Is Yoga Good for Weight Loss?

Is yoga good for weight loss? Get-Fit Guy examines the popular myth

Ben Greenfield
2-minute read

Most folks know that yoga will certainly stretch muscles, increase flexibility, and help you to relax. But is yoga good for weight loss? 

More than simple stretches, yoga is focused on creating balance, strength, flexibility and relaxation in the body through a series of poses, postures, movements and breathing patterns. Different types of yoga require differing amounts of balance, strength, power or focus--but the concept of focused breathing while moving from one posture to the next is fairly constant.

Calorie Burn of Popular Exercises

The number of calories that you burn is a major determinant of weight loss, and calorie burn is highly variable. So to put yoga in a proper weight loss context, let’s examine the average calorie burn of basic familiar activity modes.

  • Resting: At rest, you’ll burn 1 to 1.5 calories per minute (depending on your body weight) or 45 to 68 calories in 45 minutes.

  • Walking slowly: Walking at a leisurely 2 miles per hour pace, you’ll burn 2 to 5 calories per minute, or 90 to 225 calories in 45 minutes.

  • Walking briskly: Walking at a more brisk 4 miles per hour pace, you’ll burn 4.6 to 10 calories per minute, or 207 to 450 calories in 45 minutes.

  • Running: Running at 6.7 miles per hour, you’ll burn 9 to 19 calories per minute, or 405 to 855 calories per hour.

Does Yoga Burn Calories?

Let’s look at the research. In 2005 and 2007, two separate studies measured the metabolic rate of people taking a beginner yoga class and found a calorie burn of 2.3-3.2 calories per minute, about the same calorie burn as strolling through the mall--or about 104-144 calories in a 45 minute workout. At this rate, to burn one pound (or 3500 calories) of fat, you’d have to perform over 28 hours of yoga!

When it comes to calorie burning for weight loss, yoga is really one of the least effective modes of exercise.

Yoga and Your Metabolism

Yoga is a relaxing activity, and actually slows down your body’s “fight-and-flight” reactions, also known as your sympathetic nervous system. Although this is highly beneficial for extending your life span, controlling stress, and making you feel good, it’s certainly not going to shed any pounds.

I have to emphasize that I have nothing against yoga and I do some form of it nearly every day to improve my flexibility, balance, and relaxation. However, when it comes to calorie burning for weight loss, yoga is really one of the least effective modes of exercise. But before I am struck with lightning by the yoga gods and goddesses, let me express one final thought: if the practice of yoga gives you a greater mental discipline and body awareness, and you use those benefits to motivate yourself to exercise, then yoga may indirectly be beneficial for weight loss.

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All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.