How many calories does yoga burn? You'll find out in this post along with a host of other valuable info on this ancient modality. There’s a common misperception that yoga is all about luxurious but rather passive stretching. People think one needs a lot of patience and calm in order to just sit and breathe into a pose. Another common notion is that in order to do yoga, one needs to be super flexible. On the contrary! It’s the repeated doing of the poses over time that increases flexibility, and most postures do not require you to twist into a pretzel.
Yoga can be a dynamic and demanding exercise regimen that really gets your heart rate up and burns calories. But how many calories does yoga burn? Read on and learn all about embarking on an effective and vigorous yoga regimen that will increase muscle mass, improve flexibility and help you lose weight, should that be your goal.
Yoga is an ancient (mostly Hindu) discipline and spiritual and physical practice that originated in India about 5,000 years ago. Here in the West, when we say yoga, we refer to the physical exercises or postures. When people say they practice Hatha yoga, it means that they practice the physical aspect of yoga, doing exercises, as opposed to breathing or meditation. However, most styles we are familiar with today, with their focus on exercise and physical fitness, developed in the 20th century by teachers such as Krishnamacharya, K. Patthabi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar and Bikram Choudhury.
Hatha is a Sanskrit word that is composed of ha meaning sun and tha meaning moon. These are considered opposites and yoga helps you to harmonize the opposing forces in life. In fact, the Sanskrit word Yoga has its root in the term yuj which means “to yoke” or “to unite.” So yoga balances or harmonizes all opposites, male-female, dark-light, sun-moon, and more to create poise and balance in the body and mind.
Yoga practice is like an adaptogen; it can be both calming and energizing, even at the same time—which many folks have experienced after they come out of a yoga class. They report feeling grounded and focused yet more vibrant and alive.
So how many calories does yoga burn? It depends on the style. There are many schools of yoga or particular styles. Among the most common ones are Iyengar, Ashtanga, Flow Yoga, Hot Yoga and Bikram. There are types of non-physical yoga not commonly practiced here in the West, such as bhakti yoga (devotional yoga) or jnana yoga (self study). Also, there are many sub categories or sects, but there’s no need to go into such detail because you will not find these offshoots at your local yoga studio.
When it comes to burning a maximum of calories, you will want to choose the most vigorous types of Hatha yoga with monikers and styles such as core yoga, power yoga, vinyasa, flow yoga, hot yoga, Bikram yoga, advanced, and Ashtanga. With flow yoga, you quickly move from posture to posture rather than holding the poses passively. This can really get your heart rate up quickly. The same is true with Ashtanga yoga, which begins with several series of vigorous, so-called sun salutations. Again, you will work up quite a sweat.
Core yoga, power yoga and advanced classes will also be rather brisk and dynamic. A well-known but controversial teacher named Bikram Choudhury invented Bikram or “hot” yoga in the early 1970s, practiced in rooms heated to 95–108 degrees F. Classes taught by teachers in his lineage will be designated as Bikram while there are also non copyrighted derivatives of this style dubbed Hot Yoga.
Both approaches make most practitioners sweat profusely and lose weight rather quickly. These two styles require very good physical shape to start with, as you are literally exercising in what feels like a sauna. But you can burn loads of calories. How many calories does yoga burn? Find out more below!
Yoga has a multitude of proven benefits that range from psychological and emotional to physical issues.
Generally, an hour of yoga can burn between 200 and 600 calories. Per a study by Harvard Health Publications, a person weighing 155 pounds will burn circa 300 calories in 60 minutes (or about 100 in 20 minutes), while a person weighing 125 pounds will burn a little less, about 240 calories an hour. Bikram or hot yoga will burn more calories than a “regular” and more moderate Hatha yoga class. Reported numbers range from 477 calories and up per 90 minutes, while flow yoga, vinyasa or Ashtanga can burn almost 600 calories per 1 to 1.5 hours.
Note that Bikram and hot yoga follow a specific series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises that never change, while Ashtanga yoga also follows a highly standardized routine. Other variations allow the teacher to structure things more loosely and individually rather than having to adhere to a predetermined sequence. Many people enjoy the repetitive nature of these styles, however, since they know exactly what to expect and are guaranteed to work up a sweat and get a good exercise.
What poses burn the most calories? Think about poses that involve the large muscle groups such as the thighs. Effective postures that will get up your heart rate and make your muscles burn are Warrior poses, such as Warrior 1, 2 and 3. These standing poses work all muscles of the body. Also consider doing so-called Sun Salutations, which incorporate Plank pose, which you can also do by itself or in combination with other postures. Chair pose is also a great pose for burning calories and strengthening the thighs while toning the whole body.
This is a highly structured sequence of poses for burning calories. Here’s one classic variation called Sun Salutation A. Stand with feet hip distance apart or heels and toes touching. Arms are resting at your side. Inhale the arms out to the sides and up, palms touching. Gaze up. Exhale and bow forward into a forward fold, leading with the chest.
The arms reach toward the ground or your shins. Inhale, lift the chest, and gaze up. Exhale and step into plank (pushup position). Inhale and exhale, lowering the body flat all the ay to the ground. Inhale into Cobra pose, lifting the chest with the strength of your belly and your arms, exhale into Downward-facing Dog (This pose looks like an upside down letter V). Hold this pose for five deep breaths.
Inhale and exhale, stepping both feet forward into a forward fold. Inhale lift the chest, keeping the hands on the ground or on your shins, and exhale, then bow forward again. Inhale the arms out to the side like airplane wings and all the way up and overhead, exhale lower the arms to your side or bring the palms together at the heart in Namaste position. Repeat five times.
Come into a traditional pushup position, arms elbow distance apart, legs hip distance apart. Make sure your low back and pelvis are not sagging but parallel to the floor. Draw the belly button back toward the spine, lift out of your wrists and shoulders and hold. Breathe deeply for one minute.
Stand with feet hip distance apart. Step right foot forward into a lunge with the front leg bent 90 degrees, knee directly over ankle. Inhale arms straight up and hold for thirty seconds while breathing deeply. Repeat on the other side.
Stand with feet hip distance apart. Step right foot forward into a lunge. Position feet so that you could draw a straight line from the arch of the front foot to the heel of the back foot. Angle back foot 45 degrees. Come into a lunge with the front leg bent 90 degrees, knee over ankle. Inhale arms straight out to the side, move head to the right gazing across the middle finger of your right hand, and hold for thirty seconds while breathing deeply. Repeat on the other side.
Start standing with feet hip distance apart. Inhale and exhale as you lean forward, extending the right leg straight in the air behind you, foot pointing straight down, until the leg is parallel to the floor and the hips stay level. The arms can be held out to the side like airplane wings to balance more easily, or reach forward, palms touching, parallel to the ground. Hold for 30 seconds and breathe deeply. Repeat on the other side.
Stand with feet hip distance apart or feet touching and parallel. Inhale the arms out to the side and up and exhale as you bend the legs and squat as though you were sitting at the edge of a chair. Breathe and hold. As you exhale, inch a little deeper into the squat. You can keep the arms straight up or bring the palms together overhead and touching while gazing up at your hands.
Yoga does wonders for your health. It’s by no means a miracle cure, but unlike many other exercise modalities, it has a host of incredible health benefits. It’s a great alternative to lifting weights and other sports, and we highly recommend that you supplement your exercise regimen with some yoga poses. So rather than giving up running, tennis, karate or swimming, add yoga to your life to avail yourself of all of its advantages that will make your existing workouts more effective and improve your health and well-being.
But you can certainly stay healthy, slim and vibrant doing yoga exclusively, especially now that we’ve answered the burning question, “how many calories does yoga burn?” In short: more than you think! More precisely, enough to keep you in perfect life-managing shape. Namaste!