You go to yoga for the spiritual awakening and cosmic energy, right? Or maybe you really go to yoga to burn calories. An active vinyasa class is reported to burn a good number of calories per hour of practice — about equal to running at 5 mph. Of course, exactly how many calories burned depends on your size, intensity and familiarity with the practice.
The Health Status calculator estimates that a 150-pound woman burns 594 calories in an hour-long practice. This is slightly misleading, however, as it assumes you're actively flowing the whole time — no Child's pose or Savasana.
What is Vinyasa?
Vinyasa describes any yoga practice in which you move from pose to pose, linking the posture with the breath. Ashtanga, Power and flow classes are all considered styles of vinyasa yoga.
The intensity of the flow influences the calorie burn. A slow flowing class is technically defined as vinyasa, but will burn fewer calories than a class that links flows together with Sun Salutations, Chair, lunges, Chaturangas, hand stands and jump-throughs.
Your Practice Experience
If you're new to yoga practice, you'll likely burn more calories than a regular practitioner. This is because the moves are new to your body and it thus takes more effort for you to flow from pose to pose. A conditioned yogi has muscle memory and developed efficiency to step into Warrior I and Triangle, as well as other poses with ease.
A usual vinyasa class begins slowly — with a few seated postures and breath work — and then builds to more intense postures that burn the most calories. You then wind down to longer holds of poses, such as Pigeon or Seated Forward Fold, which don't burn many calories. Finally, practice ends with 5 minutes in Savasana, in which you lie in Corpse pose to steady the mind and central nervous system.
While this pattern makes for a well-balanced class, it only leaves about 20 to 40 minutes of high-intensity flowing that burns a good number of calories. This is why estimates of 500 calories or more burned in vinyasa can be misleading.
A larger person burns more calories during practice. It simply takes more energy to fuel a bigger engine. This means that if you're a 115-pound woman, you'll burn a lot less than a 200-pound man.
How to Maximize Calorie Burn
You can make your practice burn more calories by whether you're at home, or practicing in a studio.
- Use an swift ujjayi breath to link the postures. Inhale and exhale through your nose at a rate of about 2 seconds in to 2 seconds out.
- Incorporate mostly standing and balancing postures, especially Warrior III and Dancer.
- When your teacher gives you permission to rest in Child's pose, opt for Downward-Facing Dog. Resting doesn't burn significant calories.
- Choose Ashtanga or Power vinyasa classes, if they're offered where you practice.