Whether yoga is good for weight loss is a little bit like asking if the outdoors is good for weight loss. It depends on how you approach it and what you do.
So the short answer is yes, yoga can likely help with weight loss. If you do a more intense form of yoga, it can increase your heart rate and burn calories.
But yoga may have other weight-loss benefits in addition to the traditional burn calories and build muscle approach to weight loss. Yoga may help your body respond to stress more effectively by reducing your heart rate and blood pressure in stressful situations. Less stress often means better weight control. Stress can push certain hormones out of whack that normally help manage your appetite. In addition, stress may send you on a search for comfort food (which you then consume).
Yoga may also deliver weight benefits by helping you sleep better. One 2013 study found that people who practiced yoga reported having fewer sleeping disturbances compared to those who didn’t. Poor sleep increases ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite. And worrying all the time increases cortisol, the stress hormone, which may lead to sugar cravings.
A few studies hint that yoga may also keep you from gaining weight. One study from the University of Minnesota in 2017 that looked at more than 1800 young adults saw that those who were overweight and practiced yoga regularly didn’t see an increase in their body mass index (BMI), while those who didn’t do yoga regularly tended to see increases in BMI.
But whether yoga can help you lose weight also depends on what kind of yoga you practice and how you approach it. Here’s what to know:
What type of yoga is best for weight loss?
There are various types of yoga—and some are relaxing while others are pretty intense. if you’re looking for more of a calorie-burning experience, Young recommends Vinyasa because it’s more athletic.
“It’s strenuous. It’s cardio-based. It’s literally moving constantly,” says instructor Olivia Young, founder of Box + Flow in New York.
You may have also heard this referred to as “flow” because the movements run together. Within Vinyasa, there are various other subsets, like power yoga.
In comparison, Hatha focuses on one pose at a time and includes breaks between movements.
You should become acquainted with movements like the downward dog, high plank, and low push up, commonly found in a flow sequence, says Young.
Yoga improves other factors that help with weight loss
Research shows that yoga can help your body respond to stress more effectively, by reducing heart rate and blood pressure in stressful situations. What’s more, one 2013 study found that people who practiced yoga reported having fewer sleeping disturbances compared to those who didn’t. And both sleep and stress can affect your weight. That’s because poor sleep increases ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite. And worrying all the time increases cortisol, the stress hormone, which may lead to sugar cravings, according to WebMD.
How much weight can you lose doing yoga?
Weight loss varies by person and is dependent on a variety of factors including your beginning weight, overall activity level, and diet. To have yoga help you lose weight, Young recommends practicing yoga four times a week and pairing it with extra cardio, like shadow boxing or running.
It’s natural to want fast results, but the most successful dieters lose weight slowly. The CDC recommends losing no more than one to two pounds per week.
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