Burning Calories: How Yoga Measures Up

My personal yoga practice stems around gaining physical and mental wellness through expansion and connection.  But I certainly appreciate and acknowledge that yoga acts as a form of exercise with one major benefit being that it does expend calories and help maintain healthy body composition (ie keep body fat in check).  With so many people dumping the gym for the mat, how do some of the more popular yoga practices compare with traditional exercise when it comes to burning calories?

Via the helpful calorie calculator at HealthStatus.com, I was able to generate this insightful comparison.  Let’s take note that this comparison is based on some simple factors and we should keep some key considerations in mind:

*all exercise types were based on a 160 pound body with total exercise time of 75 minutes

*I question the true accuracy of some results as there can be great variability in actual workload intensity within these exercises, variations in gender, variations in individual metabolism, environmental conditions, level of fitness and performance experience etc

Calories Burned With Various Exercises

(160 pound body for 75 minutes)

Hatha yoga 252

Ashtanga yoga 468

Bikram / hot yoga 636

Vinyasa yoga 792

Jogging 636

Elliptical trainer 1,032

Bicycling / cycling 12-14 mph 792

Pilates Advanced 576

Weight lifting – general 312

Swimming – moderate 552

Hiking 540

Housework 264

Garden 492

One result I found odd (and questionable) was the lower amount of burned calories for Ashtanga yoga versus Bikrams and vinyasa yoga.  Basically, Ashtanga yoga is the primary (and often most advanced form) of vinyasa yoga.  I will take this as an error and encourage those who generated this calculator to go attend an Ashtanga class.

Some may inquire as to why Bikrams yoga scores lower than vinyasa yoga given all of the immense sweating one incurs in hot yoga flows.  Sweating is not an indicator of calorie expenditure.  Take note of the swimming results.  Yes, one actually can sweat during swimming (if the pool temperature is close or higher than body temperature).  But seeing how high swimming burns calories in relation to exercises, like Pilates and jogging, demonstrates that burning calories is all about movement and loading of muscles and joints, not how much of a puddle is left on your mat.

I particularly love the results for the garden and hiking category.  I am a big advocate of encouraging people to exercise outdoors and get a whack of nature into the system on a regular basis.  If it accessible and the weather is grand, get out of the gym and burn those calories outdoors.

And final message regarding Yoga, we can love the benefits of burning calories when on the mat, but let’s keep our practice grounded and nurturing.  The motto of ‘no pain, no gain’ should be left back in the Jane Fonda days.  With each drop of sweat, we should breathe in an extra drop of awareness and respect.  Let’s turn off the Ego along with the cell phones before hitting the mat and feel each pose is settling with control and integrity.

2 Replies to “Burning Calories: How Yoga Measures Up”

  1. I agree with your assessment of surprises. It would be hard to classify any class into a specific caloric loss though. It varies so much based on teacher and student. Maybe it’s safe to generalize that yoga does burn calories similar to the rate of

  2. Most interesting, though, agreed about questioning differences between styles. I think this calculator site may be off, for there is no way that cycling at that slow of pace burns more than running. That aside, I love the final take on this…numbers are secondary, intention is key. Namaste ~

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