Before including it in my workouts, I hadn’t considered yoga for weight loss, nor had I taken it seriously. I thought it was too low-energy to be a workout and would instead focus on strength routines that included push-ups and mountain climbers.
Over the years, I’ve done a full 180° when it comes to yoga. Not only are there numerous yoga styles, but there are also hundreds of routines designed for specific purposes, like weight loss, cardio, strength training, and more.
Perhaps more importantly, yoga enhances flexibility, which is something we tend to take for granted. Your body may be strong, but without flexibility, you can easily damage joints and tendons while performing even the most basic movements.
If you’re just starting on your weight-loss journey and don’t have much experience running or doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT), you should include yoga in your workout schedule. Initially, try following a guided yoga class; you’re less likely to injure yourself.
Apart from helping you lose weight, yoga can be a stepping stone to more intense workouts as well as an excellent way to maintain and improve strength and flexibility.
Can you lose weight by doing yoga?
Yes, you can certainly lose weight through yoga. Of course, this also depends on your maintenance calories and how much you’re consuming daily. Generally speaking, yoga can help you lose weight, and some styles of yoga will help you burn more calories than others.
For instance, Hatha yoga is a slower-paced yoga that will burn fewer calories than Vinyāsa yoga, a full-body yoga workout. Hot yoga styles take place in artificially heated rooms (or in warm climates) and will, as expected, burn many calories as well.
Whether or not you’ll lose weight while practicing yoga all depends on the type of yoga you practice, the length of the sessions, as well as the level and pace of the class.
The reality is that any additional exercise you include in your routine will contribute to your weight loss. For instance, you burn more calories by taking part in a relaxing yoga session than by sitting at your desk typing. And if you do a hot yoga strength session, the calories you burn will increase significantly.
Yoga for Weight Loss: How often should you do yoga to lose weight?
If you’re seriously considering yoga for weight loss, start practicing it 2–3 times a week. You can do this online via websites like Gaia, or you can choose from dozens of free YouTube yoga channels.
Just like anything else, you’ll have to practice yoga to get the hang of it. You’ll find that the learning curve is not difficult for most flows (sequences), but don’t push yourself too hard at first, or you might get frustrated.
First, aim for two sessions of high-energy yoga, like Vinyāsa or a strength yoga class, and one relaxing yoga session per week.
Yoga Poses to Try at Home
If you can’t attend an in-person group or private yoga class, the next best option is to take a virtual yoga class. When starting your yoga practice, you must first learn to breathe and move safely in and out of postures, mainly to protect your lower back. This guidance isn’t always possible in a virtual class, let alone at home.
It’s a good idea to seek out a well-rated yoga instructor, like YouTube yogi Cat Meffan. It’s also a good idea to start with basic poses and flows. Two easy yoga postures to get you started are:
This simple yet effective pose is often prescribed to people with lower back pain. It’s an excellent way to connect with your breath and loosen your spine.
To do cat/cow, get on your hands and knees in a comfortable position. Your knees should align with your hips, and your hands should align with your shoulders.
Start in a neutral position with your back straight and neck in line with your spine, relaxed. As you inhale, arch your back, stick your tailbone up and look upwards in a relaxed way. This is the cow pose.
As you exhale, uncurl your toes so that the tops of your feet lay against the ground, round your spine, and tuck in your tailbone. Lower your head and gaze at your navel. This is the cat pose.
Eye of the Needle Pose (Sucirandhrasana)
Eye of the Needle Pose opens and stretches the hips, and it is an easier version of the more popular Pigeon Pose. The benefits of both postures are almost immediate if you suffer from lower back or hip pain. In fact, this is a great pose to do in the mornings before sitting at your computer.
To perform this pose, also known as Sucirandhrasana, lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet flat on the floor. Cross your left leg onto your right thigh, as you would if you were sitting cross-legged. Wrap your arms around your right leg (you’ll have to thread your left arm through the crossed legs to meet your right arm and gently draw your right leg toward your chest as you exhale.
You should immediately feel the stretch but, if you don’t, draw your right leg into your chest some more. Never force it. Hold that pose for five breaths, then change positions to bring your left leg to your chest in the same way.
Safety Tips to Keep in Mind While Doing Yoga
Though yoga is quite safe for weight loss, especially compared to lifting weights or doing strength-building exercises, like planks and lunges, remember the following:
- Yoga relies on relaxation to stretch and strengthen your muscles. Never push or strain far beyond what is comfortable, as it can lead to muscle strain.
- If you haven’t practiced many balance poses, like Tree Pose, make sure you have a wall or chair nearby to stabilize yourself.
- Headstands are for advanced yogis, do not attempt them alone, especially as a beginner.
- Wrist pain is common for beginners. Our instinct, especially in poses like Downward Dog, is to put all our weight into our wrists when, instead, you should be “lifting” the pressure up and through your hands.
- As with other athletic poses, you should maintain a slight bend in your knees. Forward Pose, for instance, seems simple, but for many beginners, it’s hard to fold forward and touch your toes. Remember to bend your knees a little as you do so. Eventually, you’ll reach your toes while bending less, but there’s no rush.
The only way to determine whether your body responds to yoga for weight loss is to try it. What do you have to lose? Find a well-rated yoga class online and give it a shot!