One of the most commonly asked questions by yoga beginners is do you lose weight with yoga? Unfortunately, the answer is not that simple! Yoga as a discipline consists of breathing exercises (pranayama), postures (asana), relaxation and meditation. The main forms of yoga practiced in the modern world are hatha yoga, vinyasa, ashtanga, yin yoga and power yoga. While in hatha yoga we practice and learn the base of asanas and pranayama; vinyasa, ashtanga and power yoga are more dynamic during which the body burns more calories.
To lose weight one should burn more calories than consumed. The basic body functions (like breathing, reproductive cells and body temperature) use 50-70% of calories. And the rest of the calories you burn depends on the level of physical activity. During one hour of yoga practice we can burn 200 to 600 calories, depending on the type of yoga.
In yoga, asanas are considered more like postures of the body than acrobatic movements. During asana practice there are two ways in we burn calories and tone the body. First, through dynamic movements in vinyasa, ashtanga or power yoga; and second while contracting muscles/ isometrics in yin yoga or hatha yoga.
Isometric movements develop when the muscle length remains the same and the body stays in a position contracting the muscles. Through these movements, toning and strengthening of the muscles is easily achieved. On the other hand, strong muscles burn more calories! Also, when moving from one posture to the other through dynamic movements coordinated with breathing the body increases oxygen intake and muscles release heat. The only weight we use during the session is the weight of our body, which is enough to increase our heart rate.
Definitely during a yoga session we burn calories especially when the session fits our physical condition or body requirements. But burning calories is not the only way we can lose weight with yoga. There are two more things to remember!
First, yoga aims to activate energy / PRANA on the body. Through pranayama, asanas we activate parana, balance chakras. the flow of energy on the body by stimulating the function of vital organs, glands, and balancing the entire body.
Second, yoga helps us to achieve "mindfulness". Through yoga we raise awareness on our body, concentration and learn to be present. Consequently, we are more aware of our nutrition, our emotional state, or the tension we hold on the body. Moreover, relaxation and lowering the stress level also reduces the level of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is a hormone that in response to stress stimulates appetite and the extra calories we eat convert into fat. Under the influence of cortisol, the accumulated fat affects the development of insulin resistance and heart diseases. By fighting stress, yoga helps normalize cortisol levels, regulates appetite, and increases awareness on what we eat.
Unfortunately, the question do we lose weight with yoga is not easy to be answered. While for someone weight loss comes quickly and easily, for someone else it takes a lot of time and effort. We should keep in mind that what works for someone does not work for someone else.
To sum up, certainly with a regular yoga practice 3-5 times a week, healthy and regular nutrition we will achieved not only weight loss but also a total well-being of the body and mind. What we feel inside is more important than the number on the scale or the size of our clothes. Achieving inner peace, good health and lightness of the body is the primary aim of yoga !!