To burn fat, your heart rate has to raised to an aerobic level. Traditional yoga (although strengthens muscles, increases flexibility and provides psychological calmness) is not intended to be fat burning yoga. However, by engaging in high intensity versions of yoga, you can raise your fat burning potential while still enjoying the benefits of traditional yoga.
Burning Fat with Yoga
Proponents of yoga site the conditions needed to properly perform a session that's capable of accelerating weight loss. Yoga is ideally practiced for a long period of time, 60-90 minutes, on an empty stomach. This causes the body’s glycogen supplies, the sugar fueling the body as it works, to become depleted. This happens with most any physical activity performed long enough. The pancreas then secretes glucagons, a signal for fat to be used as the next energy source. Though this is true of yoga, it also true of nearly all long-term physical activity. However, yoga an also help burn fat by strengthening muscles. The stronger the muscle, the higher the calories required to sustain them.
One way to ramp up the intensity of your yoga is to practice power yoga. Power yoga was developed as a way to increase yoga’s appeal to western culture. It was meant to turn what was viewed as a peaceful meditative wind-down into a fat burning workout. It involves a series of difficult poses, done at a quickened pace, designed to keep your heart rate raised to a fat burning level.
For an average practitioner, Power Yoga burns about 300 calories an hour. The same as a brisk walk, but with muscular and flexibility benefits. It is not recommended for beginners, as besides being an arduous exercise, it also involves a degree of advanced flexibility.
Bikram yoga, also called hot yoga, is one of the more strenuous schools of yoga. It is a series of poses done twice over a 90 minute session. The session takes place in a room, heated to around 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The room is also ideally kept at 40% humidity. It is believed by some that this challenging environment, as well as the more difficult poses involved in hot yoga, increases fat burning potential.
Bikram yoga does elevate the heart rate higher than more gentle yoga, thereby burning more calories and fat. The hot conditions have not necessarily been proven helpful. Although the claim that the severe sweating cleanses the body of toxins is not definite, you will lose a great deal of water from your body. Be sure to guard against dehydration if involved in hot yoga.
The bottom line is that it is unlikely that any school of yoga will burn as much fat off your body as an equivalent time spent running or engaging in a similarly intense aerobic work out. However, intense yoga is a worthy supplement of high impact aerobics and running. Properly performed yoga offers full body maintenance that compliments any fitness regimen.