Yoga has so many different benefits.
It stretches, relaxes, and strengthens the body, centers and calms the mind, and improves mindfulness, focus, and balance.
Yoga is a unique activity that fuses the physical with the mental, creating a great practice for overall wellness that for some becomes a lifestyle.
Sounds great right?
But what if you’re looking to lean up?
Seriously, how many calories does yoga burn? Because you don’t really hear of people turning to yoga to trim the fat...
So... Does Yoga Burn Calories?
Some passionate “yogis” will swear that yoga burns as many calories as any other sport or athletic activity, while others are skeptical that it actually burns any calories at all.
I think it’s time we get to the bottom of the issue and figure out just how effective yoga is as a calorie-burning exercise.
To do this, we first need to realize that the number of calories burned in a yoga session depends on several factors, including but not limited to:
○ length and intensity of the session
○ the type of yoga (yes there are multiple types!)
Concerning length and intensity, most yoga classes tend to last about an hour long.
(I know there are some yoga styles that vary from this, but a one-hour session is usually a safe bet for calculating calorie expenditure!)
As far as gender, men usually burn more calories than women.
This will still vary widely from person to person though, as a large determinant of how many calories are burned has to do with your weight.
But I'm getting ahead of myself...
Types of Yoga
There are several different styles of yoga, and all are different in their intensity and pace.
Let's take a look at some of the most common types of yoga and how many calories they burn on average:
• Hatha is a very basic style of yoga, consisting of basic and simple poses taught at a slower pace. This is often the type of yoga used in an introductory or beginner’s class.
• Hatha yoga typically burns from about 175 to 298 calories per 1-hour session.
• Often referred to as hot yoga, Bikram yoga is practiced in a room that is heated to approximately 105 degrees Fahrenheit at 40% humidity. A session is comprised of 26 set poses and 2 breathing exercises and typically lasts 90 minutes.
• Calories burned in hot yoga can be from 330 to 477 per 1-hour session.
• Ashtanga yoga, or Power yoga, consists of a specific set of poses in a set order and involves the coordination of breath and movement.
• Ashtanga yoga typically burns between 400 to 550 calories per 1-hour session.
• Vinyasa yoga, also called Flow yoga, is a more strenuous type of yoga. Like Ashtanga, it focuses on the coordination of movement and breath as you move through a continuous flow of poses.
• Vinyasa yoga typically burns between 550-594 calories per 1-hour session.
• Less well known than some of the other styles, Iyengar yoga focuses on placement and alignment. It does not incorporate much movement, as the poses are held for a long time to improve flexibility.
• Iyengar yoga typically burns about 175 calories per 1-hour session.
It’s clear to see that the number of calories burned per session varies quite a bit by the type of yoga being practiced.
The more intensive and advanced the practice, the more calories burned.
There are a few counter-intuitive things to keep in mind, though.
For example, hot yoga doesn’t burn many more calories than the others just because of the heat.
While it does burn more than Hatha yoga, for example, the raised temperature and humidity only increases the heart rate by a little.
A large benefit of the heated room is that it causes you to sweat, which releases toxins from your body as you exercise.
If you want to calculate how many calories you are burning in your yoga sessions, use this convenient yoga calorie calculator to do the math.
Calories Burned in Other Activities
How does the number of calories burned doing yoga compare to the calories burned doing other types of physical activities?
Let’s look at how it measures up to a few of these:
○ Golf (walking the course and carrying clubs) for one hour: 330 calories
○ Walking briskly for 1 hour: 438 calories
○ Aerobics for one hour: 480 calories
○ Swimming slow freestyle laps for one hour: 510 calories
○ Running at 5 miles per hour for one hour: 590 calories
So, essentially, a session of Vinyasa yoga burns between about as many calories as swimming laps or running for an hour.
On the other hand, Hatha yoga burns fewer calories than you would by walking at a brisk pace for an hour.
So, once again, calorie expenditure greatly depends on the type of yoga.
Yoga Poses that Burn More Calories
Want to incorporate more poses into your yoga routine that can bump up how many calories you burn? Here are some suggestions you can add in to get the most out of your yoga workout.
• Plank: The plank pose requires you to work several main muscle groups, including the abs, shoulders, and the glutes, plus it forces the body to work against gravity. The longer you can hold it, the more calories you will torch!
• Chair: Chair is a simple pose that can really burn if you hold it and sink down into it. It requires the activation of the largest muscles in the body – the glutes – which is what drives the calories away.
• Chaturanga dandasana: A major part of Vinyasa and some other forms of yoga, the chaturanga requires you to engage most of your major muscle groups when done correctly, including the core, legs, and arms.
• Wheel: For a little bit more of a challenge, wheel is something you can work towards. It engages the legs, buttocks, shoulders, and arms, and gives your upper body a nice stretch at the same time.
• High lunge: The high lunge really works the whole body, as a pose for strengthening as well as balance.
• Sun salutations: Sun salutations are a staple of Vinyasa flow, and are essentially a series of twelve poses all strung together. They activate the cardiovascular system while simultaneously engaging the abs, the glutes, the calves, shoulders, biceps, and triceps.
• Dolphin: Dolphin is a great way to strengthen your arms, core, and legs while also stretching your body.
If you attend instructor-led yoga classes, speak with your teacher; you may be able to request that he or she add in some of these poses depending on the structure and level of the class.
If you do your own personal yoga sessions at home, try some of them out yourself!
(Be sure to look up the proper posture for each pose to avoid injuring or straining yourself).
What About Weight Loss?
A question that perhaps naturally coincides with “how many calories does yoga burn” is:
Does yoga help you lose weight?
If weight loss is your main goal, then yoga probably isn’t your best option as far as your primary method of exercise.
While it does burn calories and provides physical activity, there are other activities you could do that would burn more calories in less time, promoting more – and faster – weight loss.
That being said, there are definite benefits that yoga can provide when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight.
Weight loss essentially comes down to burning more calories than you take in, so technically as long as your intake calorie count is less than your expenditure, you would theoretically lose weight.
However, in order to attain and maintain a healthy weight, you’ll need to not only focus on exercise but also on a healthy diet. A balanced diet is a critical part of any health or weight loss plan and will make any exercise more effective.
People who regularly practice yoga and develop mindfulness skills tend to find it easier to avoid excess calorie intake. They are more likely to practice mindful eating practices and less likely to stress eat.
The supportive environment often found in the context of a yoga class provides motivation and accountability for fostering healthy habits.
In addition to burning calories through the exercise portion of yoga, people who do yoga also tend to sleep better, which has been shown to help with weight loss.
So, while yoga may not be your best bet in terms of exercise for the purpose of losing weight, it can definitely play an important positive role in your health and weight loss journey.
Yoga is an enjoyable physical activity that can be a great addition to a daily routine or exercise regimen.
While it does not stand out as a super-effective way to lose weight or burn a significant number of calories all on its own, it provides a number of other physical and mental benefits that make it a positive practice that can improve your general health and wellbeing.
Regular practice can decrease stress and anxiety as well as improve mood and cognitive functions.
There are many options as far as different types of yoga; in fact, there is something to suit almost everyone.
Whether you are looking for intensive, fast-paced movement or slow, gentle stretching, there is a yoga class that can accommodate your needs and interests.
But if you’re primarily looking to burn calories – try adding swimming to your yoga!