Yoga may not be the most intense, calorie-torching workout, but the practice can help you shed pounds if weight loss is your goal.
Yoga can increase heart rate, burn calories, improve sleep, and reduce stress—all of which helps with weight loss. However, the number on the scale shouldn’t be the only reason you begin a workout routine. Plus, it’s worth noting that your diet plays an important role in weight management.
In fact, exercise may lead some people to consume more food, which can hinder weight loss. According to a study published last year, people who began exercising consumed roughly 90 more calories each day. It may seem like an insignificant amount of food, but researchers found this was enough to stall weight loss, according to the paper published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
That said, yoga is a great full body workout that can help you burn calories and be more mindful of your diet, says instructor Olivia Young, founder of Box + Flow in New York. She tells Men’s Health what you should know before trying yoga to lose weight.
What type of yoga is best for weight loss?
If you’re not familiar with the practice, there are various types of yoga—and some are relaxing while others are pretty intense. Young recommends Vinyasa because it’s more athletic.
“It’s strenuous. It’s cardio-based. It’s literally moving constantly,” she says.
You may have also heard this referred to as “flow” because the movements run together, according to VeryWellFit. Within Vinyasa, there are various other subsets, like power yoga.
In comparison, Hatha focuses on one pose at a time and includes breaks between movements.
You should become acquainted with movements like the downward dog, high plank, and low push up, commonly found in a flow sequence, says Young.
Yoga improves other factors that help with weight loss
Research shows that yoga can help your body respond to stress more effectively, by reducing heart rate and blood pressure in stressful situations. What’s more, one 2013 study found that people who practiced yoga reported having fewer sleeping disturbances compared to those who didn’t. And both sleep and stress can affect your weight. That’s because poor sleep increases ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite. And worrying all the time increases cortisol, the stress hormone, which may lead to sugar cravings, according to WebMD.
How much weight can you lose doing yoga?
Weight loss varies by person and is dependent on a variety of factors including beginning weight, overall activity level, and diet. However, practicing yoga for at least four years was associated to gaining about three pounds less in people with normal Body Mass Indexes, according to a study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.
For optimal results, Young recommends practicing yoga four times a week and pairing it with extra cardio, like shadow boxing or running.
It’s natural to want fast results, but the most successful dieters lose weight slowly. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommends losing no more than one to two pounds per week.