If you're getting into yoga, then chances are you're on a quest for overall fitness. You know that yoga is great for restoring you to good posture, stretching out kinked up muscles and building strength through isometric exercise. So the next logical question is, how many calories can you put in the "burned" column at the end of your yoga class?
That's not the easiest question to answer because there are quite a few variables to take into account. Your calorie burn depends on the style of yoga you're doing, the level at which the class is being taught, the length of the class and your own level of intensity. In addition to the variables surrounding the type and intensity of exercise, calorie expenditure also depends on individual characteristics. Body type, gender, size and age all come into play. That said, it's possible to get a rough idea of the number of calories you expend in pursuit of the perfect Downward-Facing Dog.
Hatha and Ashtanga
According to Harvard Health, one hour of Hatha yoga, which is the type most commonly taught in yoga classes, will burn about 298 calories for a 155-pound person. Hatha focuses on maintaining breath awareness and holding poses that elongate the muscles. However, other forms of yoga that may be referred to generically as vinyasa yoga can be quite a bit more aggressive.
Ashtanga yoga, for example, is a continuous succession of poses that gets your heart rate up and may even bestow some aerobic benefit. Not surprisingly, that jacks up the calories-burned to as much as 362 per hour for the same 155-pound person. Asthanga, Power Yoga and Baptiste yoga are all styles of vinyasa yoga -- which flows the breath with movement. Some estimates suggest vinyasa-style classes burn up to 573 calories per hour.
Hot and Bothered Means More Calories Burned
But what of hot yoga? Does doing yoga in a room where the temperature is cranked up to as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit, as in a Bikram yoga class, make you burn more calories? While it might seem that way, there's no strong evidence that exercising in extreme heat burns more calories.
However, Bikram classes run you through a sequence of 26 poses without much of a pause in between, and they run for 90 minutes. The extra exertion probably accounts for why Bikram does seem to burn more calories than, say, Hatha yoga, though estimates range quite a bit.
A 2014 Colorado State University study found that women burned an average of 330 calories and men 460 calories per 90-minute Bikram class. Other estimates put Bikram yoga's calorie burn closer to 493 per hour -- or just over 700 calories per 90-minute class.
Yoga for Weight Loss
Yoga may not be the ultimate calorie-burning activity, but it seems to help with weight management in other ways -- particularly when it comes to avoiding weight gain in middle age.
Between the ages of 45 and 55, most people gain about a pound a year. Yoga has been shown to help people stay ahead of the curve. A <ahref="https: 2005="" www.fredhutch.org="" en="" news="" releases="" 07="" yogaexercise.html"=""> </ahref="https:>study funded by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that people who were doing yoga at the age of 45 and who were of normal body weight gained an average of 3 pounds less in the subsequent 10 years than people who didn't do yoga. Overweight people benefited even more, losing about 5 pounds compared to the 14 gained by non-yogis.
Researchers believe that the weight control benefits stem from taking a more mindful approach to eating. This would manifest in the form of better food choices such as incorporating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your diet. Also, because yoga puts you more in touch with your body, it might mean less stress eating and learning to notice when you're full.