Yoga is more than just building flexibility and breathing exercises. It is an excellent way to help with weight loss goals. From choosing the right styles of yoga to the latest medical research on the efficacy of yoga on weight loss, here is what you need to know about using yoga to get fit.
Yoga for Weight Loss: Why should I choose yoga to lose weight?
Unlike traditional exercise, yoga and its many variations and styles mean that it can be as dynamic and challenging as you need. For many beginners, yoga is practised in a class, thus it can be a great way to meet new like-minded friends. Moreover, most yoga classes start with great relaxing warm-up exercises, followed by more challenging sequences and postures that can help tone your body while releasing muscular tension. It is fantastic for working your internal organs as well due to all the poses which have twists and it also lengthens your spine due to the bends.
More importantly so, yoga is usually taught with resting poses and meditation, which will help you develop body awareness and calm your mind. Through these practices, yoga can help reduce anxiety and cravings, which can help reduce the intake of 'stress calories' - food we eat to soothe us, but is not necessarily good for us. The feeling after a yoga session – whether it’s a vigorous one or a relaxing one – is fantastic and we get the urge to do yoga every day. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes to calm the mind before work or to stretch those muscles and relieve tension after work.
How can I lose weight with yoga?
Let’s focus on the goal of weight loss. To lose weight, the basic maths equation is to burn more calories than you consume. Exercises that require endurance are generally better for burning calories, but anything that gets you out of breath to the point that you can’t talk will work, and even though it may look quite tame, a good hour of yoga will get you all sweaty and out of breath, we assure you.
The NHS advises that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week. Of course, with gentle yoga you won’t burn as many calories as if you were running a race for the same length of time, but yoga is a good exercise for keeping things trim, especially so if you’ve just had a baby or an injury and you’re not able to get into intensely physical training. And yoga can also be done by anyone of any age – so it’s an all-round good choice.
If you don't want to spend the whole of your exercise time doing yoga, in addition to yoga, you could attend a gym class a couple of times a week, join a running club, take your dog for lots of walks or anything else that you can fit into your weekly routine to really get your heart rate going.
Yoga styles that help with weight loss
There are a lot of different styles of yoga which are more dynamic and great for working up a sweat such as Bikram Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Power Yoga, Rocket Yoga and Jivamukti Yoga. The faster flowing styles of yoga as aforementioned are perfect for weight loss. At Jivamukti Yoga London, they offer Vinyasa yoga, which contains flowing Asana (yoga poses) sequences. Classes are 60-90 minutes long and you’re guaranteed to work up a sweat during that time. Various sources have tried to calculate how many calories you can burn in a yoga session. Of course it depends on the style of yoga you are doing and your physical condition, but Livestrong suggests that you can stretch, bend and sweat away 298 calories in one hour.
How effective is Yoga with Weight Loss?
Here are three wonderful medical studies that confirm the efficacy of yoga in aiding weight loss.
The first study was conducted on the effect of six weeks yoga training on weight loss by the Department of Physiology, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, split 46 men and women into two groups - one group did yoga and the other group didn't, for six weeks. They found that yoga training produced a significant increase in respiratory pressures and endurance in both male and female participants, and concluded that training for as short as six weeks can already produce significant improvements in respiratory muscle strength and endurance.
Another study relating to the effects of a yoga and diet plan for obesity in Medical Science Review also demonstrated how fantastic yoga can be as a weight loss exercise. They studied 47 people who are clinically obese, and assigned yoga practice that emphasised on breathing techniques while seated as obese people may often find physical activity difficult. During the course of only 6 days, they found that people who participated in the programme reported decreased BMI (by an average 1.6%!), waist and hip circumferences and an 8.7% decrease in cholesterol level.
If that didn't convince you, a review of yoga programs for four leading risk factors of chronic diseases in Hindawi (Evidenced Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine) found that yoga is generally effective in reducing body weight, blood pressure, glucose level and high cholesterol.
So how do you actually fit yoga into your daily routine? To make up the NHS’s recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week, try to start by fitting in just one yoga class a week. Couple this with more walking instead of using the car and some other exercises that you find fun and you will fit in those minutes in no time.
Yoga for Weight Loss: The 12 best yoga poses for weight loss
There are certain poses within yoga that are best for weight loss too. Those where you stretch to capacity will get your heart racing. Those where you have to hold a pose for a number of seconds or minutes will tone up your muscles. There are quite a few yoga poses which can help work up a sweat and we've selected 12 of the ones which are sure you get you reaching for your towel.
1. Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)
2. High Plank
3. Side Plank
4. Navasana (Boat Pose)
5. Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
6. Virabadrasana 1 (Warrior 1 Pose)
7. Virabadrasana 2 (Warrior 2 Pose)
8. Virabadrasana 3 (Warrior 3 Pose)
9. Crescent Lunge
10. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge or Half Bridge Pose)
11. Shalabasana (Locust Pose)
12. Utthita Hasta Padangushtasana
Yoga for Weight Loss: What are the best yoga for weight loss workouts?
Try these fab tried and tested yoga for weight loss videos to start your weight loss yoga journey at home whenever you feel like it.
This is a 40-minute fat burning yoga workout by Yoga with Adriene.
Adriene also has an hour long total yoga body workout for weight loss for those who feel pretty hardcore.
To see Adriene's other yoga for weight loss videos, check out her Youtube playlist which included yoga for abs and arms and to strengthen and lengthen, all with weight loss in mind.
For extra focus on the mid-section, try this 20-minute beginner yoga class for weight loss by Courtney Bell.
Another good 20-minute yoga for weight loss workout video for busy bodies is this fat burning yoga meltdown for beginners and intermediates by Erica Vetra.
Are you trying to lose weight by doing yoga? How have you found that it has helped you? We would love to hear from you.