You don’t have to become an Om-chanting, chakra-cleansing, green juice guzzling, sun saluting goddess in order to get the benefit from yoga practice. And you don’t need to master the pretzel-pose just to join a class. As with all exercise and movement, consistency is key. So, find a practice that you enjoy and you’ll be Namaste-ing like a #boss in no time. We chatted to Founder of W1LL Yoga, Jacinta McDonell, to find out how to get the most bang for your downward-facing buck.
“Active classes like Vinyasa and Ashtanga are the best for weight loss as they involve more movement and strength than other types of yoga,” she reveals. “If the focus is on weight loss or fat burning, then a more physical style of practice which heats up the body and regulates blood flow is ideal. Classes such as Power Yoga and Vinyasa are great when done regularly.”
Vinyasa, or ‘flow’ yoga, focuses on continuous movement from pose to pose, keeping your body mobile and incorporating some challenging sequences. Ashtanga yoga (also commonly called ‘power yoga’) is performed at a vigorous pace, and focuses on strength development. Bikram yoga features a series of 26 poses performed in a heated, sauna-like room, whereas classes tagged as Hatha are more likely to focus on a basic, classical-style approach to yogic breathing and postures. Yin yoga, on the other hand, focuses on passive poses and a quiet, meditative approach.
Not only can yoga assist with weight loss and fat burning, but it will also tone and increase your flexibility, as well as benefitting your mind and relieving stress. “Strong yoga practices will burn the most calories, but the key is to find a practice at the right level for you,” notes McDonell.
If you’re looking for a good cardio workout, McDonell suggests opting for Vinyasa, as the constant movement will keep your heart rate elevated. “For strength-building, the yang style of yoga (power yoga, Vinyasa, Hatha, Ashtanga and Bikram) is ideal,” she says. “However, finding a practice at your level is crucial, especially for beginners. Seek out a class that is simple to understand and inspires you to progress. Finding a good flow that you enjoy is what will give you the best results.”
Your height, weight, and gender will all impact on how many calories you burn during a yoga session. In addition to this, there are a bunch of other variables like body type, size and age, the style of yoga you choose, the level at which the class is taught and your own level of intensity. However, that said, it is possible to get a rough idea of how many calories you can burn in your pursuit of the perfect pose.
According to Harvard Health, a 70kg person participating in a traditional Hatha class can burn up to 298 calories per hour, however some estimates put it as low as 170 calories per hour. For the same 70kg person, Ashtanga can burn between 330 and 450 calories per hour, and Vinyasa between 400 and 550 calories per hour. Although some estimates put it as high as 600 calories per hour. As Bikram adheres to a specific format of 26 poses in a 90-minute class, we’ll estimate it separately: between 330 and 460 calories per class, according to a Colorado State study. Or between 220 and 310 calories per hour.
It’s worth keeping in mind, though, that you don’t spend the entire class moving from pose to pose, so even though you may complete a 60-minute class, you’ll need to take into account the time spent warming up, cooling down, chanting, meditating, in seated poses and lying on the floor in Savasana at the end: which can mean what seems to be a 60-minute class, might only end up being 20 to 40 minutes of full-intensity yoga. That’s where some estimates can get a little misleading. All in all, if you can opt for a class that keeps you moving, and be realistic about how much time you actually spend mobile, then yoga can be a great tool for weight loss.
Remember too, that the benefits of yoga go way beyond calories burned and weight lost, explains McDonell. “The awareness and mindfulness that all forms of yoga promote will also assist you in a more holistic sense: reducing stress, assisting with mindful eating, stimulating relaxation, body and mind awareness, and promoting strength, coordination and a sense of wellbeing.” Because of this, yoga can help you fight emotional or mindless eating, be more aware of your posture, help you to engage specific muscles and be more aware of your food intake and satiety levels. Recent studies have shown it to improve cognition and respiration, to reduce cardiovascular risk, body mass index, blood pressure, and diabetes, and to help prevent middle-age weight gain.
If you’re a beginner wanting to pop the shrink wrap off your prana (life energy) and take a stab at a few asanas (yoga postures) at home before investing in a class, McDonell suggests trying the following poses:
What is your experience with yoga for weight loss? Let us know what your tips are below!