Yoga gets a lot of credit for helping create stronger, leaner muscles, but it can also help you lose weight. Here’s why you should try yoga for weight loss.

It’s no secret that yoga offers potential health benefits galore: stronger muscles, more flexibility, better mood, less joint pain, even revved-up sex life. No wonder more than 36 million Americans are rolling out their yoga mats. But what about weight loss? Can you Downward Dog your way to a slimmer you?

“It depends on what kind of yoga you mean,” says Caroline West Passerrello, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a dedicated yogi for more than 15 years.

“Not everyone does yoga the same, so it can be challenging to compare results,” Passerrello explains. That’s for sure: with at least eight main types of yoga being taught today – not to mention many hybrids-trying to sift through the studies and nail down the facts can be tough.

Yoga Can Burn Calories

A relaxing hour of restorative poses won’t torch a lot of calories, but an hour of power yoga can work up a real sweat – and a calorie burn to match.

“Someone who weighs 160 pounds / 72 kilograms could expect to burn about 180 calories in a meditative yoga session,” Passerrello says. Compare that to a brisk one-hour Vinyasa class with fast-paced flow sequences, and the same person could burn up to 300 calories, according to her estimates.

FIND OUT MORE: Find The Right Type Of Yoga For You

And there’s another important benefit: Regular yoga practice makes muscle, which burns more calories than fat. “Strength-training improves weight loss, and many forms of yoga, particularly where you hold the poses longer, do that,” Passerrello says. So at the same time as you’re toning those shapely yoga shoulders, stronger thighs, and firmer core, you’re amping up your calorie-burning potential.

Yoga Helps You Be a More Mindful Eater

With its emphasis on the present moment, yoga can make you more mindful both on and off the mat. In fact, researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that yoga improves mindfulness-and particularly mindful eating-in a way that wasn’t associated with walking, running, or other types of exercise.

Multiple studies show how eating mindfully can help you lose weight: You’re more aware of what you’re eating, and less likely to eat because you’re bored, depressed, or bingeing out on Netflix. Perhaps most importantly, mindfulness helps you notice when you feel full and stop eating.

FIND OUT MORE: How To Find Your Mindfulness

Yoga Can Help Stop Stress Eating

Studies show yoga is a proven stress-buster – it tames the body’s natural responses to stress by lowering blood pressure, slowing your heart rate, and calming your breath. But the benefits go beyond yoga class. Once you have healthier ways to cope, you’re less likely to head for the Ben & Jerry’s when you’re under a tight deadline or dive into the nachos when you’ve just had a fight with your significant other.

Yoga helps with other eating issues, too: In one 2018 study, participants who practiced yoga reported fewer cravings for alcohol, sugar, caffeine, and other foods – all good news when you’re trying to lose weight.

Yoga Provides Much-Needed Weight-Loss Support

Yoga offers a sense of community and positive role-modeling that can help with weight loss, especially if you’re struggling to reach your goals, some researchers say.

“It’s one of the more surprising benefits I’ve found with yoga, but it makes complete sense,” Passerrello says. She recommends sharing your weight-loss plan with your yoga instructor, so you can make sure the class is right for you. Some yoga centers offer classes specifically for those who might be extra body-conscious or have a lot of weight to lose, Passerrello adds. See what’s available near you.

FIND OUT MORE: A Mindful Approach To KETO Lifestyle

Bottom Line

Don’t expect yoga to melt off the pounds. But it can make a difference when you’re trying to lose weight – both physically and mentally. Plus it’s good for your mind and your body in many other ways.

“Once you’re diving into yoga and taking some of its practices off the mat, and looking at your whole lifestyle, then definitely yes, it does impact your diet and attitudes,” Passerrello says.

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