We all have that one friend (or you’re that one friend) who can’t stop talking about yoga. And that’s because, well, it’s pretty rad.
In addition to helping you go with the flow both physically and mentally, those Asanas might help you look and feel a little more svelte.
Here’s the sitch on yoga for weight loss.
There are three key ways yoga might help you shed some pounds.
Losing weight is all about that calorie deficit. If you burn more calories than you take in each day, then you’ll see the number on the scale slide downward.
You can achieve this deficit by eating fewer calories, burning more calories through exercise, or both. And yoga can definitely help with the burning more calories part of the equation (literally, if you’re into hot yoga).
To ramp up your calorie burn, you’ll want to choose more active and aerobic styles that will have you breaking a sweat.
It’s a bummer, but most fat loss endeavors are also accompanied by losses in muscle mass.
Because muscle burns more calories than fat, losing muscle can make it even harder for you to lose weight because your metabolic rate — or the number of calories you burn at rest — decreases. Womp, womp.
Luckily, yoga can help you maintain your existing muscle mass and strength levels.
Holding yoga poses for extended periods of time is a form of isometric exercise, which involves contracting a muscle for a set period while holding still. (Think holding tree pose or downward-facing dog for several breaths).
For this reason, yoga is a great way to prevent the muscle losses that often accompany weight loss, making it easier to keep meeting your weight loss goals.
Finally, yoga can help you catch some Zzz’s and feel more grounded, optimistic, and calm.
And surprisingly, this could have an indirect effect on your weight. Say what?
Cortisol has no chill and assumes you’re either starving to death or being chased by a bear (maybe both?), so it ramps up fat storage, may keep you from sleeping soundly, and jacks your hunger hormones all up. This can lead to cravings for sugary, high calorie foods.
Luckily, yoga may actually help break the cortisol curse, making it easier for you to shed extra pounds.
All types of yoga are likely to provide a mixture of these benefits, but here are some styles you may want to try if you’re looking for one of these effects in particular.
To burn more calories, try:
- Vinyasa: Vinyasa is a style of yoga that consists of one move per breath. It can provide quite a workout while still being flowy. Most yoga classes are Vinyasa style. It’s great for beginners and advanced yogis alike.
- Hot: Hot yoga is a Vinyasa style in a balmy, 95+ degree room. You will sweat (oh, boy, will you), and you will def burn some calories.
To preserve muscle, try:
- Ashtanga: Ashtanga is a flowy style like Vinyasa, but in this style, you will hold some poses for multiple breaths instead of moving to a new pose with each breath. It follows a set sequence each time, making it easy for you to feel your strength progress.
- Hatha: Hatha is a slower version of Vinyasa when you hold each pose for multiple breaths before moving on to the next. Holding these poses for longer periods helps you to maintain your strength. But you may not work up as much of a sweat.
To unwind, try:
- Yin: Yin yoga focuses on floor movements that are long, slow, and purposeful to promote rest, recovery, and relaxation. Sounds pretty blissful, if you ask us.
- Restorative: Like Yin, restorative yoga is all about the R&R. It uses props and bolsters to cradle you into an extremely restful state gently. It’s notoriously easy to doze off during one of these sessions, but hey — no one’s judging.
There are also several other types of yoga you can explore, like prenatal yoga (for the mommas-to-be), aerial yoga (for the aspiring acrobats), and Kundalini yoga (for those who want a more spiritual experience).
If you’re new to yoga, start with a short beginner’s class just two or three times a week. You can do it at home or at a yoga studio.
Hatha yoga is a great way for beginners to dip their toes into yoga because it offers a triple-whammy of weight loss benefits: It helps you maintain muscle, is relaxing, and can be moderately aerobic (especially for newbies).
Beginner Vinyasa classes are also easy to find and offer the same array of benefits. Remember, though — healthy weight loss isn’t an overnight thing. Yoga is omm-mazing (get it?), but certainly no get-slim-quick scheme.
As part of a healthy lifestyle, taking to the mat a few times a week may help you burn more calories, maintain muscle, and relax — but weight loss is not guaranteed.
Need more support? Find a trusted certified personal trainer (CPT) or registered dietitian (RD) who can help you create a healthy and sustainable weight loss plan.