Important Questions about Yoga, Weight loss and Wellness: Does Yoga Help You Lose Weight and Is Yoga Good for Weight loss?

Let’s address these and many other questions pertaining to yoga and weight loss. Is yoga good for weight loss? Can you lose weight with yoga? What types of yoga are good for weight loss? Is Power Yoga good for weight loss? How does yoga help you lose weight?

Considering the mass interest in weight loss and of course yoga’s popularity and physicality, the answers to these questions are important. So, let’s address them.

The answer to these questions is “YES” yoga is an amazing weight loss program. That said, it is very important to understand why. Yoga was not developed as a weight loss program. Yoga was developed as a wellness practice. To make a long story short weight loss is a by-product of wellness, as wellness would dictate a healthy body weight, a body weight in balance and harmony with your unique constitution. Yet yoga will not facilitate weight loss if one is not out of balance. Yoga was developed for wellness it was not developed to force your body to conform to a stereotypical ideal created by your culture. Remember we are all unique. Some people are bigger boned and some thinner boned, some people more fleshy and others not, some taller and some shorter. Many of the ultra thin people on the covers of those magazines are NOT healthy. Health is a personal state of balance same as body weight. Yet this is the message of beauty. So why do you want to lose weight? Is your reason truly about health? Or are you consciously or unconsciously fulling a cultural program? It is true being overweight especially being obese can be the precursor to numerous health issues and arguably the largest contributor to disease after stress (stress is a contributor to obesity). So make sure you are being dominated by your wisdom and not your vanity or fears when you pursue weight loss and exercise. Remember fat is not bad! What’s harmful is too much fat! As too much of anything (other than love) can be harmful. As mentioned, we are all unique yet here are some general body fat guidelines which do take into consideration to some degree our uniqueness. These guidelines below come from the Mayo clinic.

Women:

  • 20-40 yrs old: Underfat: under 21 percent, Healthy: 21-33 percent, Overweight: 33-39 percent, Obese: Over 39 percent
  • 41-60 yrs old: Underfat: under 23 percent, Healthy: 23-35 percent, Overweight : 35-40 percent Obese: over 40 percent
  • 61-79 yrs old: Underfat: under 24 percent, Healthy: 24-36 percent, Overweight: 36-42 percent, Obese: over 42 percent

Men:

  • 20-40 yrs old: Underfat: under 8 percent, Healthy: 8-19 percent, Overweight: 19-25 percent, Obese: over 25 percent
  • 41-60 yrs old: Underfat: under 11 percent, Healthy: 11-22 percent, Overweight: 22-27 percent, Obese: over 27 percent
  • 61-79 yrs old: Underfat: under 13 percent, Healthy: 13-25 percent, Overweight: 25-30 percent, Obese: over 30 percent

Originally all yoga practices were created for wellness. So, they all have the potential to facilitate weight loss. Wellness includes physical health, which to an extraordinary degree is a by-product of mental health. So, wellness means a healthy body and mind. This is especially so when you consider the effects of mental stress and its relationship to weight gain and disharmony in general. The one omniscient effect of yoga is stress reduction, calmness and relaxation. This one effect may be the foundation of all physical health as our scientific community is telling us 90% of physical disease originates in our mind. Eating is a popular and prolific manner in which people deal with stress. When using yoga instead of food to deal with stress you are helping yourself lose weight in many ways. First you are taking in less energy, this means your body will have less energy (calories) to store. Secondly you are using energy (burning calories) due to the physical nature of your yoga practice. So you are taking in less and burning more. Right there you can see how losing weight could occur. There is still another way this yoga practice helps with losing weight. That way is, as you practice yoga you truly start feeling really good. As this occurs your desire to care for yourself increases as you want to continue feeling good and your participation in harmful actions decreases. Still another weight loss benefit from yoga is the goal of yoga, which is awareness. If your yoga instructor has the understanding and ability to guide you towards developing awareness, then you will start to notice the cravings and unnecessary snacking. This awareness gives you the choice to not indulge as snacking is usually always unnecessary calories. Again, giving you a chance to prevent unnecessary energy storage (weight gain).

How many calories does yoga burn?

Within the yoga paradigm there are many types or styles of yoga practices and some more vigorous than others. The more vigorous styles of yoga can and will burn more calories and facilitate losing weight more rapidly than the more passive styles. Yet these vigorous styles may leave you feeling more hungry, so it could be a catch 22 and you need to be careful not to follow your yoga practice with a binge. Beyond losing weight these vigorous styles may redistribute body weight, which may give the effect (aesthetically) of losing weight in the sense one is burning fat and building muscle. For example, the waistline may decrease but the upper arms, chest, buttocks and thighs may develop. There is even a small chance of weight gain as muscle weighs three times more than fat. Obviously, vigorous activity requires energy or calorie output so the more vigorous the yoga style the greater the weight loss or redistribution of body weight there will be, especially if you can complement your yoga practice with a healthy and moderate diet. You can usually see this in the bodies of people who practice different styles of yoga. As the Yin, Gentle and Restorative styles tend to produce a lean, healthy, tone yet a less defined physique and Power Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Vinyasa or Flow Yoga styles tend to produce a lean, healthy, tone, sinewy and more defined physique. Hot yoga is somewhere in between as it is not as passive as Yin Yoga or Restorative Yoga yet not as vigorous as Power Yoga or Vinyasa Yoga.

How many calories does hot yoga burn?  

Hot Yoga may burn slightly more calories than the same sequence in an unheated room as it may take more energy for the body as it tries to keep itself cool as is evident by the prolific sweating in a hot yoga class. Although most of the weight loss you may notice after a hot yoga class is the water weight you sweated out and that weight will immediately return as soon as you rehydrate. All these different styles of yoga were designed for specific benefits, yet they also all have general benefits and one of them is the benefit that occurs due to physical activity.

How many calories does a Power Yoga, or a similar type of yoga, burn in one session?

I’ve heard anywhere between 400 and 800 calories. Calorie burning is not an exact science and calories themselves are just units of energy. Yet one thing is for sure weight gain has a lot to do with energy storage and those stores of energy are being depleted through physical exertion.

So again, the answer is yes! Yoga is a wonderful modality towards losing weight and yoga will help you lose weight especially when combined with a moderate (don’t overeat) and healthy diet (no junk food), good sleep and lots of clean water. Yoga will help with losing weight because of its innate physicality as well as its tendency to help reduce stress and the effects of stress. Yoga helps with losing weight because it just makes you feel really good and that’s something you want to perpetuate by taking care of yourself which includes not overeating or eating crappy stuff. In general, exercise is a great tool in losing weight and yoga, especially Power Yoga, might just be the most complete and well-rounded exercise on this planet.

Please understand that you may not need help with losing weight. Much of the desire to lose weight has to do not with health but with beauty, or an ideal of beauty we have been indoctrinated with. That ideal may actually be opposed to health. As it is not healthy to force your body to look in a manner it was never supposed to look. This is why yoga is such an ideal weight loss tool. Because yoga is about wellness which losing weight may be part of, it’s not about forcing our bodies to conform to some image. So, the outcome is Homeostasis which is being in balance!

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