When it comes to workouts that are both good for the mind and the body, yoga seems to take the cake. Not only can it help with strength and flexibility, but it can work wonders on alleviating anxiety and reducing stress. But, for those looking to embark on a weight loss journey, you might find yourself wondering if doing just yoga will get you results. No doubt, the practice can be beneficial, but can you really lose weight with yoga?
Thankfully, if you’re a yoga lover, we’ve got good news for you. Yoga can be an effective weight loss strategy. This is especially true if you opt for practices that get your blood flowing and your heart pumping. “It is possible to lose weight by just doing yoga, but, it depends on what type of yoga you’re doing,” says Personal Trainer and Yoga Teacher Crystal Widmann. “Generally speaking, weight loss goals will more likely be accomplished through quicker-paced vinyasa or power yoga styles that get your heart rate up. You’re less likely to see weight loss with slower-paced styles of yoga.”
It is possible to lose weight with yoga, based on the ways that it strengthens, stretches, and calms your body. Here are the numerous ways that yoga can help you shed those pounds.
It lowers stress.
Yoga is known for its stress-busting powers. It turns out that diminished stress can have just as much benefit for your body as it does for your mind. “Yoga can lower your stress levels by reducing the stress hormone, cortisol,” says Holistic Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher Tatiana Ridley, CHHC, AADP. “Cortisol is the culprit for weight gain, sending signals to your brain to crave glucose (sugar) in order to combat low blood sugar levels. This, in turn, can lead to overeating and weight gain.”
It strengthens your muscles.
Anyone who has done yoga knows that holding those poses aren’t easy. This is because they really work your muscles. “Yoga improves overall strength and flexibility, ultimately enhancing your other workout efforts,” says Aaptiv trainer Jade Alexis. “The more flexible you are, the better you will be at other workouts. Yoga will open you up so [that] your muscles can work to their fullest potential, allowing you to get more out of each workout.”
It tones your abs.
Certain yoga poses, in particular, really focus on the core, which can help create abdominal strength. “There are certain poses that one can try to aid in the weight loss process. [This] includes one of my faves: the anantasana pose (aka Vishnu’s couch pose),” says Ridley. “This pose tones the ab muscles, focusing on both sides of the belly when you stretch. It works by improving blood circulation and digestion to firm up your fat.”
To perform this pose, lie on your right side. Support your head with your high hand. Hug your left knee in by your left armpit and clasp the top of your foot (or toes) with your left hand. Engage your core and press the top of your foot into your hand as you slowly straighten the leg. Push with your left heel to further extend the stretch. Hold and try it on the reverse side.
It is aerobic exercise.
“Yoga is considered a form of aerobic fitness training, because you move the body through a series of postures for an extended period of time, rather than using short bursts of energy,” says Widmann. “This form of training aids with weight loss. It taxes the cardio-respiratory system, making you use more energy to keep the body going. Basically, you’re expending calories at a fast rate during a more intense yoga session.”
It puts you in a healthy mindset
One of the most beneficial ways that you can lose weight with yoga is to tap into a healthy mindset. “Yoga starts to train the body and the mind to lead a healthy lifestyle,” says Alexis. People who do yoga often find that they treat their body differently after doing yoga, including making better food choices, maximizing sleep, and practicing self-love—all of which can contribute to weight loss.
So, how can you ensure that you are going to shed those pounds when trying to lose weight with yoga? For starters, opt for classes that include as much movement as possible, such as vinyasa, Ashtanga, or power flow. “The movements are typically more dynamic and the flow is a bit more athletically challenging. So the postures and sequences of the flow would involve strength and in some case cardiovascular endurance,” says Alexis. “It will feel like a workout, not just a stretch and mind cleanse! It’s also very important to not just flop into the posture. Engage your muscles, lift and be active, and fire up your muscles.”
Additionally, you can try supplementing your yoga practice with some additional strength training and cardio. “Since yoga is a form of aerobic training, the best pair for it is something like weight lifting, pilates, or barre, aimed at strengthening the core,” says Widmann. “The more muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolic rate. [This] means you’ll burn more calories at rest than someone who doesn’t do any type of strength training.”
If you stick to a class with lots of movement, there’s no reason why you can’t lose weight with yoga.