Alright I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out. Yoga is all the rage these days…ironically enough, since the most frequently cited benefit is a tranquil, stress-free mind.
The range of near-miraculous health benefits touted by those who enjoy this hobby runs the gamut from stress relief and better sleep to increased flexibility and enhanced sexual performance.
It’s attractive because it requires very little in the way of special equipment or space.
The busy modern person has a lot of responsibilities—school, long hours at work, caring for a family—which brings up an important question: if your goal is to burn fat, would signing up for a yoga class be a good use of your limited time at the gym? The answer: perhaps more than you’d think.
Different Styles of Yoga are not Created Equal when it Comes to Burning Fat
There are several types of yoga, and while all are good for you, some are better than others for burning calories and fat.
A 150-pound person will burn a little less than 200 calories during an hour practicing hatha yoga, which is one of the more ‘gentle’ styles; a hatha yoga class is a great place to get some stretching done, as well as training basic postures and breathing techniques. However, the caloric expenditure is equivalent to spending an hour walking at a leisurely (2 mph) pace.
At the other end of the spectrum, vinyasa yoga is a much more athletic style, featuring fast transitions between poses in a style more like martial-arts kata. You’re sure to work up a sweat, burning 600 calories in an hour (again assuming a 150-pound person), which is equivalent to using the same amount of time running at a moderate (5 mph) pace. Any class with the word ‘power’ in the title is likely to be using the vinyasa style, and will be a good choice for burning off calories.
Bikram, or ‘hot yoga’ is performed with the temperature in the room cranked up as high as 105 degrees. The heat allows your muscles to be more supple sooner, and boosts the heart rate into the aerobic range faster, but the puddles of sweat you’ll be mopping off yourself and your mat can be misleading; this is probably not your best bet for burning fat. You won’t be able to exercise as vigorously, or for as long, in very high temperatures as you could in a more moderate environment.
An Exercise that Keeps on Giving
The fat-burning power of yoga extends beyond the energy expended during the class period, however. Postures make use of your own body weight to build muscle, and the increased muscle mass will increase the amount of fat you burn even at rest.
Many of the poses specifically target your core for a balanced workout involving the muscles you’ll need in your everyday life; in addition, better tone in your core muscles will give you a flat stomach and decrease fat deposition in the belly.
Yoga increases the amount of fat you burn in other, more subtle ways as well. Studies have documented a decrease in BMI in subjects who practiced yoga, in comparison with their counterparts who engaged in cardiovascular exercises such as aerobics.
Part of this is thought to be due to the hormonal changes which occur with stress relief and more sleep—cortisol (a hormone associated with stress and which can inhibit the breakdown of fat in some circumstances) and insulin (a hormone which influences blood sugar and fat deposition) are decreased. Cortisol levels have been linked to the amount of Neuropeptide Y, which increases the body’s number of fat cells, as well as the amount of energy stored as fat, so decreasing your stress hormones will do a lot more than just make you feel better.
Not Just for the Ladies
The first popularizers of yoga in the United States tended to be women, and despite the majority of practitioners in the practice’s native India being men, it has had the (erroneous) reputation in this country of being an activity largely for housewives. (For our female readers who want an amazing introduction to Yoga, Check out Yoga Burn, by Zoe Bray-Cotton. It’s a great course for men as well, but definitely geared towards the ladies.)
Women undoubtedly gain some important benefits from a regular yoga practice: in addition to better flexibility and weight control as discussed above, women who practice yoga on a regular basis report greater acceptance and connection to their bodies. Specific sequences have also been developed which help to ease the symptoms of PMS and menopause, and the yoga studio provides a strong sense of community.
Men obviously also appreciate the centering and fat-burning aspects of a yoga practice, but an area where this activity really stands out is the improved flexibility. After the teenage years, many men lose flexibility more quickly than women do, and this is compounded by bulking up and performing repetitive movements (e.g. bicep curls) over time.
Tight muscles contribute to back pain and increase your chances of suffering a sports-related injury which will leave you on the sidelines, so it’s easy to see how becoming more flexible will help you to be consistent with your other fat-burning activities.
Overall, if you’re just looking to burn as many calories as possible in the next hour, you’re probably better off cranking up the speed on a treadmill or going to a spin class. If you’re willing to take a bit more of a long-term approach, working yoga into your fitness regimen will enhance your other efforts to burn fat, making it very much worthwhile.
About the Author
Anthony Alayon is a best selling fitness author who is a regular contributor to Natural Muscle Magazine. His work has been feature in Bodybuilding.about.com (New York Times Co.), Bliss Magazine, Bodybuilding.com, Labrada,com and many more. He studied accounting at the University of South Florida.
To learn more about him, check out his web site at www.HealthReporterDaily.com
You can follow Anthony via:
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/113655964608523248061
- Shinde N, Shinde KJ, Khatri SM, Hande D (2013) A Comparative Study of Yoga and Aerobic Exercises in Obesity and its Effect on Pulmonary Function. J Diabetes Metab 4:257. doi:10.4172/2155-6156.1000257
- Arlet V. Nedeltcheva, MD; Jennifer M. Kilkus, MS; Jacqueline Imperial, RN; Dale A. Schoeller, PhD; and Plamen D. Penev, MD, PhD (2010) Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts to Reduce Adiposity. Ann Intern Med. 2010;153(7):435-441. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-153-7-201010050-00006
- Health Status’ Calorie Calculator: https://www.healthstatus.com/calculate/cbc
- 4. http://www.yogajournal.com/category/yoga-101/types-of-yoga/