One of the most consistent items on my personal to-do list is to do more yoga. It's always been something I wished I was more into, as I noticed my friends, who became die=hard yogis, seemed more mentally sane and physically fit. Yoga seemed like a great workout, since all it felt like I was doing for a full hour was playing an adult game of Twister. I left yoga classes feeling happy and a wee bit more flexible than when I came in.
But when it comes time to picking and choosing my workout for the day, I usually ditch taking a yoga class and take a high-intensity workout class instead with the thought that it will be more of a calorie burner and a body shaper than a Vinyasa.
I began to wonder: can yoga help with weight loss or should I stick with boot-camp-style classes instead?
Heather L. Tyler, an NSCA-certified personal trainer, says that even a higher-intensity power yoga class won't burn enough calories by itself to reduce weight. "However, yoga is tremendously valuable as part of an overall fitness plan by increasing muscle stamina, length, and flexibility. Pair that with resistance training, sensible cardio, and good nutrition, and you're on your way to long-term goals," Tyler says.
However, there are ways that yoga can get your body and mind in better shape. One way is by using the breathing techniques you implement during a yoga practice.
"Yoga encourages correct breathing techniques, and breathing purposefully activates our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), also known as the 'rest and digest' system," says Nicola Burt-Skinner, a coach at The Wellness Academy For Working Women. "By triggering this system, it signals to our brain that there is no present danger, and, as such, our adrenaline and cortisol levels are reduced. These hormones are responsible for storing fat to compensate for times of famine. Yoga and breathing turn this off and thus reduces fat."
If done often, Kristen Cantwell, a nurse practitioner and owner of Vitality Aesthetic Institute, says that yoga can help you lose weight. "Yoga has the ability to increase lean muscle mass in addition to its well-known benefits for flexibility," Cantwell says. "A consistent yoga practice will lead to the discovery of new, underused muscles."
Mimi Ko, a fitness instructor and yoga Instructor at Spa Pechanga, agrees. "Weight loss is rarely just about burning calories," Ko says. "In most cases, the more vital issue is the mental, emotional, and psychological reasons behind why people eat. The magic of yoga lies in its ability to address a practitioner's mental landscape — to inquire into awareness, mindfulness, and presence. These are the keys in unlocking the often confounding, frustrating, and tedious struggle of weight loss for most people."
If you are looking for quick weight loss, Dr. Alexia McClerkin, a Washington DC sports chiropractor, says that it shouldn't be your go-to activity. "Yoga is a low-intensity exercise designed to lengthen and stretch the muscles and improve core stability," Dr. McClerkin says. "On the other hand, you can expect to burn more calories in hot yoga because of the sweating and heat, but don't get too excited by the decreased number on the scale because it is mostly water weight that you've lost."