Many yogis are initially drawn to their yoga mats for health reasons, with a primary focus on breaking a sweat, burning some calories, getting some energy and learning some kick ass yoga poses. As time progresses, most yogis start to realize or, even better, feel that they are gaining far deeper reaching benefits such as a combination of a calmer mind, calmer body, and calmer lifestyle gains. They come to their mats for mental and physical benefits that transcend far beyond the workout value.
They start to become curious about meditation, about the gentler styles of yoga, start to delve into new areas such as Yin Yoga and Yoga Nidra, for example, and their focus shifts away from simply the fabulous physical benefits towards the outstandingly amazing mental benefits that a well-rounded yoga practice invites.
If you ask any fabulously committed yogi why they love yoga so much, weight-loss and calorie burn would more than likely be pretty far down their list of wonderful reasons why they practice. However, while you don’t want to take away from the mind-body connection that people join the yoga world to experience, we are all naturally from time-to-time a little curious as to how many calories our favorite yoga class helps us to burn.
Yoga is not often considered to be in the same category as calorie torching, sweat-inducing activities like running, swimming or kickboxing. While some yoga practices offer physically challenging, cardiovascular workouts, more often the focus of classes is on flexibility, presence of mind, breathing, balance and strength. Yoga’s unique blend of mental and physical work may not be a calorie-burning powerhouse, but it can still offer some level of value in weight management. I will come onto this in more detail a little later…
So which type of yoga burns the most calories? The answer might just surprise you!
|Type of Yoga||Calories burned (1hr/150lb yogi)|
Stats via HealthStatus.com
The highlights of each style of yoga
This is the most popular and generic style of yoga class that you may find at your gym or local studio. Hatha yoga combines physical exercise and mental discipline, with the goal of integrating and invigorating both body and mind. It consists primarily of poses, to increase strength and flexibility, and controlled breathing (pranayama).
Ashtanga yoga is a particularly intense and physically athletic form of yoga, with challenging, rapid movements. It is both cardiovascular and meditative, and relies on the strength of your own muscles to perform the movements. The postures performed in Ashtanga are always the same and are done in a specific order. Ashtanga yoga is meant to purify the body by cultivating an “internal heat,” which burns off toxins. It also builds incredible strength, flexibility and is well known for reducing stress and keeping the mind focused.
Vinyasa helps your muscles stay warm and flexible, but some people find the sequence tiring and would rather just do individual poses, one after another, without the transition. Bikram yoga allows this opportunity with a set structure consisting of 26 poses and two breathing techniques. Heated environments increase your pulse rate and metabolism. Although you get hot, the act of sweating helps to control the internal body temperature, and also assists in ridding the body of toxins and enhances flexibility in the muscles.
Vinyasa is a flowing style of yoga that also links the breath with movement. It serves as a strength-training process and the different poses especially the standing, arm balances, backbends and inversions utilize body resistance. Many yogis love Vinyasa because of its diversity. There is no single sequence that teachers follow, so every class will be different, but intense to a varying degree. The body does not have time to learn, adapt or come to expect what comes next.
Other factors to consider
As we can see above, we shouldn’t rely simply on the sweat factor as a gauge on how intense an exercise is. While a higher heart rate does correlate with a higher calorie burn, other factors can play a role in increased heart rate without the corresponding caloric expenditure.
As in any physical activity, the ultimate number of calories burned in a class depends on your size, gender, intensity, efficiency, heart rat, perceived effort and body composition. These factors are much more accurate indicators or how hard you are working and how much energy you are expending.
Looking for ways to increase the intensity of your yoga class?
We will burn more calories when we engage the larger muscles of the body, so simple changes to your practice such as deepening our warrior poses, yoga squats and chair poses will increase the demand on our large muscles, therefore burning more calories.
Healthy body, healthy mind
Regardless of how many calories you burn in yoga, a regular practice offers an element of other weight management benefits. Yoga teaches us to listen to our bodies, take care better care of ourselves and naturally avoid unhealthy behaviors or eating patterns.
Yoga practice also helps reduce stress and the resulting overproduction of certain hormones that can contribute to weight gain. Improved breathing, digestion regulation, and increased focus resulting from regular yoga practice may also discourage weight gain.
Yoga can also help to make you stronger, more flexible and injury-free, allowing you to persevere longer and harder when running or cycling and thus burn more calories in your other sporting activities.
Here are a sprinkling of the wonderful effects of yoga for all who come to their mat:
Yoga works the entire body
Yoga will help you gain strength in muscles that you never even knew you had! Training sessions in the gym or other sports tend to work isolated muscle groups. Yoga requires you to use the complete strength of your body in each and every pose, which in turn helps you to develop and tone all of the muscles in the body as you engage them throughout your sequence.
It builds power and heat while moving through a series of poses. Yogis discover strength in warrior and planks; challenge themselves with inversions, funky arm balances and other mind and body twisting poses. All of this is done in a calm and mindful way, creating stability and strength within the body and mind.
Doing yoga gives you energy and focus
Yoga restores and increases your energy levels. Yoga boosts your system to release energy, and all of those happy endorphins. So after your practice, you will notice that you have increased energy and a sharper mental focus.
Yoga helps to removes stress from your world!
Yoga provides you with a sense of clarity and balance within the mind. By paying attention to your breath, you stay present paying attention only to the details of that very moment. After you practice you will feel more grounded and calmer.
Try to take your focus beyond just the calorific burn and be aware of some of the factors to consider when exercising, which include how the class makes you feel, how passionate you are for the activity, and which one better suits your body you’re your mind. Recognizing that these factors can change hour-by-hour, day by day or week by week, and being ok with that.
Yoga makes you stronger mentally and physically. It provides you with a constant challenge to be a better version of yourself each day. It helps you to find comfort and a sense of ease in some of the most uncomfortable positions. These lessons go far beyond the yoga mat and extend readily into your day-to-day life.