3 ways yoga can help you manage your weight

This mind-body practice burns calories, eases stress, and more.

three women attending a yoga class

Updated on April 24, 2024.

There are a number of good reasons to practice yoga. Among them, this ancient mind-body practice can help you build strength, improve balance, and relax your mind. And in more recent years, studies have suggested yoga may also help you manage your weight. 

Here’s what you should know. 

Yoga burns calories

Burning more calories than you take in is key to losing weight. One way to burn those calories is yoga. Different types of yoga offer different benefits, however, and the amount of calories burned depends on several things, including:

  • Personal factors like your age, sex, and weight
  • What kind of yoga you practice
  • The intensity of your movements

In general, the more vigorous your yoga session, the more calories you will burn. These two types of yoga are well-known for their intensity:

  • Power yoga is a fast-paced practice designed to give you a cardiovascular workout, says Terrance Evans, a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) master trainer. 
  • Vinyasa yoga is another active aerobic workout. It involves constantly moving between poses and syncing those movements with your breathing. In a small study published in 2020 in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, research suggested that a 90-minute vinyasa yoga session could boost your fitness and help you manage your weight.

In addition to amping up cardio activity, these practices also focus on building lean muscle, which boosts metabolism (how your body uses energy). This can also help with weight loss over time.

Yoga busts stress

When you are stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. When you are stressed too much for too long, the exposure to cortisol raises your risk of weight gain. But yoga may be able to help.

"Yoga decreases the stress response and inhibits the secretion of cortisol,” says NASM Elite Trainer Michelle Carlson. Research also suggests yoga can improve your mood, resilience, and overall mental well-being. 

Stress may also lead you to overeat or skip exercising. By relieving stress, yoga helps to support healthy coping strategies and health habits.

Yoga can encourage mindful eating

Your eating habits may benefit from the mindfulness you learn on the yoga mat. Mindfulness is the practice of being in the moment. Eating mindfully means being non-judgmentally aware of the sensations you feel, both physical and emotional, while eating. 

Some research suggests people who practice yoga may be more mindful when they eat—and the more they practice, the more mindful an eater they can become. Eating mindfully may make you less likely to eat after you’ve filled up, or eat when you’re sad, stressed, or distracted. 

Ultimately, yoga can be a powerful mind-body practice that can positively affect your habits, mindset, and mood, all while strengthening your body and helping you manage your weight. 

Article sources open article sources

Tsopanidou AΑ, Venetsanou FD, Stavridis IS, et al. Energy expenditure during a Vinyasa yoga session. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2020 Aug;60(8):1110-1117. 
Harvard Health Publishing. Yoga benefits beyond the mat. September 8, 2021. 
Mayo Clinic. Chronic stress puts your health at risk. August 1, 2023. 
Unick JL, Dunsiger SI, Bock BC, et al. A preliminary investigation of yoga as an intervention approach for improving long-term weight loss: A randomized trial. PLoS One. 2022 Feb 4;17(2):e0263405.
Watts AW, Rydell SA, Eisenberg ME, Laska MN, Neumark-Sztainer D. Yoga's potential for promoting healthy eating and physical activity behaviors among young adults: a mixed-methods study. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2018 May 2;15(1):42. 

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