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Does Yoga Burn Fat? (5 Poses For Burning Extra Calories)

Christiana Mikesch
Published by Christiana Mikesch
Last updated: September 29, 2022

I’ve noticed that many people who do yoga stay in great shape. I’ve even recommended many beginner clients to do yoga as a great way to start their fitness journey.

Yet, I’m always met with the same question: how does something as low-intensity as yoga allow you to burn calories, build muscle, and get in shape?

So, I spent a month studying yoga’s physical benefits to better understand its overall effectiveness. I teamed up with a yoga instructor and discussed the scientific literature.

Here’s what we found.

Quick Summary

  • Yoga helps you build muscular strength and endurance, improve sleep quality, control stress, and manage your weight indirectly.
  • Yoga won’t help you burn as many calories as cardio or weight training, but it’s easier on your joints and builds strength for more physically demanding exercise over time.
  • Yoga may help improve flexibility, manage heart health, and ease arthritis symptoms.

Can Doing Yoga Help You Burn Fat?

A woman doing a stretch in her yoga attire

Yes, doing yoga can help you burn fat. But you won’t burn as much compared to intense cardio or weight training.

However, yoga is the perfect option for those looking to exercise without putting any strain on their joints.

And while yoga won’t burn as many calories as running or lifting weights, fat loss isn’t necessarily out of the picture.

Yoga can help you shed a few pounds if you do it right.

Here are some of the potential weight loss benefits of doing yoga:

  • Builds muscle and core strength
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Burns calories steadily
  • Decreases stress levels
  • Helps with mindful eating

Builds Lean Muscle and Core Strength

A woman upside down performing yoga

Yoga is a great way to develop overall upper and lower body strength without any equipment.

It helps you build and tone muscles using your own body weight and resistance.

A 2015 study found that 20–30 minutes of daily yoga can significantly improve muscle strength and endurance [1].

And since muscle is more metabolically active than fat, the more of it you build, the more efficiently you’ll be burning calories [2].

Improves Sleep Quality

You won't burn fat as efficiently if you’re not getting enough sleep at night.

A 2012 study found that quality sleep improves fat loss and metabolism, helping you shed pounds faster [3].

Another research shows that sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain [4].

And since yoga has been shown to improve sleep quality, practicing it daily might benefit fat burning in the long run [5].

“I noticed a lot of differences in myself in terms of sleep quality, appetite and mood. I learned that yoga is so much more than the exercise component that it is commercially seen as in the U.S.”

- Dr. Ann Caldwell, PhD

Burns Calories Steadily

A woman doing yoga outdoors

It might not be as intense as running, doing HIIT, or weight training, but yoga does expend caloric energy.

Yoga styles like Ashtanga or Vinyasa yoga (power yoga) are highly intense and vigorous.

These yoga styles may elevate your heart rate and burn about 400–600 calories per hour.

This is one of the reasons why hot yoga classes have become a popular trend these days; they raise your heart rate, expend calories, and promote flexibility.

If power or hot yoga is too intense, you may also try hatha yoga — gentle poses and stretching — which requires less physical exertion. Just focus on large muscle groups so you can burn more calories.

Decreases Stress Levels

Many people practice yoga for its therapeutic effects.

Stress management is tied to weight loss; the better you manage your levels of stress, the easier it is for you to lose weight [6].

Studies show that yoga not only builds muscle and improves flexibility but improves your mental health by managing stress, anxiety, depression, and overall quality of life [7].

Helps With Mindful Eating

What you put on your plate might be more important than what you do on a yoga mat.

Regular yoga practice has been linked to mindful eating, and people who eat mindfully are less likely to end up obese [8].

“From curbing emotional eating to getting the most out of a workout, the ability to be fully present and enjoy the full strength and capacity of your mind and body working together is the key reason yoga supports weight loss.”

- Rebecca Pacheco, Author, Yoga & Meditation Teacher

5 Yoga Moves For Burning Extra Calories

Different types of yoga poses

Not all yoga moves will help you burn body fat. Some moves are more intense and will require you to push yourself.

So, here’s a list of effective yoga moves that helped our clients on their weight loss journey:

  • Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose): This pose tones your inner thighs and shoulders. The longer you hold it, the more you'll feel the burn on your quads. The warrior pose also improves your balance while toning your back, legs, and arms.
  • Chaturanga Dandasana (Plank Pose): Like a normal plank, this pose strengthens your core. The longer you hold it, the tighter your core gets.
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog): This pose works your entire body and specifically tones your arms, back, hamstrings, and thighs.
  • Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand): This pose strengthens your legs and upper body and improves your balance and core strength.
  • Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation): This is one of the most elaborate poses that require your full body strength. It stretches and tones most of your major muscles.

Other Benefits

A group doing a yoga session

In addition to helping you lose weight, practicing yoga every day has many health benefits.

Improves Flexibility and Balance

Most yoga poses demand a good range of motion and stability. With regular practice, they can improve your muscle mobility and stability.

A 2016 study found that yoga may improve overall balance and flexibility, enhancing athletic performance [9].

Manges Heart Health

Yoga is one of the best exercise options if you struggle with heart problems.

One of the key benefits of yoga is stress management. One of the ways it does this is by lowering your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood glucose levels, and heart rate [10].

Eases Arthritis Symptoms

Arthritis makes certain physically-demanding exercises a challenge. Not yoga, however.

A 2015 clinical trial found that yoga poses had no adverse effects on sedentary adults with arthritis [11].

Easier On the Joints

Cardio and weight training are better and faster ways of losing weight than yoga, but they’re not meant for everyone.

Older people or those with joint problems can’t necessarily engage in physically demanding exercise routines. In such cases, yoga can be extremely beneficial because although it demands a range of motion, many poses don’t require you to put much strain on your joints.

So, it allows you to build bone and muscle strength over time until you're strong enough to do more challenging exercises.

FAQs

Can Yoga Help You Gain Muscle?

Yes, yoga may help you gain muscle. But it won’t be a significant amount where you’ll see noticeable changes in your physique.

How Often Should I Do Yoga To Lose Weight?

You should do yoga every day to lose weight. Since it doesn’t burn calories as intensely as cardio, you should do yoga on a daily basis to burn more calories during the week.

What’s the Best Time To Practice Yoga For Weight Loss?

The best time to practice yoga for weight loss might be in the mornings. Although many people have reported losing more weight on fasted yoga, there’s no scientific data to back up such claims.

What’s Worked Best For Us

While yoga is an excellent option for beginners to build strength and lose fat gradually, it might be a slow and time-consuming process.

To speed things up and give you that extra push, I highly recommend trying out natural fat burners.

They’ll give your yoga session an extra kick by giving you a burst of energy:

Clients who couldn’t do cardio or resistance training due to injuries especially found these helpful in their fitness journey.

Pick one that works best for you, and let us know about your experience.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4475706/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3661116/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3519150/
  4. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/molecular-ties-between-lack-sleep-weight-gain
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3667430/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6296480/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193654/
  8. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090803185712.htm
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728955/
  10. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-yoga-heart-connection
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25834206/
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