Should Yoga Help You Lose Weight Too?

If you buy into some of the marketing
out there, it may seem that the purpose of yoga is to get thin and
flexible enough that you can contort your body in odd ways while
wearing little clothing and still look good. Certain brands even like
to claim that yoga is a cardio exercise and will help you lose
weight, essentially promising that you too can be that thin and look
good in spandex, if only you try. If you actually practice yoga,
hopefully you realize that is far from the point. As fun as it may be
to think that yoga can fix just about anything, do we really need it
to?

Studies have shown that yoga can
improve focus, attention, reduce stress, regulate blood sugar, combat
depression, and lower blood pressure. Although the list of proven
benefits goes on, some also want to claim that it’s a good
cardiovascular exercise and will help people lose weight too.

Without trying to debunk yoga or
downplay the benefits, Huff Post writer Ben
Greenfield recently broke down the numbers to illustrate what yoga
would look like as a high calorie burning, cardiovascular exercise
.
Greenfield cites several studies to explain his numbers, including
one in which even the vigorous Ashtanga sequences didn’t increase
the average rate of heartbeats per minute in a significant way, which
is the goal in cardio exercise. As for weight loss, for the average
person to burn even 800 calories in one yoga class, they would have
to expend energy equal to running at 6.7 miles per hour for the
entire class. To put this into context, Bikram
Choudhury and his teachers claim their technique can help you burn up
to 1,000 calories per class
. That is a really
fast run.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that
yoga has never helped anyone to lose weight or get his or her heart
rate up to an optimal cardio zone. Everyone has different metabolic
rates and medical histories, and each person’s body will react in
its own way. Greenfield suggests that yoga helps people achieve their
weight loss goals indirectly, by reducing stress, increasing
discipline, and improving body awareness and motivation.

This may be as close as we can get to
being able to honestly claim yoga can help shed pounds. Isn’t that
actually a good thing? Aside from the fact that many of the images
used in yoga marketing materials probably scare away as many people
as they inspire, we have a society obsessed with appearances and
being skinny. The beauty of yoga is that it can help you shut all of
this noise, and find a place of stillness within yourself and a truth
beyond gimmicks. Yogis come in all shapes and sizes, and just as
looking like a cover model isn’t a good measure of inner peace,
achieving your cardio target shouldn’t be a measure of a good yoga
class.

Do you look to yoga as a form of cardio
exercise?

 

Comments 2

  1. I did look at Ashtanga and Vinyasa as a great form of exercising when I first started out, but the more I do yoga the more I appreciate it being more of a moving meditation, so beautiful for my mind, and yes, while it does my body feel wonderful, it is the peace it gives me that I love. I have even started to meditate now and again :) For cardio I do other things such as run, jump rope, dance…the stillness of yoga is what moves me in the right direction. Great article, great topic!

  2. I started doing yoga at the recommendation of a friend. Over the past few years, I realized that I like yoga that uses Vinyasa for the movement. I call it the “yoga for those with ADD.” I went for a couple of years to a Baptiste class that does power yoga in 92 degrees and while I still enjoyed the fast-paced workout, the pressure to perform was overwhelming. What I lost in the Baptiste classes was the peace that came from yoga. I still practice Vinyasa but I choose classes that don’t stress losing weight, but rather being healthy, both in mind and body. I will say that the power yoga classes do increase my heart rate significantly and I feel like I have done a good fast run or aerobic workout when I’m done, so that makes me think that some yoga classes can offer a cardio workout. For me, that ends up missing the point of my yoga experience. I am always looking for more information and feedback from yogis about losing weight in yoga.

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