What Type of Yoga Is Best for Weight Loss?

Although weight loss is complex, its most basic tenet is that you’ll need to burn more calories than you consume in order to shed pounds. In addition to increasing your strength, flexibility and balance, yoga can help with weight loss because the physical activity involved burning calories. In general, more active types of yoga classes will be best for weight loss because the increased activity burns more calories. However, choosing the type of yoga that best fits your fitness approach will increase the chances that you will stick with the program and lose more weight over time.

Ashtanga's intense arm balances and strength-building can contribute to calories burned and weight loss. (Image: Kraig Scarbinsky/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Vinyasa, Ashtanga and Bikram

Choosing more active yoga styles will best support weight-loss goals. Active yoga classes include more movement, more challenging poses and more focus on strength building and cardiovascular exercise. Vinyasa, or “flow” yoga, features continuous movement from pose to pose, with yoga pushups frequently interspersed between challenging sequences. Ashtanga yoga features strength work, including arm balances and core strength development. Bikram yoga includes a series of 26 preset poses that are completed in heated rooms with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Know Your Body

Most types of yoga won’t burn as many calories as traditional exercise forms such as running or jogging. However, most yoga classes incorporate a mind-body awareness aspect that can promote weight loss. During yoga classes, you’ll be encouraged to focus on your breathing and pay attention to how you’re feeling. When eating, for example, you might learn to eat more slowly in order to savor each bite, and then stop when you feel full in order to avoid overeating. If yoga classes help you feel less stressed and more at peace, you might feel less inclined to eat or drink when you’re feeling anxious.

Make the Most of It

Opt for classes that involve 60 to 90 minutes of high-intensity movement so that muscles can strengthen, contract and lengthen. Engaging in yoga four to five times per week can help create a regular habit that will eventually contribute to overall weight loss. Yoga activity helps burn calories, but it also helps create muscle. Adding muscle can help sculpt your body, which makes you appear fitter, although you might not see lower numbers on the scale right away.

Steer Clear for Weight Loss

Some yoga classes, including gentle yoga or restorative yoga, are better suited for relaxation and stress-reduction than weight loss because of the lower number of calories burned. For example, a relaxing Hatha yoga class that focuses on simple, traditional movements will burn 189 calories in an hour compared to 351 calories in an Ashtanga class, 477 calories burned in a Bikram class or 594 calories burned in a Vinyasa class, according to Fit Sugar. Calorie counts are approximations based on individual weight, though, and some calories burned in heated yoga classes have more to do with sweating in order to cool the body than actual physical exertion. In general, though, quieter yoga classes won’t burn as many calories.

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