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Does Yoga Burn Calories? 6 Poses + 3 Best Styles of Yoga to Lose Weight

Commonly passed over as an “easy” workout, yoga is most often associated with stretching and meditation. But it turns out that that yoga can be a major calorie torcher. If you do active class styles and challenging poses, yoga can be a calorie-burning workout to help you lose weight and tone your body.

We dug into the research on the best types of yoga classes for burning major calories, as well was which poses deliver the bang for your weight loss goals.

If you’re looking to melt off some pounds, make sure you get in these 3 class styles and 6 yoga poses as a regular part of your practice.

How Many Calories Can Yoga Burn?

OK, so it burns some calories, but is it really enough to count as a “workout”?

It may just feel like holding poses doesn’t actually do anything, but yoga can actually be an incredible form of fat-burning exercise. Yoga can torch anywhere from 180 to 600 calories per hour, depending on:

According to the Mayo clinic, an average 160-pound person can burn about 180 calories in a 60 minute basic Hatha yoga session.

On the other hand, author and celebrity yoga instructor Mandy Ingber estimates that you can burn up to 600 calories per hour in Bikram or power yoga classes.

This huge range of calorie-burning potential is really a reflection of the vast diversity of yoga styles and classes out there. If you want to maximize the amount of calories burned in yoga, you just need to be doing more intense yoga classes and poses.

Choose More Active Yoga Styles

It’s no surprise that restorative styles like yin yoga don’t burn nearly as many calories as something fast and intense like ashtanga. While relaxed stretching yields some profound meditative and stress-reducing benefits, it simply doesn’t cut it for your weight loss goals.

Active yoga styles can be equally as rewarding for your mental wellness, but they simultaneously challenge your muscles and get your heart rate up.

1. Vinyasa Flow

Vinayasa is the most actively moving form of yoga which aims to sync the breath and body into a dance-like flow. Vinyasa flows tend to be the best cardiovascular workout of all yoga styles because you are getting the heart rate up through a nearly continuous stream of movements. Unlike Hatha yoga, you don’t hold poses for very long or stop to rest between poses. The goal is to maintain constant movement.

Most Vinyasa classes include repetitions of Sun Salutations that aim to help you move deeper into each asana with every cycle. If you want to burn more calories during Vinyasa classes, it is best to focus on keeping muscles activated and taking the optional challenging postures (for example, doing a Chaturanga push up before every Up-Dog).

Vinyasa, by definition, is in a continuous state of flux. It’s like a freestyle. No two classes are the same. Therefore, you may not melt away the same amount of calories every time, but you can consistently bring forth the same amount of effort and challenge to maximize your results.

2. Ashtanga (Power Yoga)

Ashtanga, or power yoga, is a highly structured version of Vinyasa. Power yoga follows a traditional series of postures that is more or less the same every time. This is the best style for yogis who want a predictable structure to their workouts.

Ashtanga is a great rigorous sweaty workout for anyone looking to burn calories and lose weight. However, it is important to push yourself a little farther every time in order to avoid stalling your fitness goals. The body naturally acclimates to doing the same workouts over and over, therefore the predictability of Ashtanga could actually lead to less calories burned as your muscles become accustomed to the poses.

To remedy this, focus on squatting deeper in Chair Pose or Low Lunge every time, for example. You can also look into taking longer 90 minute classes once or twice a week. You will need to push your limits to work toward weight loss, but there is no denying that Ashtanga yoga will make you sweat your butt off and melt off a lot of calories in the process.

3. Bikram & Hot Yoga Variations

Like Ashtanga, Bikram follows a set sequence of poses (26 to be exact) but the sequence is different from Ashtanga and the classes are heated to a sweaty 105°F and 40% humidity.

Bikram classes are 90 minutes long and highly structured. This is where you will find the most hardcore yogis and athletes who are really looking to build some muscle and burn major calories.

Bikram is not for the faint of heart- you should be ready to sweat, stretch, and shake (because your muscles are working so dang hard) like you never have before. Anyone who thinks yoga can’t be a calorie-burning workout will change their mind after just a single Bikram class.

Keep in mind that there are many other types of hot yoga styles that are similar to Bikram but follow their own sequences and guidelines. Any of these high intensity, incredibly challenging classes will surely get you up into that 600 calories per hour range as long as you try to stay engaged for the whole duration of the practice.

The Bikram sequence engages all major muscle groups and works out the whole body. The heated room stimulates deeper flexibility, detoxification, and an intense mental focus. Don’t forget your yoga towel!

6 Calorie-Burning Yoga Poses

1.Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar)

This dynamic asana sequence has been done for thousands of years since Vedic times. Commonly a part of Vinyasa classes, this 8-12 posture sequence is dynamic and ever-changing, fusing breath with movement in order to fully warm the muscles and create more energy.

Each transition is facilitated by an inhale or an exhale. For advanced practitioners or those who want to burn the maximum number of calories, the sequence can be sped up or slowed down with longer, challenging holds.

  • Begin in Tadasana (mountain pose)
  • Inhale the arms upward into the sky for Urdhva Hastasana (upward salute)
  • Exhale down into a forward fold (Uttanasana), feeling the hamstrings begin to open
  • Inhale and step back one leg into a low lung (Anjaneyasana)
  • Exhale and step back your other foot into plank pose, holding for a few breaths to burn more calories
  • On the next exhale, lower down as if into a low pushup for Chaturanga Dandasana (four-limbed staff pose), engaging the upper body and core
  • Inhale into upward-facing dog pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana), keeping the glutes and legs engaged as you stretch your heart open
  • Exhale back into downward facing dog (Adho Ukha Svanasana)
  • Step forward with the left leg and repeat on the other side

2.Plank Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)

Chaturanga dandasana

Regular planks are great, but what about Chaturanga planks? You are basically holding the lower part of a pushup and engaging every muscle in your body. This pose burns mega calories, tones your abs, and improves arm strength.

3.Headstand (Sirasana)

Don’t worry, headstands are far less dangerous than you would think. In fact, our research into the science of yoga headstands showed that the risks of injuries during headstand are comparatively low to other more intense forms of exercise.

Holding a headstand requires supporting your full body weight with your arms, head, and abdominal muscles. The longer you hold, the more calories it burns.

If you’re feeling a little nervous about trying headstand on your own, consider taking a class with an experienced teacher or practicing with a padded yoga stool.

4.Warrior I and II (Virabhadrasana)

Warrior poses I and II are strength building poses that challenge your quads, glutes, and arms. The longer you hold, the more you will feel that “yoga burn” that really gets calories burning.

To burn even more calories during Warrior poses, focus on deepening your lunge by inching the front foot forward (being sure to always keep your knee above your ankle for alignment). Activate the legs and push the edge of the back foot into the floor to add balance.

5.Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

This underrated pose can really rev up your calorie burn once you hold it for 1-3 minutes. Simply start with the feet hip width apart, engage the legs, squat backwards as if sitting into a chair, and keep the arms extended upwards with shoulder blades tucked down the back. Keep your abs and quads squeezing as tightly as possible.

This is a strengthening pose that will generally burn as soon as you get past the 30 second mark. Press your thighs into a yoga block or hold a block above your head for even more challenge. You can also try twisted chair and other variations.

6.High Lunge

As one of the most powerful standing yoga poses, high lunge (sometimes called crescent lunge) opens the heart, stretches the hips, and strengthens the entire lower body.

To burn more calories, you can pulse the back knee up and down as if doing a reverse squat. You can also deepen the lunge and hold longer for more muscle engagement and hip opening.

How to Use Yoga for Weight Loss

At the end of the day, if you want to lose weight and burn more calories during yoga, you have to combine more rigorous yoga styles with a lower caloric intake. By eating fewer calories and simultaneously challenging your body with yoga workouts at least 5 times a week, you can steadfastly work toward your fitness goals while feeling more peaceful and less stressed at the same time.

Overall, yoga is an incredible workout for both body and mind. Has yoga helped you lose weight?

Namaste!

FAQs

Which yoga burns most calories?

Bikram and other hot yoga styles tend to burn the most calories because they include the most consistently challenging sequences of poses that engage the full body.

How many calories do I burn doing yoga for 30 minutes?

In general, 30 minutes of yoga can burn 150-300 calories depending on the person, style of yoga, length of the yoga class, and how much they challenge themselves in each pose.

How can I burn 1000 calories a day?

In order to burn 1000 calories a day, engage in an active lifestyle of consistent movement and healthy eating. Do 1-3 hours of physical exercise every day, including power yoga, running, weight lifting, swimming, and/or hiking.

About Logan Hailey

Logan Hailey is a writer, entrepreneur, and vagabond yogi who lives in an school bus tiny home. She's a regular contributor on The Yoga Nomads. She travels the U.S. teaching about natural living, organic farming & gardening, and wilderness adventure. Keep up with her adventures on Instagram @ramblinfarmers.

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