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Yoga = Weight Loss? How and Why

When most people think of yoga they think of meditation and various poses that look more like easy stretches and sitting crosslegged saying a lot of "Ommms."

That is the stereotype at least.

But when you first try yoga what you quickly discover is that the intensity of yoga varies but is ultimately quite the workout because your arms and legs will feel the burn as if you are doing an intense workout. (More so if you've never done yoga before.)

There are many different disciplines of yoga (my favourite ashtanga yoga, but that gets into a whole mental discipline and the physical movements of yoga is only one eighth of the practice), but regardless if you are doing yoga for exercise then the level of intensity can sometimes surprise you.

The end result is you end up burning calories, but how can this be for just a bunch of stretches and poses?

Well for starters you are burning calories just by breathing. Your stomach and lung muscles are moving constantly. With yoga you practice your breathing at the same time while making a series of motions, which initially will feel like cardio exercises (cardio burns calories!), but some of the poses are more intense on various muscles and those muscular motions burn extra calories too.

The end result is that yoga is a full body workout and burns a lot of calories.

Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga is the most familiar form of yoga for Westerners, and the kind usually taught in beginner-level classes. Hatha yoga emphasizes breath control and flowing postures that are simple and easy to learn. You can expect to burn 175 calories per hour, or the same amount of calories you would burn by walking 2 miles in 1 hour.

Ashtanga Yoga (Just the Poses)

Ashtanga yoga poses are more intense than Hatha yoga, but still places emphasis on breath control and flowing postures. The typical class has a series of 6 poses that increase in difficulty. A typical Ashtanga class will burn 300 calories in 1 hour, or the same as walking 4 miles in 1 hour. Full Ashtanga Yoga also includes self purification, moral codes, breath control, withdrawing from the senses, concentration and meditation exercises. Most people don't do the full thing and only practice the yogic postures.

Power Yoga

Power yoga is a Westernized form of Ashtanga yoga, which moves quickly between poses to increase your heart rate. Because of this, most classes typically last 30 to 45 minutes, rather than 60. The calories burned are approximately the same as a full 60 minute Ashtanga class.

Vinyasa Yoga

Vinyasa yoga is usually combined with the Ashtanga form to create one dynamic class. The emphasis is placed on flowing from one pose to the next, particularly during the sun salutation. Vinyasa classes typically burn 445 calories per hour, or the same amount as jogging at a slow pace for 60 minutes.

Bikram or Hot Yoga

Bikram yoga, also known as "hot yoga," is performed in a room heated to 105 degrees and with a humidity of 40%. This guarantees that you will sweat a lot as you perform the 26 postures in a typical class. One session of bikram yoga burns 630 calories per hour, or the same as swimming the butterfly stroke for an hour.

Most practitioners who use yoga as their primary form of cardio opt for the higher-intensity classes and aim for making it to class 3 times a week, for a 90 minute session. If you want to burn calories while doing yoga, go for the more intense classes and work on "growing" or stretching into each pose constantly throughout the class.

Studies show that people who find an exercise they enjoy will stick with it and make it a part of their routines more readily than people who feel forced into exercise they don't like. If yoga is your favorite form of exercise, find ways to increase your calories burned and then make it your primary cardio routine. You will reap the added benefits of increased muscle tone, core stability and decreased stress as well as a vigorous cardio workout.

Many people also argue that yoga creates mindfulness of everything that you do outside of practice, this includes food choices. People who practice yoga tend to eat less, and make healthier choices for their meals. Yoga has also been shown to reduce cravings in between meals.

When someone starts practicing yoga they lose an average of six pounds in the first two months. Plus yoga builds strength and endurance in core muscle groups. The new muscle tissue leads to an increase in metabolism and more calories burned per day.

When beginners are ready to take it up a notch, more intense practices such as Ashtanga (or power) yoga and Bikram (hot) yoga, burn as many calories as an hour long jog!

Yoga is not only fantastic for strength, injury prevention, and flexibility, it's a definite path toward weight loss.

Plus the practice tends to attract people who are genuinely nice, and we all enjoy making new friends who are genuinely nice people. Its an added perk!

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