Although an ancient practice, yoga has many modern applications. In the last century, the physical practice of yoga evolved into a popular form of exercise that benefits the body, mind, and spirit (1).
When practiced regularly, yoga may be an effective tool to help you lose weight, especially its more active styles. However, even the gentler forms of yoga help to reduce stress and increase mindfulness – both important factors in weight loss.
No matter the style, it is well known that yoga offers many health benefits. Below we will explore how yoga can help you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
Can You Lose Weight With Yoga?
Experts agree there are many factors that influence weight loss. Regular exercise, calorie burn, mindful eating, good sleep, metabolism, and managing stress levels all contribute to weight loss (2, 3).
Yoga in its various forms targets all of these essential components.
There are many active styles that increase heart rate, help you work up a sweat, and burn calories. It can even produce results similar to mild cardio fitness.
While not considered a high-intensity exercise, yoga can benefit your cardiovascular health by sustaining continuous movement for the duration of a typical 60-90 minute yoga class.
Even in its slower-moving forms, yoga helps build up muscle tone over time. Keeping a regular practice will produce bodily changes of increased strength, flexibility, and a more balanced metabolism over time (4).
It is widely known that poor sleeping habits and high levels anxiety often result in impulsive overeating, which can make it difficult to lose weight and keep it off (5).
People who practice yoga regularly report sleeping better, feeling less stressed overall, and greater motivation to incorporate healthier foods into their diet (6).
Finally, the personally reflective aspects of yoga increase mindfulness and body awareness. Committing to regular yoga practice will help contribute to a healthier lifestyle off your mat as well. Incorporating some mindfulness and meditation into your life may help you build a more positive relationship to food.
By becoming more aware of the calories you take in, you will be less likely to experience weight gain over time (7).
Which Type of Yoga Is Best for Weight Loss?
Yoga is quite diverse, ranging in style from slow, meditative, and low physical impact to higher-intensity and more athletic forms.
If you are interested in practicing yoga to lose weight, there are many options of yoga classes to choose from (8).
This style of yoga provides a full-body workout by moving continuously through a sequence of postures, such as sun salutations. Vinyasa can range in pacing and difficulty, with Power Yoga being the most intense. Expect to get your heart rate up and burn calories in a Vinyasa class.
Hatha yoga consists of slower movement, but increased time holding each posture. Meditation, breathwork, and relaxation are also a focus of this style. Try a Hatha class if you are a beginner, have limited mobility, wish to build up your strength and stamina.
Restorative and Yin Yoga
These more stationary styles may not be the first that come to mind when you think of yoga for losing weight. However, restorative and yin yoga can aid in weight loss by significantly reducing anxiety. Practicing restorative yoga may decrease the stress hormone cortisol, which can increase belly fat.
Adding a Yin or Restorative class into your yoga routine will help you relax while balancing your metabolism over time (9).
Hot yoga is a popular choice of yoga class to lose weight. But does it burn more calories than other forms of exercise, as some practitioners claim?
The intensity of a Bikram yoga sequence in a heated room will surely have you dripping with sweat. However, that does not necessarily mean you’re burning more calories. In fact, studies show that increasing room temperature does not actually enhance calorie burn (10).
So if Bikram isn’t your thing, rest assured that any form of active, flow-based class should yield similar fitness results.
10 Best Yoga Poses to Lose Weight
1. Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)
Start in a seated position with knees bent and feet on the floor. From there, extend the arms out straight at shoulder height. Then, lift one foot so the legs are bent at 90 degrees.
Once you find balance, lift the other foot. If possible, extend the legs straight so the feet point up and your body makes a “V” shape. You can play with extending the arms straight up.
Focus on connecting down through the tailbone and engaging the core while extending through the crown of your head.
2. Plank Pose (Phalakasana)
Come into a pushup position. Ground down firmly through your hands, and keep space between your shoulder blades. Draw the belly in and up to engage the core.
Reach the crown of your head forward to maintain length in the spine. Keep your legs active by lifting up on the kneecaps and pushing back through your heels.
3. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Begin standing with your big toes touching. Reach your arms overhead and bend your legs as though you are trying to sit down into a chair behind you.
Keep your pelvis in a neutral tilt with your sits bones pointing directly toward the ground. Feel your thighs fire up as you sink your hips lower.
4. Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
From a high runner’s lunge position, spin your back heel down so your foot is angled 45 degrees. Bend into your front leg, keeping your knee pointing in the same direction as your toes.
Extend your arms parallel to the long edges of your mat. Activate your shoulders, biceps, and triceps by actively pressing your arms down against energetic resistance.
5. Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)
From standing, reach your arms overhead and begin to float one leg back, hingeing at hips. Keep your lifted leg internally rotated, with your toes pointed directly at the ground.
Feel the stabilizing muscles of the supporting leg enage, and avoid locking out the standing knee. Pull the belly in and up to engage the deepest part of your core.
6. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha)
Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and soles of the feet planted firmly. Ground down through your feet, arms, and upper back.
As you exhale, draw the belly in toward your spine and lift your hips, firing up your glutes and hamstrings.
7. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
From a pushup position begin to drop your hips as you untuck your toes so the tops of your feet push into the floor. Ground firmly into your hands and press your shoulders away from your ears.
Draw your chest forward, keeping space between your collarbones. Reach the crown of the head up and forwards to create length in the spine. Pull your belly in an up to engage your entire core and avoid compressing your lower back.
Activate your leg muscles by squeezing the inner thighs together and pulling up on the kneecaps and keep the thighs lifted.
8. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
Begin lying face down on your mat, arms at your sides. As you exhale, lift your head, upper body, arms, and legs away from the floor.
Engage your glute muscles and try to bring your big toes to touch. Remember to keep lengthening your spine by drawing the crown of your head forwards and up.
To challenge yourself, interlace your fingers and draw your shoulder blades together as you lift everything an inch higher.
9. Reclined Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
Start by lying on your back and draw one knee towards your chest. Stay for a few breaths to relax the front of your hip. Then, with an exhale, draw your knee across your body.
Allow yourself enough time in this posture to release tension in your glutes and shoulders. After a few breaths, slowly bring yourself back to center, and release your leg to the mat.
10. Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
Inverted positions are great for stimulating metabolism. For this beginner-friendly pose, begin seated next to a wall, with one side of your body touching the wall. Slowly roll down onto your back as your legs come up; your body should make an “L” shape with your legs extended up along the wall.
Relax into this posture for several minutes. Release any tension in your face, jaw, and throat. Be mindful of any discomfort in your shoulders and neck, and cushion yourself with a blanket as needed.
The Final Word
If you are interested in practicing yoga to lose weight, try to include a couple different styles in your weekly workouts. By alternating between a yin yoga and power yoga class, for example, you will experience all the physical and mental benefits essential for weight loss .
Whether you are just beginning a weight loss journey or trying to maintain your loss, yoga can be a highly effective tool for achieving the results you desire.
- Basavaraddi, Dr. Ishwar V. “MEA: Statements : In Focus Articles.” Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs, India, 23 Apr. 2015, mea.gov.in/in-focus-article.htm?25096%2FYoga%2BIts%2BOrigin%2BHistory%2Band%2BDevelopment.
- Williams Strudwick, Tracey. “How to Lose Weight Fast: 9 Scientific Ways to Drop Fat.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 3 July 2018, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322345#science-backed-ways-to-lose-weight.
- Walton, Alice G. “The 6 Weight-Loss Tips That Science Actually Knows Work.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 25 July 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2013/09/04/the-6-weight-loss-tips-that-science-actually-knows-work/#407d7a45455b.
- Cox, Lauren. “5 Experts Answer: Can Yoga Help You Lose Weight?” LiveScience, Purch, 30 May 2013, www.livescience.com/35962-yoga-weight-loss.html.
- Edlund, Matthew. “Stress, Eating and Sleep.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 8 Feb. 2018, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-rest/201802/stress-eating-and-sleep.
- Stussman, B J, et al. “Wellness-Related Use of Common Complementary Health Approaches Among Adults: United States, 2012.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2015, www.nccih.nih.gov/research/wellness-related-use-of-common-complementary-health-approaches-among-adults-united-states-2012.
- Harvard Health Publishing. “Yoga – Benefits Beyond the Mat.” Harvard Health, Harvard Medical School, Feb. 2015, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/yoga-benefits-beyond-the-mat.
- Stelter, Gretchen. “A Complete Guide to the Different Types of Yoga.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 2 Feb. 2016, www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercises/types-of-yoga#6.
- Caffrey, Mary K. “Restorative Yoga Better Than Stretching for Trimming Subcutaneous Fat in Overweight Women.” AJMC, Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association, 1 Oct. 2013, www.ajmc.com/journals/evidence-based-diabetes-management/2013/2013-1-vol19-sp7/restorative-yoga-better-than-stretching-for-trimming-subcutaneous-fat-in-overweight-women.
- Brodwin, Erin. “Hot Yoga Might Not Be Any Healthier for You than Regular Yoga.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 23 Jan. 2018, www.businessinsider.com/hot-yoga-better-healthier-calories-regular-2018-1.