Most Americans don’t gravitate to yoga when they are looking to lose weight. Intense cardio and weightlifting are thought of as the keys to calorie burning and muscle building. Yoga, on the other hand, tends to be understood as a less intense, more meditative practice—and understandably so.

You won’t hear many devout yogis talk about weight loss as the driving force behind yoga. In fact, when Indian gurus and monks first introduced yoga philosophy to the West in the late 1800s, their intent was to teach people how to achieve mental fortitude and inner peace. But this doesn’t mean that yoga can’t benefit someone who is trying to tone up.

Can you lose weight by doing yoga?

Yes, the effects of a consistent yoga practice could mean you shed some pounds. But realize that yoga has other benefits that, while not related to weight loss directly, can have a significant effect on your overall physical and emotional health.

Which type of yoga is best for weight loss?

Yang Yoga styles, including Hatha/Vinyasa, Kundalini, and Power Yoga, are increasingly popular weight loss choices for their more dynamic and physically vigorous flows. These styles can challenge your heart rate, improve your strength, balance, coordination, flexibility and leave you sweating on your mat. Some studios are even incorporating weights and more HIIT-style methods into their classes.

However, getting results isn’t necessarily dependent on the intensity of the class, says international yoga instructor Adriene Mishler.

“Daily or regular yoga is more beneficial than hitting a hard power yoga every once and a while,” she says. “Through consistent practice you start to connect the dots between mind and body as well as how the practice effects your life off the mat. A daily practice also yields physical results as the body increases mobility and builds strength.”

You can start with these 13 yoga stretches here. Beyond these daily movements, here’s how a regular yoga practice can help you develop healthier habits—and lose weight along the way:

Woman with eyes closed doing prayer position exercise against clear sky

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Yoga can help reduce cravings.

One of the greatest benefits of yoga is becoming more mindful, says Mishler. Studies show that people who practice mindfulness are less stressed, less likely to reach for comfort foods, and less likely to binge eat. “As we get more in the habit of listening to our breath and our bodies, we gain more control over what is happening in the mind,” says Mishler. “We become less reactive and more present.”

Yoga may even improve your sleep.

Poor sleep can sabotage weight loss efforts, according to researchers. You know how it goes: When you’re tired, you may be too tapped to workout effectively and more likely to give into unhealthy cravings. Your metabolism may even be affected. Exercise in general is known to improve sleep, so try doing a few yoga poses before bed to tire yourself out and get to sleep faster.

Yoga may help with digestion and metabolism.

In today’s rushed world, many of us breath shallowly, therefore increasing our stress and anxiety levels. When we are operating in that state, our adrenal glands release more cortisol. High levels of this hormone can lead to increased blood sugar, weight gain, and digestive issues. Practicing deep breathing can help to reduce stress, and as a result, decrease cortisol in the body. Some research even suggest that certain breathing techniques can improve metabolism. A 2014 study revealed that the majority of our weight loss occurs when we are breathing. When we breakdown triglycerides, or fat, we exhale it in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2). Since that discovery, in 2018 a group of scientists found that certain breathing techniques could potentially increase metabolism, but more studies need to be done on how breathing affects weight loss.


Check out Adriene Mishler’s complete Yoga Tone for Weight Loss flow here.

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Senior Editor Adele Jackson-Gibson is a certified fitness coach, model, and writer based in Brooklyn.

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