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Can you lose weight doing yoga?

Think you can’t lose weight and get fit with yoga? Think again! Alongside the wellbeing benefits, it turns out that doing yoga regularly can help you lose weight. If you’re looking to reach a healthier weight, read on to find out how yoga could help…

In the past couple of years, something has shifted in the world of healthy weight loss and body conditioning. Where we were once told we had to exercise for long periods to shift fat, scientists are now discovering that short or gentle workouts could hold the key to weight loss success. This is where yoga comes in.


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The beauty of yoga is it can be adapted to fit – and benefit – our busy lives. Even 10 minutes a week of yoga is better than nothing – and it’s a great place to begin – but once you start to feel the revitalising, toning and energising benefits of just 10 minutes of yoga, you’ll want to find time to do one of the circuits daily. Let’s take a closer look at how doing yoga can help you to get fit and lose weight…

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can you lose weight doing yoga

Can you lose weight doing yoga?

In short, yes. Yoga can help to increase your metabolism and promote healthy weight loss. When it comes to losing weight or burning fat, not all of us want to go out for a run or sweat it out in a Spinning class. Although yoga instructors are keen to highlight that yoga is about much more than just burning calories, if you choose the right class, you can burn fat and increase your metabolic rate.

‘Doctors and personal trainers agree that yoga can seriously trim and tone your body and also work on your mind and spirit to help you become healthier overall,’ says yoga instructor Sheila Maubec.

All yoga classes will use up calories but the amount burned will vary from around 180 to 360 per class, depending on the type of yoga. Some classes target stress reduction and help you to relax, but won’t necessarily provide the cardiovascular workout you may want for weight loss. However, they can indirectly help by combating stress-related comfort eating. See below for the best fat-burner classes.

Best yoga classes for weight loss

The best types of yoga for burning calories are Vinyasa, Ashtanga and other forms of Power yoga, which are more energetic. ‘They work specifically on strength and stamina, as well as flexibility,’ says Maubec.

‘So they’ll compare with other workouts that accelerate calorie burning. Vinyasa, or “flow yoga”, is made up of a series of Sun salutation sequences that you move through quickly so, in theory, you increase your heart rate, burn calories and lose weight. However, all yoga speeds up your metabolism by stimulating the endocrine glands that regulate your metabolic rate.’

Quiz: Which type of yoga is right for me?

Can you lose weight doing Bikram yoga classes?

The sauna-like heat of Bikram yoga classes can also be good for weight loss. ‘Your heart rate is elevated due to your body pumping more blood to the surface of your skin to try and cool down your body,’ says personal trainer Frank Mayfield. ‘This will increase the amount of calories burned and your heart will be made to work harder.’

Benefits of yoga for water retention

If you weigh yourself after a Bikram yoga class and noticed you’ve lost weight, most of this will be down to water loss. Yoga can be useful if you suffer from water retention that makes you look bloated. Some of the poses in yoga will improve your circulation and the performance of the lymphatic system, reducing fluid retention in the tissues.

woman practicing yoga

Build muscle and lose weight with yoga

Yoga can also help you lose weight because the weight-bearing postures require strength, helping you develop lean muscle mass. The more lean muscle tissue you have, the more efficient your metabolism, so your body burns more calories at rest.

‘After you’ve done a fairly intense session with poses where you hold a position for a length of time, it takes time to recover,’ says Mayfield. ‘Your heart and lungs will be working harder afterwards to replenish muscles with lost fuel. Yoga may not be an out-and-out blast like boxing or cycling, but it will get your heart rate pumping, especially in the 24 hours after a workout.’

Can yoga help with appetite and cravings?

Research has shown that those who practise yoga regularly tend to have better control over their appetite and fewer cravings. Even more gentle forms, such as Hatha yoga, can indirectly have weight-loss benefits.

In a recent article on yoga for healthy ageing, yoga instructor Baxter Bell, MD explained that ‘gentle’ and ‘restorative’ yoga helps weight loss by switching on the parasympathetic nervous system. This regulates breathing, digestion and hormones.

By doing this, you’re rebalancing your hormones and your digestion will work normally, which helps weight loss. Yoga can help improve your posture, so you’ll look taller and leaner. By improving your mental wellbeing and making you happier, yoga can indirectly help you achieve your weight loss goals. Think how we tend to overeat when we’re feeling low or depressed.

Another study, which was investigating the effects of yoga for reducing obesity, found that after 14 weeks of regular yoga, participants had lost weight and reduced their body fat percentage. They were also reporting lowered stress levels and healthier eating habits.

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