For many of us, yoga is a lot more about stretching, de-stressing, and trying to master meditation than it is about kicking up our calorie burn. But that doesn't mean you can't (or shouldn’t!) turn to yoga for weight loss, too.
After all, yoga builds total-body strength like nobody’s business. Building muscle is the key to unlocking your metabolism’s potential, helping you to burn more calories during every workout and even in savasana (that awesome pose at the end of class when you just lie there and try not to fall asleep!). Plus, depending on your yogasanas (a.k.a. yoga postures), the right yoga class can elevate your heart rate just as well as any other high-intensity workout. Yes, seriously.
What’s more, on the mind-body side of things, the mindfulness that yoga teaches is critical to healthy and sustainable weight loss, helping to slash stress and even promote intuitive eating practices. 2016 research from the National Institutes of Health shows that its yoga’s wide range of physical, mental, and social benefits that make it such a comprehensive weight-loss tool.
So, whether you’ve long used yoga as a “recovery day” activity or have just ignored it outright in favor of other calorie-torching pursuits, it’s time to turn up the burn with yoga. The key is finding the right form of yoga for your weight-loss goals.
That’s why we teamed up with top yoga and weight-loss experts to ID the best forms of yoga for weight loss. Here they are, ranked from nice-little-burn to make-those-fat-cells-cry.
Not to be confused with "hot yoga," Bikram is a 90-minute practice that continually moves through 26 specifically-ordered poses, challenging postures, and sequences to get your heart rate way up.
Okay, to clarify, sometimes Bikram classes are heated somewhat similarly to "hot yoga" classes, but the extra sweat doesn't result in more calories burned. “Sweating a lot during a workout can lead to water loss, and you might see that reflected on the scale immediately after, but as soon as you rehydrate those pounds will come back,” explains Kristin McGee, celebrity yoga instructor and author of Chair Yoga: Sit, Stretch, and Strengthen Your Way to a Happier, Healthier You.
Instead, it's the continual fast-paced movements that make Bikram promote not just flexibility, but also weight loss. In fact, researchers at Colorado State University who studied the benefits of Bikram yoga found that what you might burn during a usual class was equivalent to the calorie burn of a brisk walk. For the best results, stick with Bikram for at least eight weeks.
A form of hatha yoga, Iyengar doesn't involve as much movement as other kinds of yoga, but because the degree of detail involved in this practice, both in terms of the asanas (postures) and pranayama (your breathing), it's great for building both muscle and mental grit. (Ever been told to hold your pushup half way through, and seconds in you’re shaking and sweat starts dripping to the floor in front of you? Yea, Iyengar is kind of like that.)
“Iyengar yoga flows like Vinyasa yoga, which has continuous movements linked together, but holding positions longer is beneficial in boosting strength and calming the mind, which often keeps us from unconscious snacking,” explains instructor Alanna Zabel, founder of Aziam Yoga.
You read that right, there’s a yoga type named Forrest. Devised by Ana Forrest, it's designed to address modern-day lifestyle aliments. Hey, we’re all guilty of spending too much time hunched over our computers and phones. The result: weakened lower back muscles, rounded shoulders, and a lazy core.
Forrest yoga can fix that. With intense pose sequences, long holds, and deep breathing, this style focuses on building the core to strengthen you from the inside out. “When your core is strong all around, and properly bracing your spine, it allows your limbs to move more rapidly and forcefully,” says McGee.
While that bodes well for losing weight on the yoga mat, a strong core will also help you get more results on the treadmill or under the squat rack. Integrate weekly Forrest sessions into your workout routine to take all of your workouts to the next level.
You’ll see this one on any class schedule, and while it’s not a specific type of yoga, it’s an umbrella term for a physically-focused, rather than spiritually-minded, yoga practice. So, yeah, your body's going to feel this one!
Hatha consists of a combination of poses that involve sitting and standing, but moves won’t flow organically from one to the next. Beware: The challenging thing with Hatha is that you never know what you’ll get when you walk into a new class. Every instructor has their own preferences in terms of speed and intensity.
If you really want to boost your calorie burn look for a Power Hatha yoga class, which builds strength and works the large muscle groups (remember, working bigger muscles translates to a bigger calorie burn).
This fast-paced yoga style goes nonstop from start to finish, adding the cardiovascular element you need to really burn calories and lose weight. Vinyasa is a stylistic approach to practicing yoga, meaning it links a series of asanas together by flowing from one to the next very quickly. “In the realm of asana practice as an athletic endeavor, the body needs speed and intensity to get results for weight loss," says Bethany Lyons, founder of Lyons Den Power Yoga in New York City. Expect to walk out of a Vinyasa class feeling like you were just kicking butt at bootcamp.
What's more, by focusing on the same asanas class after class, Vinyasa allows you to progress in the same way you would when following a multi-week workout program in the gym. With each class, you systematically and progressively build on what you've already accomplished, which is the key to any effective workout.
After gaining nearly 100lbs while suffering from PCOS, my journey to lose weight has finally ended and my love and appreciation for healthy but delicious food has just begun. This my story on how I lost nearly 90lbs while still completely indulging in life.