From improving flexibility to helping manage stress, the benefits of regularly practicing yoga are vast. Plus, yoga is easy for beginners to pick up and you can adapt the intensity and difficulty level of poses as you continue along your fitness journey.
While the most significant benefits of yoga are an improved mind-body connection and increased physical strength, you may be wondering if doing yoga can help you lose weight. When practiced consistently and paired with a well-balanced diet, yoga can also be a tool to assist with weight management — but the reason why goes far beyond just burning calories and building muscle.
Here is everything you need to know about yoga for weight loss, according to professional yoga instructors.
Editor’s note: Weight loss, health and body image are complex subjects — we invite you to gain a broader perspective by reading our coverage of the hazards of diet culture. Before starting any fitness regimen, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider.
Table of Contents
Can yoga help you lose weight?
Any type of regular physical activity can play an important role in weight management, and yoga offers an approachable and enjoyable form of movement. “While not the main benefit of yoga, it is possible to lose weight with a consistent practice,” says Beachbody Super Trainer Elise Joan, who has been certified by the Yoga Alliance since 2004. “That’s because yoga creates more lean muscle in the body, and that process temporarily raises your body’s resting metabolic rate, helping you burn more calories and fat.”
In addition to improving your metabolism and building muscle, yoga can also aid weight management in other less obvious ways. Tamara Teragawa, an experienced 500 RYT-registered yoga teacher and Master Trainer for YogaSix, says that most styles of yoga help you develop mindfulness, breath work and mind-body awareness. “All of these things can help you to decrease stress levels, improve sleep and become more mindful of what you put in your body — which all contribute to promoting weight loss,” she notes.
Researchers agree: A study from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that downward-dog lovers were more mindful eaters than walkers and runners. Less stress (and more activity) also helps you snooze better, and studies show that well-rested folks are more likely to stick to a healthy eating plan and succeed at losing weight than sleep-deprived people.
Is there a certain type of yoga that is best for weight loss?
While yoga isn’t traditionally considered a top form of aerobic exercise (it generally burns less calories than other forms of cardio), certain types of yoga that are more intense can help you burn a significant amount of calories.
“There are many different types of yoga, but the styles that challenge your body the most will often be the ones that help you gain more muscle, decrease body fat percentage and burn more calories,” says Teragawa.
If weight loss is one of your goals, regularly practicing a more active and rigorous flow style, like Vinyasa, can elevate your cardiovascular health, which can in turn result in weight loss when paired with a balanced diet. “Strength-based varieties like Vinyasa and Ashtanga also provide the benefit of building lean muscle and a stronger physique,” adds Joan.
How often should you do yoga to lose weight?
Even if you take just one yoga class a week, you’ll likely see benefits. But if you want to see long-term progress, it’s important to stay consistent and practice yoga as often as possible for weight loss. Incorporating other types of exercise into your regimen, like running or high-intensity interval training, can be beneficial, too.
“If yoga is your main form of working out to lose weight, aim to practice more intensely three to five times per week for about an hour,” Teragawa suggests. “On other days when you still want to move but not as vigorously, practice more gentle forms of yoga, such as a slow Vinyasa class or restorative yoga. This way you can still get your breath work and mindfulness practice in, but also allow your physical body some time to relax and recover.”
When it comes to the amount of weight loss to expect when beginning a yoga practice, it can vary greatly based on a variety of factors, including the style of yoga you participate in, your dietary choices, stress levels and more. In her past 20+ years of teaching yoga, Joan says she has seen some people lose upwards of 30 pounds after beginning a yoga regimen — but she notes that results depend on each individual person and their routine.
Yoga poses to try at home
There is no single yoga pose that will result in weight loss, but there are several poses that can help you build strength and muscle mass. Here, a few that Teragawa recommends adding to your home yoga practice when you don’t have time for a full class — roll out your favorite yoga mat and get moving!
- Begin in plank pose with shoulders directly over wrists.
- Engage your core and push back through your heels as you exhale and bend your elbows to slowly lower your body down to the ground. Aim for your elbows to be at around 90º directly over your wrists and along your sides.
- Hold the pose for a few breaths, and then slowly lower all the way down to the floor or push back up into plank.
2. Navasana (Boat Pose)
- Begin seated with your legs straight in front of you and your hands pressed against the floor by your hips.
- Lean back slightly and keep your core engaged as you balance your weight.
- Bend your knees and slowly lift your thighs up so they are about 45º above the floor.
- Keep your shins parallel to the floor and then slowly work up towards straightening your legs.
- Aim to stay in the pose for 15 seconds and slowly increase your time to a full minute as you progress.
3. Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)
- Begin standing tall in a wide stance with feet about three or four feet apart.
- Extend your arms out to the sides and turn your right foot out so it is facing forward. Then, slightly turn your left foot in.
- Bend your right knee so that your right thigh is parallel to the floor.
- Elongate the arms towards the front and back of the mat and look past your right fingertips. Stay in the pose for five to ten breaths.
4. Anjaneyasana (Crescent Lunge Pose)
- Begin in downward facing dog. Raise the right leg behind you as you inhale, then exhale as you step the right foot forward between your hands so that the right knee is in line with the right ankle.
- Ground through your feet as you inhale and sweep the arms up and out with the palms facing towards each other. Stay in the position for five to ten breaths.
5. Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
- Stand tall and inhale as you raise your arms straight overhead. Your biceps should be slightly in front of your ears and palms should face inward.
- Bend your knees as you exhale, aiming for thighs to be parallel to the floor.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds to a minute.
6. Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)
- Begin standing tall with feet about four feet apart. Turn the left foot out 90º and angle the right foot in slightly. Place arms in a T position with palms facing down.
- Bend your left knee so that your left thigh becomes parallel with the floor. Hinge at the hips to bring your left arm towards the floor and place your left fingertips on the ground or on a block.
- Extend the right arm up over the right ear with your palm facing down and turn your chest towards that raised arm. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to a minute, then switch sides.
The bottom line
While practicing yoga can result in weight loss, the benefits of a consistent practice go far beyond the numbers on the scale. You’ll develop strength and flexibility, while also cultivating a deeper connection to and awareness of your own body. Whether you start incorporating yoga into your fitness routine one or five days a week, you’ll soon begin to see and feel its powerful benefits.
Why trust Good Housekeeping?
Stefani Sassos, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., NASM-CPT, has been working in the fitness industry for the past 10 years, specializing in indoor cycling and strength training. As a NASM-certified personal trainer, she uses her expertise and exercise science knowledge to create informed fitness content for Good Housekeeping. Stefani fell in love with yoga when she was pregnant with her first child and she continues to incorporate it into her exercise regimen.
Nutrition Lab Deputy Director
Stefani (she/her) is a registered dietitian, a NASM-certified personal trainer and the deputy director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab, where she handles all nutrition-related content, testing and evaluation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciences from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from NYU. She is also Good Housekeeping’s on-staff fitness and exercise expert. Stefani is dedicated to providing readers with evidence-based content to encourage informed food choices and healthy living. She is an avid CrossFitter and a passionate home cook who loves spending time with her big fit Greek family.
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