There are so many benefits to a consistent yoga practice, but is weight loss one of them?
Rather than giving you a definite yes, I’m going to be honest with you and say that it depends on you as a person, as well as your actions.
Your overall health, your approach, and the consistency of practice are important to consider when it comes to weight loss.
Truthfully, most people can lose weight on a yogic lifestyle, as long as they take the approach right for them.
However, to make this article easy to follow and relatable for many yogis, I will provide information on how a generally healthy person can lose weight with the help of a balanced, yoga practice and healthy lifestyle.
If you have any injuries or illnesses, please consult your doctor about these styles of yoga before starting, and see if they are right for you. If you are not cleared for yoga, you may find use in contacting a yoga therapist or ayurvedic doctor.
Why Does Yoga Help You Lose Weight?
Yoga can help you lose weight directly and indirectly.
Indirectly, practicing yoga will likely guide you to other healthy habits, such as adapting to a whole-food, plant-based diet, managing your anger and stress, which positively affects your metabolism, and turning to healthy coping mechanisms that don’t involve drinking alcohol or emotional eating.
You may also spend time and make friends with other yogis that are positive influences, making it easier to stay on the path to a healthy lifestyle.
Directly, yoga can help you lose weight by increasing your metabolism through movement, allowing you to lose fat, and gain lean muscle.
Muscle takes more energy to maintain, and therefore, more fat is broken down while maintaining this muscle. Practicing yoga can also help with water retention by causing you to sweat through consistent movement and the tension of muscles when you hold poses.
Not all yoga is created the same though.
Relaxing yoga can indirectly help you lose weight by giving you a sense of tranquility, relieving pain, and clearing your mind to make positive choices and motivating you to choose healthy food habits.
Yoga styles that will directly help you to lose weight are more active and will challenge your cardiovascular system and build muscle. We’ll discuss these active and relaxing yoga styles next.
The Best Yoga Practices for Weight Loss
By combining yoga styles that focus on your physique, as well as your mental health in your daily yoga practice, you’ll be best prepared to lose weight in a healthy, safe way.
Below, I’ll explain some of the relaxing yoga styles that will indirectly help you to lose weight, as well as the active yoga styles that will directly help you to lose weight.
This will include a description of each yoga style, how it helps you with weight loss and the frequency you should be practicing to see results.
Whichever you decide to do, be sure to include at least one relaxing technique and one active technique in your practice.
Yoga Styles That Indirectly Help with Weight Loss
It’s possible to add a theme and positive affirmations to your meditation practice and these positive affirmations can be related to losing weight.
For example, you can think or say, “I turn to my breath when I feel stressed” or “I fuel my body with nourishing foods.”
If you struggle with emotional eating or eating processed food, use meditation as a time to rewire your mindset and everyday choices.
It’s most effective when you add it to your daily routine, even if some days you can only squeeze it into 5 or 10 minutes of the day.
However, if you have more time to meditate, do try to practice for at least 20 minutes. Adding some music in the background, sitting outdoors and hearing nature, can often make it an even more pleasant experience.
If you are new to meditation, you may find seeking guided meditation classes in your area to be helpful for staying focused and making your practice more effective.
Yin Yoga Sequence for Weight Loss
If you need more movement when you’re trying to relax and nourish your body, Yin yoga might be for you.
During Yin, you hold each pose for 3 to 5 minutes. This allows your body to relax into the pose, and stretch more profound, or deep muscles that you wouldn’t target practicing a faster yoga style.
Staying in these poses also teaches you the benefits of slowing down in everyday life, lowers your heart rate, and relieves stress.
Try to practice Yin yoga daily. You can do a short Yin practice before an active practice as a warm-up, and you can do longer Yin practices on days you’re feeling emotional to process your emotions in a healthy way.
Yoga Styles that Directly Help with Weight Loss
One of the popular, active yoga styles that directly helps you to lose weight is called Vinyasa Flow yoga.
This style of yoga is a descendant of Ashtanga yoga, with very minimal differences. Poses are the same, but Vinyasa allows the teacher to teach the poses in different orders each class.
Whereas in Ashtanga, there’s a couple of fixed sequences, and students must go to school to learn the sequences in a specific order.
Due to the allowance of more creativity, most Western yoga teachers opt to teach Vinyasa Flow yoga.
Now that I have explained the differences between Vinyasa Flow and Ashtanga, let me go more in depth on Vinyasa Flow. From Sanskrit, Vinyasa translates as “to place in a special way”. This refers to the fact that during Vinyasa Flow yoga, poses are ordered in a specific way to fluidly move, or flow, from one to the next.
Due to this consistent movement, you receive a good cardio workout from this class which is very helpful for burning fat. The teacher may also have you hold some challenging poses for a couple of breaths, causing your body to build muscle, which also is effective for fat loss.
However, you may find that Vinyasa Flow classes may differ in pace. For the most optimal weight loss effectiveness, choose classes that are fast enough to raise your heart rate, but slow enough that you can breathe through the poses.
Some modern teachers go way too fast, making many yoga practitioners dizzy from not being able to regulate the breath. Other Vinyasa Flow classes may be called “Slow Flow”, which isn’t the most useful for weight loss, but it’s great for Vinyasa beginners to get an idea of how to practice.
Once you begin a Vinyasa class, be sure to practice this style for an hour at least 3 days a week, with other forms of lighter exercise such as Yin yoga or walking to see gradual, weight loss results.
Bikram Yoga Workout
If you’re not into fast movement, but enjoy the idea of muscle toning and getting a good sweat, Bikram yoga or hot yoga may be a better fit for you.
Just as I explained with Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow, Bikram yoga and hot yoga are very similar aside from the fact that Bikram yoga has a fixed yoga pose sequence for each class, while hot yoga gives the teacher more freedom to be creative with the sequences.
Also, while Bikram Choudhury created a popular style of yoga, he’s gotten in a lot of trouble in the past few years, so some studios like the concept of his yoga style while not wanting to be associated with his name.
So what’s the basis of Bikram yoga and hot yoga?
In these classes, yoga is practiced in a heated room ranging from 92° F to 105° F. The specific poses done in these classes are a combination of muscle and flexibility building.
Not all poses are beginner-friendly, so it’s best to practice a different style of active yoga before trying Bikram or hot yoga.
With that being said, these classes are some of the best for burning many calories, building strength and achieving a toned, slim body, so it’s certainly worth trying when you’re ready!
Bikram has recommended practicing daily, but many yoga teachers say that three to four times a week is better to let your body heal between sessions, as well as prevent dehydration.
All in all, the best frequency is different for everyone, so listen to your body. However, I’d recommend at least three times a week to see results.
Learning How to Lose Weight with Yoga (Everyone’s Weight Loss Journey Differs)
A weight loss journey through yoga will be a different experience and personal for everyone. Even for generally, healthy people, our metabolisms are different, self-discipline differs, and diet does too.
One person may see weight loss within a couple weeks, while another person sees weight loss after a couple months. Neither is better or worse.
Also, practicing yoga poses is only one aspect of weight loss, so if that is the only change you make in your life, you may not see the quickest of results or any for that matter.
One must also be sure to eat a healthy diet, burn more calories than they consume, and stay consistent with their yoga practice and other exercise regimens.
If you are only following a healthy lifestyle once a week, you’re not going to see a difference in your life aside from short-term happiness during those days.
Balance a Yogic Lifestyle with Mild Indulgence
Most yogis fall off the path at some point or another, so don’t beat yourself up if you’ve been consistent for a while and then skipped a day or a week of yoga.
Many people may quit or punish themselves with overeating, a night out at the bar, or by using drugs, but this is not a helpful approach, and will, in fact, hinder your progress.
Instead, recognize that you have gone off the path for a while, and without judgment, come back to it.
Remember the aspects of yoga that make you feel good. Practicing yoga and being healthy is rewarding. It is not meant to stress you out or feel like a chore.
The balance of healthy living and mild indulgence (i.e., eating a chocolate dessert, having two beers, or watching YouTube videos) is helpful for staying consistent.
If you are known, for example, to watch a lot of TV or play video games for hours, substitute some of those hours for yoga and preparing a healthy, plant-based meal. You can still save an hour or two to watch your favorite TV show or play a video game with your friends.
This way, you will see gradual weight loss results and improved health without feeling deprived or punished for your other hobbies.
This will also help you to stay on the yoga path, enjoy it, and not have a resentful attitude towards a healthy lifestyle.
Why You Can Lose Weight with Yoga
If you have a history of struggling with weight loss and maintenance, yoga is useful to turn to, not only to lose the weight, but also for healing any negative thoughts, or memories that you have encountered in regards to weight-related issues in the past.
Plus, you are not alone in this journey. Many yoga teachers such as myself, are here to help you as well.
If you ever find yourself struggling to lose weight on a yoga lifestyle, do not hesitate to reach out to yoga teachers that specialize in weight loss to answer questions or guide you.
Starting a yoga practice in itself can be daunting, and we know that, so we have the tools to show you the way with empathy, knowledge, and support.
Remember that learning takes time, and as long as you grow your passion and desire to expand your knowledge of yoga, self-love, health, and healing, you will see incredible results that will last for a lifetime.