Yoga is a way to get flexible and release stress, right? It’s effective for both. However, yoga may also help you control your weight if you do it regularly. It’s not that yoga is a major calorie burner. The number of calories you burn during yoga depends on the type of routine you do and your sessions’ length. Yoga doesn’t burn as many calories per minute as running, jogging, or cycling at a moderate to a brisk pace. Hatha yoga burns as few as 180 calories per session. Despite this, research shows that people who do yoga have an easier time controlling their weight. In this article, Russell Herbert Jack of Southland Yoga Training looks at some of the ways yoga helps with weight loss and weight control.
By Relieving Stress and Lowering Cortisol
One of the reasons people do yoga is to ease stress. Do you ever notice how “chilled” you feel after a relaxing yoga session? Those relaxed feelings work in your favor if you’re trying to lose weight. Chronic stress boosts cortisol, a hormone your adrenal glands produce when you’re stressed out. Studies show that yoga helps tame excess cortisol, so you feel more relaxed and less uptight.
Why is high cortisol a problem when you’re trying to lose weight? It worsens food cravings, especially for sugary and fatty foods that are most likely to expand your waistline. Plus, cortisol changes where your body stores fat. With a higher cortisol level, you’re more likely to store fat around your waistline and tummy, which boosts your odds of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
By Changing How You Eat
Another reason people do yoga is to increase mindfulness. Being mindful means living in the moment and appreciating what your senses perceive in the here and now. Mindfulness helps you make better food choices too. When you’re mindful, you don’t make decisions on autopilot. You stop and think about what you’re putting into your body.
Plus, being mindful teaches you to appreciate every aspect of what you eat – the taste, textures, and aroma. With greater awareness and enjoyment of every bite, you naturally consume fewer calories. People who start doing yoga often report a change in their tastes. Ultra-processed foods and sugar offer less appeal, and they enjoy more whole foods in their natural state.
Greater Body Awareness
When you do yoga poses, you become more aware of how your body moves and how you breathe. Such awareness empowers you and encourages you to adopt other healthy habits that make it easier to control your weight. You develop a greater understanding of how your mind affects your mental and physical health and are less likely to make decisions that harm your health or body weight.
Yes, Yoga Burns Calories Too
Although most yoga forms don’t burn as many calories as running long distances or doing high-intensity interval training, some yoga types, due to their fast-paced nature, are effective calorie burners. Two examples are Vinyasa yoga and power yoga. Both types of yoga strengthen and increase muscle endurance. Therefore, they offer some of the benefits of weight training. Plus, they boost your heart rate more than slower yoga forms, like Hatha, meaning you burn more calories. The take-home message? If you’re trying to lose weight, including some Vinyasa and power yoga in your sessions is a great idea.
You might not think that sleep is closely tied to weight control, but it is. Research shows lack of sleep boosts ghrelin, an appetite hormone that makes you hungry, and suppresses leptin, a satiety hormone that helps you feel fuller. Therefore, you may eat more total calories when you skimp on sleep. Plus, people tend to make less healthy food choices when they’re sleep-deprived. When you’re tired, you’re more likely to pick up convenience food than cook a nutrient-dense meal.
Can yoga help you sleep better too? A study in older adults found that those who practiced yoga enjoyed improved sleep quality, fell asleep faster, and felt more energized during the day. It’s not surprising that yoga improves sleep quality since it helps people better deal with stress. Worry and anxiety are two common reasons that people have trouble falling asleep.
The Bottom Line
Even if yoga isn’t a significant calorie burner, it has added benefits that can help you lose weight or better control your body weight.
About Russell Herbert Jack
Russell Herbert Jack is a founder of Southland Yoga Training in Invercargill, New Zealand. He is passionate about spirituality, the vegan lifestyle, animal rights, and living in sync with nature. Russell specializes in Vinyasa Yoga, Qigong, and guided meditations. Vinyasa yoga or flow yoga heightens consciousness by moving from one position to another seamlessly, using breath. Just like Vinyasa Yoga, Qigong has many healing properties to the body, mind, and spirit.