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Yoga Guide to Weight Loss

Updated on February 22, 2012

Some forms of yoga are great cardio exercise

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News Story on Bikram Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga Demo

Iyengar Yoga Demonstration with Ropes

I'm not one to pay much attention to celebrities, but I always get a kick out of hearing them say that yoga is the only form of exercise they do to stay fit. From Bon Jovi to Lady Gaga, you're hearing of more and more celebrities giving yoga the credit for their leaner body, and not to mention their spiritual Zen. But how? Yoga is not normally considered a form of cardio, and cardio is the real calorie burner if you are looking to lose weight. What you may not know is that there are dozens of different types of yoga, even some that are considered cardio. Here are a few different types of yoga and their specific benefits.

*Hatha Yoga

What is it? Hatha yoga was developed in 15th century India, and while you may not get your heart racing with this practice, you will definitely find it to be a stress reliever. It involves holding specific poses (called asanas), usually in no particular order, for 10 to 60 seconds with good posture, control and strength.

Who does it benefit? This traditional type of yoga can be used by runners and other athletes to gain range of motion, balance, endurance, oxygen delivery and muscular strength. Rumor is, the LA Lakers even use it to warm up before games. Some celebrities claim they use it to find inner peace and relaxation. Beginners should start out with this type of yoga.

Will it help me lose weight? Stress can release hormones that cause weight gain and hunger pangs. Hatha yoga can help you relax if you are under a lot of stress in your day-to-day life. It can also put you in a healthier frame of mind when it comes to what you're eating, and how you treat your body on a regular basis.

*Bikram Yoga

What is it? Birkram yoga was developed by Bikram Choudhury. Some associate Bikram Yoga with hot yoga, and while they have one similarity, they are not the same. Bikram is a series of 26 poses and two types of breathing exercises done in 90 minutes. In addition, this type of yoga is done in a heated room - between 95 to 105 degrees. Hot yoga can be any form of yoga done in a heated, whereas Bikram does not stray from the 26 specific poses in sequence. The heated room is thought to improve flexibility.

Who does it benefit? Bikram yoga benefits everyone. Beginners should be able to followed the poses easily, but the heat of the room may be intense for those who are not used to it. Pregnant women or people who are ill should refrain from this type of yoga. You may be interested to know that Jennifer Anniston holds it responsible for helping her quit smoking as well as gaining better posture and overall muscular strength.

Will it help me lose weight? As you may imagine, you will lose significant water weight during a 90 minute session in a heated room. Bikram yoga also claims to increase cellular metabolism and improve the body's daily functions such as digestion creating a balance overall system. Some even claim that Bikram has decreased their appetite and reduced cravings for junk food.

*Ashtanga Yoga

What is it? Ashtanga yoga is a form of advanced, athletic yoga. It has also been called Power yoga by more modern instructors, though differs in that Ashtanga is always the same poses, whereas Power yoga may differ from session-to-session. Poses flow quickly from one pose to the next, called a Vinyasa flow, unlike traditional yoga that holds the poses for up to a minute or more at a time. Breathing is also taught to flow along with the movements from one pose to the next.

Who does it benefit? Men have taken a stronger liking to Ashtanga yoga due to it's strength and cardio aspects. In other words, it's physically demanding. Power yoga still has many of the same benefits of Ashtanga yoga in that it uses isometric moves that activate all of the muscles in the body.

Will it help me lose weight? There is no doubt that Ashtanga or Power yoga acts as cardio exercise to get the heart rate up there, burn calories and build muscular strength at the same time. This type of yoga is not for beginners. Be sure to familiarize yourself with traditional yoga before trying Ashtanga, or try a beginner's Ashtanga class first.

*Iyengar yoga

What is it? Iyengar is very similar to Hatha yoga. It focuses on a variety of poses and holding them for a period of time with proper alignment. The difference is that Iyengar yoga often uses props such as blocks, ropes and straps to achieve proper alignment with each pose. Often, the poses are held longer than with Hatha yoga. It is designed differently for each individual person.

Who does it benefit? Iyengar is a great form of yoga for anyone. It's for beginners or any age or size. It does not require a "flow" the same way Ashtanga yoga does.

Will it help me lose weight? Iyengar, much like Hatha, will improve overall balance and muscular strength, but will most likely not burn a lot of fat. However, you can improve your metabolism even when you're not working out by increasing your muscle tone.

*Centergy

What is it? Many gyms have incorporated Centergy as part of their group fitness classes. Centergy is a 60 minute class combining traditional yoga, Pilates and Tai-Chi which involves different poses, including the popular Sun Salutations, set to music.

Who does it benefit? Centergy is perfect for all body types, ages and levels. It can be as fast or slow moving as you want. The instructor will normally show different levels of each pose, so you never have to feel like a pretzel in any session.

Will it help me lose weight? I'd like to think of Centergy as a mix of Hatha and Power yoga. It is relatively fast moving, holding each pose for a short amount of time, but not so difficult that you will feel out of your element. In short, you will sweat during this class. While you may not burn as much as with say, running, you will definitely feel the burn the day after.


While yoga may not be the most likely choice for cardio exercise, it has its benefits for stress relief and muscular ability. Other types that deserve honorable mentions include Kundalini yoga which is a more meditative, spiritual form of yoga, Restorative yoga which is just that - restorative and relaxing and pregnancy yoga which is a series of asanas designed to be safe for pregnant women. Yoga is arguably one of the best forms of a total body workout. Vigorous forms of yoga can be incorporated three to five times a week to provide maximum cardio effects. With proper training, yoga can be a safe and low-impact form of exercise to benefit your entire body over time.

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