There are many benefits of yoga, from increasing core strength, flexibility, and balance to reducing stress, chronic pain, and blood pressure. Yoga is also enjoyable and can increase a sense of overall well-being.
However, is yoga good for weight loss? We all know that exercise burns calories and that increasing your physical activity is a good way to reduce body fat, but how effective is yoga for losing weight?
While the scientific research surrounding yoga for weight loss is minimal at best, there are ways to lose weight with yoga. Below, we discuss yoga for weight loss, how to lose weight with yoga, and yoga poses for weight loss to help you achieve the physique you want while finding your flow on the mat.
In this guide, we’re going to look at:
- Is Yoga Good for Weight Loss?
- How Effective Is Yoga for Losing Weight?
- How to Lose Weight With Yoga
- 8 Yoga Poses for Weight Loss
- Weight Loss Yoga For Beginners Videos
Let’s jump in!
Is Yoga Good for Weight Loss?
The short answer is no: in general, yoga isn’t particularly effective for weight loss, but that doesn’t mean you can’t lose weight with yoga.
If your primary goal with your workout routine is to lose weight, ultimately, yoga is probably not the best form of exercise to choose. While it is possible to lose weight with yoga, compared to many other forms of exercise, yoga is not a particularly effective means of achieving weight loss.
Losing weight essentially boils down to creating a caloric deficit. In other words, to lose weight, you have to consume fewer calories than you expend.
Yoga, like other forms of physical activity, factors into the expenditure side of the equation, along with the calories you burn at rest—your basal metabolic rate—the calories you burn in the other activities in your day, and the calories you burn digesting food.
Our bodies store fat or gain weight when we consume an excess number of calories relative to what we burn. In a simplified sense, for every 3,500 calories you consume above what you expend, the body gains one pound of fat.
To lose one pound of stored body fat, you have to create a caloric deficit of roughly 3,500 calories, which equates to 500 calories per day. This caloric deficit can be generated by consuming fewer calories, burning more calories, or a combination of both.
Unfortunately, yoga is less intense than many forms of exercise and as a result, the number of calories you burn per minute in a yoga workout is usually less than more vigorous activities like running, cycling, rowing, elliptical, HIIT workouts, jumping rope, swimming, etc., depending on the intensity of your effort in each.
How Many Calories Does Yoga Burn?
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.
Although Hatha is a rather low-intensity style of yoga, these numbers are significantly lower than other common forms of exercise.
Cakories burned biking vs yoga:
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.
Calories burned on the elliptical vs yoga:
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.
Calories burned running vs yoga:
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.
Calories burned lifting weights vs running:
Finally, lifting weights also burns more calories than a typical yoga class, with a caloric expenditure of about 1.5 times that of yoga.
Since you’ll lose more weight the more calories you burn, yoga is not particularly good for losing weight when compared to other forms of exercise.
How Effective Is Yoga for Losing Weight?
As just discussed, in terms of caloric expenditure, yoga isn’t a very effective way to lose weight, but 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.
It seems the primary weight loss benefit of yoga is a product of the psychological improvements that come from a consistent yoga practice. Yoga can increase your mind-body connection and help you become more mindful in your daily life.
Many people who start a consistent yoga practice find that the mindfulness and self-care they develop on the yoga mat infiltrates their mindset throughout the day, such that they are more inclined to eat better and feed their bodies 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.
Therefore, while yoga may not be directly good for losing weight, it may indirectly support weight loss as part of a comprehensive diet and exercise lifestyle plan. Yoga can help you connect to your body, limit emotional eating, and replace unhealthy foods with more nutritious options.
How to Lose Weight With Yoga
There are ways to make it easier to lose weight with yoga. The more vigorous your workout, the more calories you will burn.
Consider more vigorous forms of yoga.
To increase your heart rate during yoga, you can either flow from pose to pose more rapidly and fluidly, with little to no holding or rest, and/or focus your workout on asanas (poses) that engage your entire body and all major muscle groups. When more muscle mass is activated, you’ll torch more calories.
8 Yoga Poses for Weight Loss
While there isn’t much research to support specific yoga poses for weight loss, yoga poses that engage more of your muscles at one time typically burn more calories. Additionally, certain yoga poses are said to increase weight loss by stimulating digestion and metabolism.
The following are some of the best yoga poses for weight loss:
#1: Four Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)
Plank pose strengthens your core and shoulders. Squeeze your glutes to relieve strain on your low back and support optimal form.
#2: Warrior Poses (Virabhadrasana)
Warrior II and Warrior III poses are good yoga poses for weight loss because they engage your quads, which are one of the largest muscle groups in the body.
With Warrior II, you’ll also strengthen your shoulders and core, and improve your balance.
Warrior III pose is nearly a full-body pose, as it strengthens your glutes, quads, arms, and core. Keeping your core tight will not only help you balance and maintain the pose, but it also boosts the calorie burn by recruiting your abdominal muscles.
#3: Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Although triangle pose isn’t as much of a muscle-quaking pose as some of the other yoga poses for weight loss on this list, it is said to be one of the best yoga poses for weight loss because it is supposed to improve digestion and “tone the waist.”
#4: Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskara)
A flow of Sun Salutations gets your heart pumping, blood flowing, and muscles working to warm up your body, burn calories, and strengthen your entire body.
#5: Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
In terms of yoga poses for weight loss, Bow Pose strikes the balance of having the challenging, muscle-toning engagement needed to burn calories and the yogic belief that the pose massages the abdominal organs in a way that stimulates digestion and aids weight loss.
Bow pose strengthens your glutes, upper back, hamstrings, shoulders, and chest while increasing flexibility and circulation.
#6: Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Chair pose is essentially the same as holding a squat, with the added difficulty of keeping your arms overhead. As such, it’s a fantastic way to engage your quads, abs, shoulders, chest, and back, making it an effective yoga pose to burn calories and lose weight.
#7: Boat Pose
Boat Pose is a great core-strengthening yoga pose, similar to a V-sit in standard workouts. It’s a good yoga pose for weight loss because it tones the abs while engaging several large muscles to boost your calorie burn.
Be sure to keep your core tight and back straight to prevent muscle strain or injury.
#8: Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Remember, the key to yoga poses for weight loss is that you want to engage as many muscles as possible. Downward Facing Dog pose utilizes your shoulders, glutes, calves, core, hamstrings, and back. Squeeze your quads to increase the intensity of the asana.
Ready to try some yoga for weight loss?
Check out free guided Yoga for Weight Loss videos!
Here are our favourites:
Here’s a great flow for weight loss yoga for beginners: