While ashtanga yoga doesn't provide you with an intense cardiovascular workout, it can support weight loss in other ways. Yoga qualifies as a strength-training and muscle-building exercise, while offering a number of mental health benefits that can help you feel energetic and positive on your journey to the body you want.
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Ashtanga, or eight-limbed, yoga is a form of yoga that emphasizes both posture and breath. During an ashtanga practice, you'll work through a strenuous series of poses, carefully coordinating your breath and movements. Each asana or pose requires a specific series of inhalations and exhalations. While your yoga practice may not burn as many calories as a run or aerobic class, you can expect to work up a sweat, strengthen your muscles and leave class feeling refreshed and invigorated. And Harvard Medical School Health Publications points out that a hatha yoga class, a less vigorous style of yoga than ashtanga, burns the same amount of calories as water aerobics, gymnastics, horseback riding and competitive volleyball, from 240 to 356 calories per hour, depending on your body weight.
If you have weight to lose, ashtanga yoga can help to improve your posture and flexibility, as well as strengthen your muscles. You may find that improved muscle tone slims your body, even if you don't lose pounds. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone engage in strength-training exercises at least twice a week, and an ashtanga practice qualifies as a muscle-building workout.
Mental Health Benefits
Regular yoga practice, like following an ashtanga yoga class or DVD, can help to improve your self image and help you to feel better about your body. Yoga reduces stress and anxiety. If you are an emotional eater, you may find that yoga helps you to stick to your diet plan and improves your control over binge eating and unhealthy eating patterns.
Ashtanga yoga can challenge you and improve your physical and mental health, but isn't appropriate for everyone. If you're quite overweight or out of shape, you may wish to start with a less-intense practice such as hatha yoga. Let your yoga instructor know if you have any special health concerns that may require modifications. As with any new exercise program, check with your health care provider before you start doing yoga.