your mindfulness. Research suggests that you are less likely to indulge in poor lifestyle and dietary choices, such as indulging in alcohol the night before a yoga session or binge-eating (6).
These changes often have to do with increased body awareness. You are less likely to stuff greasy, low-nutrient foods if you feel the negative effect these have on you physically and mentally — tiredness, bloating, acid reflux, etc.
Based on anecdotal evidence shared by participants in the study above, alcohol intake often interfered with performance in a yoga session and that was encouragement enough to limit or curtail alcohol consumption in many cases. Similar circumstances include the tendency to incorporate more plant-based and nutrient-dense foods and improved self-discipline.
While these may seem insignificant, studies conclusively suggest that weight loss cannot be sustainably achieved only through exercise (and by that, we mean burning calories) alone (7).
Positive shifts in lifestyle and dietary choices go a long way when it comes to successful weight loss and weight management.
- Yoga Can Promote Better Sleep And Lower Stress Levels
Quality sleep is a much-underrated factor when it comes to weight loss. Poor quality sleep and sleep disorders have been proven to be a risk factor for obesity and weight gain (8). Yoga poses, including those that do close to nothing for calorie burning (such as Corpse Pose), can significantly improve the quality of sleep in practitioners, both short-term and long-term (9).
Stress is another crucial risk factor for obesity and studies have found a direct correlation between poor or lack of sleep, increased levels of stress, and difficulty in weight loss and weight management (10). According to research, yoga can help reduce stress levels in practitioners significantly.
Improved sleep patterns and reduced stress levels can significantly contribute to weight loss and can be counted as one of the most important effects of yoga on weight irrespective of how many calories are burned in Hot yoga.
Besides these benefits, yoga can help tone and strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and increase metabolism through improved body composition and muscle mass. All forms of yoga come with their own sets of benefits, but some poses can be considered the most potent for weight loss, either for burning the most calories or for having the best impact on muscle tone.
Most Potent Yoga Poses to Burn Calories And Lose Weight
Yoga poses that engage large muscle groups and keep them engaged and active for considerable amounts of time can help increase calorie burn in a session. Some of the most popular yoga poses that burn calories include:
- Plank Pose
The Plank Pose, a regular feature for those who are into strength training, engages several muscle groups at once, including the abs and glutes, and requires the body to work against gravity. This helps burn more calories than a pose that does not involve resistance. A study suggests that regularly practicing the Plank Pose may help reduce body fat percentage and increase muscle mass (11).
- Chair Pose
The Chair Pose engages the glutes, which is the largest muscle group in the body. Holding the pose and sinking into it can help you tone your muscles and lose fat.
- Sun Salutation
Sun Salutation is not a single pose — it’s rather a sequence of 12 poses that are performed in quick succession. Research suggests that it is one of the most potent yoga poses for weight loss when practiced regularly (12). One set of Surya Namaskar includes 12 poses, each done first on the right side and then on the left. Each set can help you burn 13 or 14 calories, based on your intensity and movement. Sun Salutation includes effective poses like the Plank, Lunge, Downward Dog, etc., which engage important muscle groups.
You can opt for particular forms of yoga to burn calories instead of relying on individual poses. Calories burned during Hot Yoga or Vinyasa Yoga may be higher than calories burned in Hatha Yoga or Yin Yoga sessions. However, it is important to note that irrespective of how many calories you burn doing yoga, you can derive substantial weight loss benefits.
So, does yoga burn calories? Yes, it does, and the more active form of yoga you practice (think Bikram Yoga or Power Yoga), the more calories you burn. In that context, it is important to note that many other forms of exercise can help you burn considerably more calories than yoga. However, yoga is still considered a great tool for weight loss and weight management. It can help improve your metabolism, promote mindfulness (which leads to positive and sustainable dietary and lifestyle choices), and lower stress, all of which contribute to healthy weight loss and management. Keeping this in mind, the answer to “How many calories does yoga burn?” seems to be of lesser importance than how, through the practice of yoga, can you achieve your weight loss goals. The answer is through a regular practice of active asanas and making conscious lifestyle and dietary changes.
Contributor: Anna Passalacqua, Certified yoga therapist, Co-Founder and Teacher - Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy