When it comes to intense calorie burning, there are very few forms of yoga that might qualify at the same level, such as a spin class or boot camp class.
In a physically demanding yoga class that moves quickly and may involve hand weights, you may burn up to 400 calories in an hour. However, a more typical class clocks in at between 175-250 calories an hour. By comparison, it is estimated that Zumba can burn up to 650 calories an hour.
Of course, calorie burn depends heavily on personal factors such as age, muscle mass, weight, basal metabolic rate, general daily activity level, and even gender – men tend to burn more calories than women.
This means you might burn 300 calories in a yoga class, while your friend burns only half as many. But even with these caveats, yoga is still effective as part of a weight loss effort because it has many benefits that can indirectly promote weight loss, even if you don’t fire up the calorie stove in class. Here’s why yoga should be in your weight-loss routine.
Many yoga classes include at least some form of strength building, moving through body weight.
For example, you might do a sequence called “chaturanga,” which is essentially a half push-up that strengthens your triceps, shoulder muscles, and pectoral muscles. Other poses might work your core, quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
This turns these yoga sequences into resistance training when you’re fighting gravity. And this builds muscle mass – which, in turn, creates long-term calorie burn.
When it comes to abdominal fat builders, stress is super effective at packing on the pounds. That’s because chronic stress elevates your cortisol levels, and your body responds by depleting feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin, according to “Hormone Therapy” author Dr. Sarah Gottfried.
This combination not only causes you to start storing more belly fat – the body tucks it away to have a ready source of energy in a fight-or-flight situation – but also negatively affects your sleep and makes it all worse by increasing your cravings for sugar.
Eliza Kingsford, a psychotherapist and author of “Brain Weight Loss,” says that no amount of exercise or calorie restriction will make a difference in a person’s weight once cortisol production reaches chronic levels.” Imagine eating well, exercising, and doing everything you can to stay healthy, only to find yourself gaining weight. This, in turn, leads to feelings of pain and the cycle continues. That’s how stress works.”
Yoga is a powerful anti-stress agent, and one study found that it acts on the entire body to create a more relaxed state. When this happens, the other healthy weight loss habits you’ve adopted will simply work better.
Streaming online yoga classes is great for busy schedules, but it’s also helpful to consider joining an in-person class. This can give you the opportunity to interact with others, even if you don’t have an in-depth discussion with anyone.
One study found that yoga, particularly the non-competitive social support provided by the yoga community, is a useful tool for weight loss. Many of the participants in the study felt that being in a yoga studio was different and more positive than the culture they encountered in gyms and health clubs.
Those in the study also commented that it felt like other students and yoga teachers served as role models for healthy eating, but also for a healthier worldview, which was helpful in reducing stress and adopting better behaviors.
According to Kingsford, when you incorporate a practice like yoga into your daily routine and experience lower stress levels and better sleep, it’s likely that you’ll start to pay more attention to your diet as well.
This is supported by a recent study that showed that people who feel overly tired and burned out have a higher risk of emotional eating and overeating. Researchers also found that the higher the level of fatigue and overwhelm, the more likely people were to choose fast and convenient foods, leading to higher caloric intake.
Yoga’s focus on mindfulness and the present moment isn’t just useful when you’re transitioning into the next pose; it also fosters a mindset that’s useful when you’re standing in the grocery aisle or looking at a restaurant’s menu.
“In general, developing more self-awareness can help you begin to see why you make the choices you do about food and activities,” says Kingsford.” You can start to see patterns that aren’t working for you and work to change them.”
Everyone who is trying to lose weight knows that losing weight requires more than just taking in calories and getting rid of them.
While this is an effective starting point for many, skimping on self-care can make weight loss efforts more difficult or, worse, completely ineffective. In addition, putting others first can lead to letting healthy eating and exercise get pushed to the top of the to-do list, adding to the weight loss sabotage.
Adding yoga to your daily routine may not be a calorie burner, but it can produce powerful results anyway, creating consistent, sustainable weight loss by helping you establish good habits that stick.