“Can yoga help you lose weight?”
This is one of the most common questions we get asked. And, it’s a hotly debated topic. You’ll often receive mixed answers. Why? Because the answer isn’t one size fits all. Some might watch the pounds fall off while doing yoga, while others may actually gain weight. There are too many variables that come into play to say definitively one way or the other.
Don’t worry, we are here to help. In this article, we will talk about the factors that contribute to weight loss, the effects of yoga, and the best types of yoga to lose weight. Let’s dive right in!
The Two Main Factors That Affect Weight Loss
Everybody is different. People lose and gain weight at different rates. Hence, what may work for others may not work for you. Weight loss is affected by many different factors, but two of the main ones are your diet and physical activity.
Weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise. Regardless of the amount of exercise you do, you may not see a significant difference in weight if you have a poor diet.
To determine how many calories you need to eat per day, use a calorie calculator that factors in your age, sex, height, and level of physical activity. Better yet, consult a dietitian who can determine your caloric needs accurately.
Aside from calories, the types of food you eat also dictate the quality of your diet and, consequently, the rate at which you lose weight. Eating highly processed, calorie-dense foods makes losing weight difficult. If these foods are prominent in your diet, you will have to eat less to lose weight. However, this will lead to frequent hunger.
In contrast, a diet that is rich in produce, minimally-processed foods, and lean meats is more likely to promote weight loss. Fruits and vegetables are filling and contribute to your vitamin and mineral requirements. Lean meats help you maintain your protein needs but without the excess fat. Complex carbohydrates (whole grains and starchy vegetables) digest more slowly and keep you full for longer.
Your level of physical activity determines the number of calories you need and how quickly you lose weight. And it’s not just exercise. Your daily activities also contribute to your level of physical activity, which can fall into one of these categories:
- Light activity
- Moderate activity
- Heavy activity
For example, if you sit behind a desk all day and don’t work out, you may be classified as sedentary. On the other hand, if you work in a construction site and do lots of manual work, your level of physical activity is heavy.
Your level of physical activity also changes with exercise. For example, if you are an office worker but do cardio and lift weights every day, you may have a moderate level of physical activity.
So, Can Yoga Help You Lose Weight?
All types of exercise have the potential to contribute to weight loss. However, different types of exercise have varying levels of effectiveness.
In general, the more intense the exercise is, the more pounds it can shed from your body weight. For example, running is more effective than walking for losing weight. This is because running is better at speeding up your heart rate and burning calories, leading to faster weight loss than walking.
The type of exercise you do also has to help build your muscles if your goal is weight loss. Muscle burns more calories than fat while you are resting. Moreover, a pound of muscle takes up much less space than a pound of fat. This means that if you are converting your fat into muscles, you are still getting in shape even if the scale doesn’t move.
So now comes the question: does yoga help you lose weight?
The answer is yes. However, the type of yoga practice you do will determine how effectively you lose weight – and some people achieve weight loss results with a simple fat-burning yoga routine.
As mentioned, exercise intensity is directly correlated to the degree of weight loss you can experience. That said, doing a yoga practice that speeds up your heart rate and puts your body under stress can help you shed off the pounds. And you can achieve this by doing more difficult types of yoga.
Types of Yoga That Are Most Effective For Weight Loss
Here are the different types of yoga that are classified as “difficult”, which means they are more likely to help you on your weight loss journey than “relaxed” types of yoga.
Bikram yoga is a sequence-style yoga done in a heated room. The yoga poses are challenging and are designed to move oxygenated blood to your entire body. The surrounding heat helps you burn more calories but calls for frequent rehydration.
Ashtanga yoga involves a sequence of yoga poses and lasts for about 90 minutes. The goal is to harmonize the physical (Asana), emotional (Pratyahara), energetic (Pranayama), and mental (Dharana) aspects of the being. The poses flow from one body part to another and can be quite difficult.
Power yoga involves inversions, arm balances, Chatarungas, and other intermediate poses. The poses are held for only one breath, which makes sessions quite intense and fast-paced. That said, try a beginner class before you move on to power yoga.
Tips For Your Yoga Weight Loss Journey
If your goal is weight loss, you also have to come up with a well balanced strategy. Yoga alone is not an effective way to melt away the pounds. You’ll also need to evaluate your diet and incprorate other types of fitness into your regimen. Here are some tips:
Eat a healthy diet
We mentioned earlier that weight loss is 80% diet, 20% exercise. That’s why taking a look at your diet is the best place to start your weight loss journey. If you eat too much food and/or low quality foods, practicing yoga won’t bring about the results you want.
Incorporate more fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains into your diet. Simultaneously, avoid foods rich in simple carbohydrates, sodium, cholesterol, and trans fats. Having a healthy diet is the key to losing weight. And when paired with exercise, you lose weight faster and keep it off longer.
However, you don’t have to say goodbye to cupcakes and ice cream. Eat your “unhealthy” favorites in moderation, and you’ll still be able to shed off the pounds without feeling deprived.
Do aerobic exercises and weight lifting
Practicing yoga is definitely a form of exercise. But, for those who want to shed off the pounds fast, it won’t be enough alone. Along with regular yoga practice, it helps to engage in aerobic exercises too.
Running, walking, jumping rope, and swimming are great examples of exercises that can get your heart rate soaring. At the same time, don’t shy away from weights. Lifting weights helps tone your body and build fat-burning muscle.
Choose the right type of yoga
If you are a beginner, try Hatha yoga first. This type of yoga involves fairly easy poses, breathing, and meditation. The aim is to promote calmness and a better sense of well-being. So, aside from improving fitness, Hatha yoga can also improve your mental health. Once you are at an intermediate level, you can move on to more difficult types of yoga, such as power yoga and hot yoga.
Don’t push yourself
Yoga can be challenging, even if you already have experience. With that in mind, always be sure to respect your body’s limits. If you can’t execute a difficult pose, don’t push yourself at the risk of causing injury. And, don’t beat yourself up over it. If you’re feeling dizzy during a power yoga session, ask your instructor for a break. Pushing yourself can lead to injuries and make yoga unenjoyable.
When it comes to yoga practice, you can’t go rushing into it. Start with poses that you feel confident doing. If you can’t do the full session, it’s okay to do half for the first few days. Starting slow is better than risking injury if you try to do poses that you are not ready for.
As long as you remain consistent, you will find that regular yoga practice is every helpful on your weight loss journey. That’s the key though – you have to remain consistent with regular yoga practice. If you’re a beginner, try to do yoga at least one to two times a week. Over time, you can increase your sessions to about three to four times a week.
Wear the right clothes
Yoga can get uncomfortable if you’re not wearing the right clothes. Choose an outfit that is loose enough to allow you to stretch and pose comfortably. Well-fitting yoga pants are a must. For tops, we recommend loose, airy shirts, especially if you are doing hot yoga.
If you must wear shoes during a session, choose a pair that allows good flexibility in your feet and toes. However, yoga is usually done without shoes and socks to make your body rely on the intrinsic muscles of the foot for balance.