Many benefits draw people into a yoga practice, not the least of which is physical fitness. If you are new to yoga and the appeal for you is fitness or weight loss, you may be overwhelmed by the different yoga styles out there, wondering which yoga style burns the most calories.
Which Yoga Style Burns the Most Calories? Vinyasa Yoga. Anytime we move, we burn calories, and practicing yoga is no exception. Some yoga classes will have you burning calories quicker than others, but the type of yoga that burns the most is Vinyasa Yoga.
However, the details are much more complex than that. Many different factors and variables affect how many calories are burned with any activity—yoga included—so let’s take a closer look at them.
Factors Affecting Calories Burned During Yoga
As with any physical activity, the number of calories burned depends on several variable factors, and the outcomes are as unique as those practicing. It goes without saying that no two humans are the same, and each person will have individual results even when performing the same activities for the same length of time.
That said, there are specific factors that affect how many calories one burns while practicing yoga. Such factors include those you cannot control, such as your gender and genetics, and those you can, such as your practice’s length and intensity.
Personal Variable Factors
These are the factors that are not as easy to control, such as size, sex, and age. These factors play a big part in how your body burns calories; but, rest easy, as this is only half of the story.
- Body Size and Composition – Larger people tend to burn more calories; this because calories burned are directly correlated with your body mass. Additionally, people with more muscle burn more calories as muscle maintenance requires more energy than fat.
- Sex – Men tend to burn more calories than women due to generally having less body fat and higher muscle content than women.
- Age – You may have noticed that metabolism slows down the older you get. Calorie burning tends to slow with age for both men and women—no way around that.
Fitness Level: Effort and Efficiency
The less fit you are, the more effort it will require to do the same workout as someone who is more fit. Your body will have to exert more energy, i.e., burn more calories, to perform the same activities; therefore, a beginning yogi may burn more calories than a seasoned one in the same class.
The more you practice something, the more efficient your body becomes at doing it, and the less effort it puts forth to perform, which ultimately results in fewer calories burned. This is why some people plateau once they reach a certain fitness level unless they alter their routine or intensity level, which brings us to our next variable factor.
External Variable Factors
These are the factors you can change at will: your practice’s length, style, and intensity. Adjusting these factors will affect how your body burns calories during your session.
Intensity and Length of Practice
Obviously, the longer you practice, the more calories you burn, right? Wrong, actually. Contrary to what you might think, your practice’s length is not directly correlated with the number of calories burned as a result.
In other words, just because your practice is 90 minutes long doesn’t mean you will burn more calories than you would in a 45-minute class. For example, if the 90-minute class is a Yin Yoga class and the 45-minute one is a Vinyasa Lunch Flow, you can expect to burn more in the 45-minute Vinyasa class, hands down.
You can also cram a HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) yoga workout in about 25 minutes that will have you burning calories long after your practice ends (in what’s called an “afterburn” effect—more on this later), so don’t think that you’ve got to spend an hour or more just to burn some extra calories.
The intensity of yoga practiced directly affects how many calories you will burn in that practice and carries more weight (or loses more, in this case) than time spent.
The ambient temperature of the room you practice in will affect how many calories you burn as well.
You may have heard of Bikram Yoga, or Hot Yoga: this is yoga practiced in a room heated somewhere between 90-105 degrees Fahrenheit. The idea is, the hotter the room, the more you sweat, and the more you burn.
However, just because the room is heated in one class doesn’t mean you will burn more calories than if you were in another one: again, with multiple factors at play, it depends on the intensity of the practice, not just the temperature.
Style of Yoga Class
There are so many different kinds of yoga these days. It seems like a “new” style of yoga makes waves every year or so. From SUP (stand-up paddleboard) Yoga to Goat Yoga, Yin Yoga to Vinyasa Yoga, the kind of yoga you practice has everything to do with how many calories you burn.
Since this varies greatly based on the type of yoga you practice, let’s plunge deeper into this.
Types of Yoga vs. Calories Burned
As we’ve established, there are many types of yoga classes, but for the purpose of this article, we’ve chosen to focus on some of the more established styles of yoga practiced at most studios, many of which you have probably heard. (No Goat Yoga calorie breakdown here, folks.)
You may be wondering how these types of yoga practices differ, and while we will shine a bit of light onto that, it is important to understand that there is a great deal of crossover among the different yoga styles.
Naturally, some styles of yoga are more suited for a calorie burn session than others. Obviously, you are less likely to break a sweat and burn some cals in a restorative Yin class where only gentle yoga poses are practiced, and the pace is very slow. But expect to break a sweat and burn a few calories in your Vinyasa or Bikram class.
Just remember, each human is unique, and the numbers discussed below are just a general approximation: your own energy expenditure may vary greatly, depending upon any number of factors we mentioned above. At any rate, let’s see how these different styles of yoga measure up:
Hatha Yoga is a broad term that describes nearly all types of modern yoga practiced in the West. (The styles of yoga covered in the following sections will technically be types of Hatha Yoga.) However, you may also find a Hatha Yoga class at your local studio.
A Hatha Yoga class will focus on the combination of breath and movement and will emphasize holding each pose for multiple breaths. A Hatha Yoga class is generally not fast-paced; in an hour-long Hatha Yoga session, you may expect to burn between 175-250 calories.
Ashtanga Yoga is a more athletic practice of yoga that is gaining popularity because of its fast-paced nature. It is sometimes referred to as Power Yoga.
In an Ashtanga class, you can expect to practice a series of sequential asanas, which increase in difficulty and move with your breath. You can also expect to break a sweat, burning anywhere from 350-550 calories in a one-hour session.
Bikram or Hot Yoga
Bikram Yoga is a style of yoga that is designed to make you sweat. Bikram Yoga follows a rigid 26-pose sequence in a 100-plus degree (Fahrenheit) heated room and was developed by Bikram Choudhury.
Many other yoga classes now offer variations in poses and sequences but still practice in heated rooms, and these such classes are usually called Hot Yoga. You can expect to burn upwards of 400 calories in a 90-minute Bikram or Hot Yoga class.
Restorative or Yin Yoga
Sometimes called Restorative Yoga, Yin Yoga is a slow yoga style designed to be very gentle and, well, restorative. Poses are held for lengths ranging from one to five minutes, often with the eyes closed and the breath deep and long. Many props are used in a Yin yoga class, including bolsters and blankets, as the goal is to restore and relax.
This type of yoga is the perfect yoga practice for recovery from a more strenuous session or other athletic exertion, such as running. You will probably burn around 100 calories in an hour-long Yin Yoga session—not bad for mostly lying there!
There is much variation among Vinyasa Yoga classes, as it has evolved much since its development. The result is many schools and sub-styles of practice—some of which are known as Flow Yoga.
In general, Vinyasa Yoga is a fast-paced style of yoga in which the movements are fluid, each asana flowing gracefully into the next, following the breath. Vinyasa literally means “to place in a special way” and refers to how we align our bodies and practice awareness of both body and breath.
Vinyasa classes can be very physically demanding. This type of yoga class generally burns the most calories, nearly 600 calories in an hour-practice.
How Does Vinyasa Yoga Burn More Calories?
There are several features of Vinyasa Yoga that allow yogis to burn maximum calories compared to other yoga styles:
Vinyasa can be a pretty diverse style of yoga, with no two classes quite the same, but generally includes the ubiquitous Sun Salutations in one variation or another, which include Plank, Chaturanga, and Upward-Facing Dog, using your breath as a pacing guide. The pace and level of difficulty will vary according to each teacher, but you can expect it will be more intense than your restorative or beginner’s yoga class.
Vinyasa yoga is often vigorous and high-energy, and as you practice, you build strength, increase flexibility, and develop endurance. Linking breath with movement at a moderate to fast pace, Vinyasa practice has a cardiovascular element to it, increasing the heart rate significantly at times, which accelerates the number of calories burned.
A Vinyasa yoga flow is also dynamic in nature and will generally target the entire body throughout the class, giving you a full-body workout while generating heat, breaking a sweat, and burning off calories.
How to Burn More Calories in Your Yoga Practice
Now that you’ve got a better understanding of some of the major types of yoga, you may have an idea of what kinds of yoga you’d prefer to practice. As previously stated, there is often some crossover between the different practices, and your yoga practice is just that: your own. Therefore, you should modify your session to suit your personal needs; listen to and honor your body and mind in doing so.
Just as there are ways you can modify your practice to make certain poses or asanas more accessible, there are ways you can enhance or deepen your session to increase the intensity of it and maybe kick up the burn a little bit:
- Add Push-Ups to Your Planks: Add a few push-ups each time you plank; this will build strength and burn calories.
- Sun Salutations: Practicing Sun Salutations engages all the large muscle groups and stretches the whole body, a super-efficient way to get the metabolism in gear.
- Go with the Flow: Keep your practice flowing rather than resting between poses. The more movement, the more calories burned.
- Hold the Pose: Hold your poses for longer. As you engage your muscles to hold and stabilize the position while regulating your breath, you build strength and stamina, all while burning more calories.
- Deepen the Pose: Most poses have variations in either direction to make them more accessible or make them more intense. If the next level of intensity in a pose is available to you without risk of pain, you might try advancing your position.
- One such example would be to transition from Down Dog to Quarter Dog, where you lower to your forearms rather than your palms, deepening the stretch and engaging more muscles, or Three-Legged Dog, which extends one leg up in the air, and lengthens while engaging more of the core muscles.
- Take Longer Classes: If given a choice between a 45 and a 90-minute vinyasa, choose the 90, and you’ll burn way more. Just keep in mind that, as previously mentioned, longer doesn’t always mean more calories burned: be sure you choose the right type of class if you’re looking to break a sweat. Don’t show up to a restorative class only to be disappointed.
- Take Heated Classes: Many studios offer hot or heated classes. In these classes, they turn up the heat, and you break out a sweat, burning more calories as you move through the poses.
- Take Advanced Classes: Many studios offer varying levels of classes. Sometimes they are simply Level One, Two, or Three, while at other studios, they will have names like Advanced Flow or Power Yoga. Taking a more advanced yoga class will boost your caloric burn and even contribute to the “afterburn” effect.
The Afterburn Effect
As we briefly mentioned earlier, the afterburn effect is also known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). It refers to the continued and increasing number of calories burned after a workout is completed and can also be measured by how much more oxygen your body consumes.
Strenuous workouts can result in the afterburn effect, leaving your body burning calories long after you leave the studio, maximizing the total number of calories burned from a single workout. But can you actually achieve this through yoga? Yes! There are a couple of ways to do this:
- Vinyasa Yoga: Again, Vinyasa yoga is your best bet for achieving this alluring afterburn.
- Power Yoga: If the class is called Power Yoga, it is likely designed to have you breaking a sweat and burning calories.
- HIIT Yoga: HIIT refers to a workout style where short repetitions of exercises are performed at maximum exertion for short bursts of time. It works because HIIT is physically demanding on the body, so the body works harder to recover. In doing so, it continues to burn calories long after the workout is finished. With HIIT Yoga, yoga poses are threaded with bursts of high-intensity exercise, alternating in a 2:1 ratio, such as 30 seconds of work with 15 seconds of rest. This type of workout is a guaranteed calorie killer.
There are many reasons people are drawn to yoga, and there is a style of yoga for everyone. If you find yourself compelled to practice yoga, and your goal is to burn the most calories you can while doing so, you can get the most bang for your buck—or burn the most calories for your cat/cow poses—in a Vinyasa Yoga class. While Vinyasa classes and teachers can be as varied as the yogis who practice, you can bet you’ll break a sweat and get your heart pumping when you go with the Flow.