Can Yoga Burn Calories?

Yoga has been around for thousands of years.  What a lot of people don’t know, however is that the practice of the postures is just one of the 8 limbs of yoga.  Although that is content for a WHOLE lot of other blog posts, in today’s post I want to talk about the physical aspect of the practice– the Asanas.  

The original purpose of the physical postures (asanas) of the practice was to help the body to be able to be still for long periods of time to meditate.  Although it still is used for that purpose today, however the practice has, at least for some people, evolved to include a very fitness oriented perspective.  This actually makes some of the “yoga purists” very upset. (Which seems a bit like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?

It was the pure physicality of the practice that originally drew me in.  Prior to a pretty bad back injury that the doctors said needed surgery, I was really into running long distances, lifting –or should I say more like throwing — lots of weights, and doing just about anything that required a lot of intensity and (at least for this topic–a lot of impact to my body.)  That impact, combined with my above average flexibility, combined to give make me sorta the concoction for a perfect storm of injury. Since I couldn’t “exercise” as far as I was concerned at the time, what on earth was I going to do?

At the suggestion of my then boyfriend (now husband), I tried my first Power Yoga Class.  I was IN LOVE. I had no idea that yoga–what I had previously thought of, that anything existed existed that was like a yoga workout.  I had only known of the videos of someone on the beach sitting quietly and basically putting me to sleep– i didn’t know of the cardio inspired yoga classes that could actually help me stay in shape and build flexibility and–added bonus, calm down the crazy squirrels in my head.  I was hooked.

Fast forward almost 10 years and although my practice has evolved, and I do appreciate more than just the physical benefits of yoga practice (ie I love when I can be calm enough to sit in stillness, I love the sound of the mantras, and I even like to practice the pranayamas that I have learned), it is the pure physicality of the yoga practice that continues to inspire and draw me in.  

Here’s the caveat — in order for yoga to burn calories, one must actually move.  This means that some of the slower paced versions of yoga are not necessarily designed to be yoga for fitness.  For instance, Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga–these two practices are designed to help you relax and let go, not to gain fitness points.  You don’t attend these types of classes with the goal to get in shape, but you practice them to help you relax (which, by some accounts COULD aid in weight loss because you give your body a cortisol break, and it’s the increased stress hormone, cortisol, that has contributed to many of our expanded waistlines.  

If you are want a yoga to burn calories or a yoga fitness program, it is definitely possible, you just have to know what on earth to practice.  Here’s the thing, and I know I’m a little picky (ok, a lot) –even a quick Youtube Search doesn’t always help because there is just so much out there!  Now, if you’re new to exercise in general and yoga in particular, then basically any vinyasa or power yoga class will probably help you to get moving and burn calories in a way you didn’t know you could.  However, if you’re relatively fit (even if you are new to yoga) then you will probably want something a little more challenging to get the yoga workout you are looking for instead of that higher impact exercise you may be looking to avoid.  You can burn a lot of calories in a yoga practice without standing on your head or putting that leg behind your head. In fact, some of the best yoga workouts I’ve ever led or been a part of incorporate very basic yoga postures in such a way that it makes the muscles beg for mercy in the best possible way.  That means you don’t have to be an expert to get a good yoga fitness class to work for you. Especially if you know which teachers to look for.

Some of my favorite things to look up online for inspiration are Power Yoga, High Intensity Yoga (sometimes called HIIT Yoga), Cardio Yoga, or even Cardio Inspired Yoga.  If you’re looking at our schedule, then you’ll want to look for any of our Power Yoga, or All Level’s Flow Classes.  These tend to be more physically based and can burn some major calories! Now, these are designed to challenge you physically (and mentally) so when you do come, come prepared to work and to have your brain challenged!

(check out this “review” after our Sunday Morning Power Yoga Class.)

I know I’m biased, but–I’d rather burn 428 calories in a yoga practice any day vs spending time on an elliptical or the “dreadmill.”  

Now, now all power yoga or Hi Intensity Yoga classes will burn that many calories, but yes you can burn calories in a yoga class–you just gotta know which yoga class to take or who to practice with.  
That’s where I can REALLY help you.  🙂 Join us in studio or Online for some great alternatives to your typical gym workout where you can get your yoga practice on, and build strength and burn calories through yoga!  Even better, if you aren’t in the Chattanooga, TN area, you can practice weekly with me in our Thrive Online Live Stream.  Here, each week I will bring you a challenging (but doable) yoga inspired fitness routine that’ll get your heart rate up, challenge your balance, build strength in your body–and keep you coming back for more!  I hope you can join us!