Yoga is not often considered to be in the same category as calorie torching, sweat-inducing activities like running or kickboxing. While some yoga practices offer physically challenging, cardiovascular workouts, more often the focus of classes is on flexibility, presence of mind, breathing, balance and strength. Yoga’s unique blend of mental and physical work may not be a calorie-burning powerhouse, but it still offers value in weight management.
Potential Calorie Burn
As in any physical activity, the ultimate number of calories burned in a class depends on your size, gender, intensity, efficiency and body composition. Hatha yoga -- one of the most common forms found in fitness centers and yoga studios which features basic postures flowing together with the breath -- burns about 298 calories in one hour for a 155 pound person reports Harvard Health. This type of practice enhances mental and physical health with emphasis on the mind-body connection and energy flow along the spine. Faster paced power yoga classes like Ashtanga, facilitate a higher calorie burn -- as much as 362 calories in an hour. These classes feature more advanced, faster moving postures that often include jumps and challenging arm balances.
Regardless of how many calories you burn in yoga, a regular practice offers other weight management benefits. Yoga practice also helps reduce stress and the resulting overproduction of certain hormones which can contribute to weight gain says Baxter Bell, M.D., a yoga instructor and medical acupuncturist, writing for YogaJournal.com. Improved breathing, digestion regulation, and increased focus resulting from regular yoga practice may also discourage weight gain.
The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center released a study in 2005 showing that regular yoga practice impacts weight in healthy, middle-aged adults. The study did not focus on the calorie-burn of yoga, but rather on the way yoga influenced eating habits. In a survey of over 15,000 participants, researchers found that people who participated in a minimum of one 30 minute yoga session once a week either maintained or lost weight over a 10 year time frame. Those who did not regularly practice yoga gained about an average of 14 pounds over the same 10 years. Researchers concluded that while yoga did not likely create a huge calorie deficit in practitioners, it did help them become more aware of their food choices and feelings of satiation.
If your primary intention in yoga is to burn a lot of calories and lose weight, you should seek out a power, vinyasa flow or Ashtanga style class. If you are new to yoga, these more advanced classes may not be appropriate until you are more familiar with yoga postures. Use yoga as a complement to other other regular aerobic activity like walking, cycling or swimming to challenge different muscles and burn additional calories.
Enjoy the Process
Exercise does not always have to be about eliciting the biggest calorie burn. Yoga can help make you stronger, more flexible and injury-free, allowing you to persevere longer and harder when running or cycling and thus burn more calories in those endeavors. Yoga participants do not have to be extremely flexible -- anyone can join a yoga class and obtain benefits.