It’s undeniable: there are many fantastic benefits of yoga.
From improving flexibility, balance, core strength, overall mood, and confidence to decreasing stress, anxiety, and blood pressure, there are many reasons why yogis of all levels and backgrounds choose to do yoga.
Many people also use exercise as a way to burn calories, to either help them lose weight or maintain a healthy goal weight.
But, how many calories does yoga burn? Unlike stepping on a treadmill or elliptical machine where you can see an estimation for the number of calories you burn, the calories burned during yoga is not as easy to ascertain.
Whether you’re trying to use yoga to burn calories, burn fat, and lose weight, or want to know how many calories you burn doing yoga so that you can properly refuel and replace your expenditure to maintain your current weight, keep reading to learn how many calories yoga burns.
We will cover:
- A Yoga Calories Burned Calculator!
- How Many Calories Does Yoga Burn?
- Calories Burned Doing Yoga
- How Effective Is Yoga for Losing Weight?
Let’s jump in!
Yoga Calories Burned Calculator
How Many Calories Does Yoga Burn?
One of the first questions people might ask when starting yoga for exercise is: “Does yoga burn calories?”
The simple answer is yes, yoga burns calories. But how many calories does yoga burn?
The number of calories you burn in any workout depends not only on the type of exercise you’re doing but also on your body weight and composition and the duration and intensity of your workout.
Unless you’re in an exercise physiology lab hooked up to metabolic testing equipment, the number of calories you burn will be an estimate.
In terms of caloric expenditure, according to Harvard Health, a 125-pound person can expect to burn about 120 calories doing Hatha yoga for 30 minutes, someone weighing 155 pounds can burn 144 calories, and someone weighing 185 pounds will burn around 168 calories for the same workout.
Calories Burned doing yoga vs. other Forms of exercise
Although Hatha is a rather low-intensity style of yoga, these numbers are significantly lower than other common forms of exercise.
Yoga V.s Stationary Bike
For example, 30 minutes of moderate-intensity stationary biking burns about 210 calories for a 125-pound person, 252 calories for a 155-pound person, and 292 calories for a 185-pound person.
A 30-minute vigorous stationary bike workout burns approximately 315 calories for a 125-pound person, 378 calories for a 155-pound person, and 441 calories for a 185-pound person. If you weigh more than that, you’ll burn even more calories.
Yoga Vs. Elliptical
A 30-minute “general use” elliptical workout burns 270 calories for a 125-pound person, 324 calories for a 155-pound person, and 378 calories for a 185-pound person.
Yoga Vs. Running
Running for 30 minutes at 6mph (10 min/mile pace) burns 295 calories for a 125-pound person, 360 calories for a 155-pound person, and 420 calories for a 185-pound person.
Yoga Vs. Lifting Weights
Finally, lifting weights also burns more calories than a typical yoga class, with a caloric expenditure of about 1.5 times that of yoga.
Calories Burned doing yoga – breaking down the numbers
The best way to estimate the number of calories you burn doing yoga for your own personal workout is to wear a heart rate monitor or fitness tracker. The estimated caloric expenditure will be more accurate if your heart rate is measured.
You can also use your heart rate data to gauge your effort level and then use the formula for Metabolic Equivalents (METs) to calculate the number of calories you burn doing yoga.
The Compendium of Physical Activities reports that yoga can be the equivalent of approximately 2-4 METS or so, depending on the type of yoga you do.
You can see the METS for four different yoga practices below:
|METS||Type of Yoga|
|2.0||Nadi Shodhana pranayama (Alternate nostril breathing)|
|3.3||Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations)|
Using these METs values, you can calculate the number of calories burned doing yoga based on your body weight and duration of your workout using the equation to determine energy expenditure:
Calories Burned Per Minute = METs x 3.5 x (your body weight in kilograms) / 200
For example, if you weigh 165 pounds (75 kg) and do a Hatha yoga class, which is estimated to be 2.5 METS:
2.5 METS x 3.5 x 75 / 200 = 3.28 calories per minute.
Then, if you do a 60 minute workout, you multiply the number of calories burned per minute by 60 minutes = 3.28 x 60 = 197 calories.
This is quite low, but Hatha yoga is also a notoriously low-intensity style of workout.
Does Yoga Count As Exercise?
Another literature review that looked at 10 studies investigating the energy cost of doing yoga found that METs for yoga practice averaged 3.3 ± 1.6 (range = 1.83-7.4 METs).
However, when the one (Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar)) was removed, the average METs for yoga practice averaged was 2.9 ± 0.8 METs.
Note that the METs for Sun Salutations was 7.4.
The same review noted that the average METs for individual asanas was 2.2 ± 0.7 (range = 1.4-4.0 METs), and the average METs for pranayamas was 1.3 ± 0.3.
Note that using the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and American Heart Association (AHA) classification schema for exercise, the intensity of most asanas and full yoga sessions falls within the low-intensity category (less than 3 METS) or the low end of the moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (3-6 METs).
Note that in order for your yoga workouts to “count” towards the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, you need to be at an intensity level of 3.0 METs or higher.
These findings were confirmed in another study, which aimed to determine whether a typical yoga practice using various common asanas is sufficient to meet the current recommendations for levels of physical activity required to improve and maintain health and cardiovascular fitness.
Results found that the metabolic costs of yoga are similar to walking on a treadmill at 3.2 kph (2 miles per hour), and do not meet recommendations for levels of physical activity for improving or maintaining health or cardiovascular fitness.
As can be seen in the graph from the study, only a small percentage of the workout time was at an intensity level above 3.0 METs, which is the reported threshold for improving or maintaining aerobic fitness.
Another study also found that yoga practice was less intense than walking.
Participants averaged 2.17 METs over the full yoga practice, the METs for Sun Salutations up at 3.74 METs.
The calories burned during yoga averaged 2.23 kcal/min across all subjects.
In contrast, the METs value for the same participants was 4.62 METs while walking on the treadmill at 3.5 mph, with an average calorie expenditure of 4.76 kcal/min.
Calories Burned Doing Yoga- Table of Estimations
The following table was created to help you estimate how many calories you’ll burn in an hour doing yoga.
You can find your weight in pounds in column one, or use kilogram in column two.
The average METs value of 2.9 METs was used for most standard yoga practices. Power yoga, or more vigorous flows involving Sun Salutations was set at 4.0 METs.
Find the row containing your weight and then look at the appropriate column based on the intensity of your yoga practice.
Again, keep in mind, these calorie estimates are for a 60-minute yoga workout.
|Weight (pounds)||Weight (kg)||Hatha or Gentle Yoga (2.9 METS)||Power Yoga (4.0 METS)|
You will burn more calories doing yoga if you weigh more, exercise more intensely, or do a longer yoga workout.
How Effective Is Yoga for Losing Weight?
As just discussed, yoga isn’t necessarily an efficient way to burn calories. Therefore, when it comes to exercise, yoga is not the most effective way to lose weight; something like walking, running, or cycling will burn more calories than yoga.
However, losing weight isn’t just about burning calories, and indeed, many people do lose weight with yoga.
Studies show that yoga therapy, when added as a component of a weight loss program, improves outcomes and results in greater weight loss.
Most fitness and health experts say that even though yoga doesn’t burn a ton of calories, it can lead to psychological improvements that ultimately support healthy weight loss.
Yoga can increase your mind-body connection and help you become more mindful in your daily life. It can also reduce stress, boost mood, and improve self-regulation.
As such, many people who start a consistent yoga practice find that the mindfulness, emotional regulation, and self-care they develop on the yoga mat infiltrates their mindset throughout the day.
This can lead to better food choices, less emotional eating, and a desire to fuel with nourishing foods.
As most studies show that changes to your diet are more impactful on weight loss efforts than exercise, if yoga is able to make sticking to a healthier diet easier by influencing a mindset shift, it can absolutely help you lose weight and feel better in your body.
If you want to learn how to do Sun Salutations so you can burn more calories in your yoga practice, check out this great step-by-step video here.