Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Fitness & Exercise

Font Size

Yoga for Weight Loss?

It can help you find your bliss, and some say yoga may also help you shed those extra pounds.
By
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jennifer Aniston does it. Reports are that Liv Tyler, Halle Berry, Madonna, David Duchovny and supermodel Christy Turlington do it, too. Many professional athletes are said to be doing it in an effort to improve their games.

The "it" is yoga, a sophisticated mind-body exercise many believe can do everything from tighten your buns to change your outlook on life.

But can this no-strain, work-at-your-own-level exercise really help you lose weight?

It's true most types of yoga don't have anything near the calorie-burning power of aerobic exercise. A 150-pound person will burn 150 calories in an hour of doing regular yoga, compared to 311 calories for an hour of walking at 3 mph. But it is exercise, after all, and many practitioners believe yoga can indeed help people take off extra pounds.

"Yoga is a phenomenal way to put you in touch with your body the way nothing else can, and yes, it can help you lose weight," says instructor Dana Edison, director of Radius Yoga in North Redding, Mass., and a certified personal trainer with the American College of Sports Medicine.

Celebrity yoga trainers Ana Brett and Ravi Singh, who have worked with such hotties as Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow, also believe in yoga's weight-loss powers.

"We have seen it in ourselves, we have seen it in our clients – yoga can give you a real workout even if you are a beginner," says Brett, who, with Singh, created the best-selling DVD program Fat Free Yoga.

How Does It Work?

In 2005, medical researcher and practicing yogi Alan Kristal, DPH, MPH, set out to do a medical study on the weight-loss effects of yoga.

With funding from the National Cancer Institute, Kristal and colleagues at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle led a trial involving 15,500 healthy, middle-aged men and women. All completed a survey recalling their physical activity (including yoga) and their weight between the ages of 45 and 55. Researchers then analyzed the data, teasing out other factors that could influence weight change – such as diet or other forms of exercise.

The end result: They found yoga could indeed help people shed pounds, or at least keep them from gaining weight.

"Those practicing yoga who were overweight to start with lost about 5 pounds during the same time period those not practicing yoga gained 14 pounds," says Kristal.

For the study, he says, practicing yoga was defined as at least one 30-minute session per week for four or more years.

Kristal says it's not clear just how yoga might help people keep off the pounds, at least from a scientific standpoint. His own opinion is that the effects are subtle, and related to yoga's mind-body aspects.

"The buzzword here is mindfulness -- the ability to observe what is happening internally in a non-reactive fashion," he says. "That is what helps change the relationship of mind to body, and eventually to food and eating."

Healthy Living Tools

Ditch Those Inches

Set goals, tally calorie intake, track workouts and more, all via WebMD’s free Food & Fitness Planner.

Get Started

Today on WebMD

Wet feet on shower floor tile
Slideshow
Flat Abs
Slideshow
 
Build a Better Butt Slideshow
Slideshow
woman using ice pack
Quiz
 

man exercising
Article
7 most effective exercises
Interactive
 
Man looking at watch before workout
Slideshow
Overweight man sitting on park bench
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply

pilates instructor
Slideshow
jogger running among flowering plants
Video
 
Teen girl jogging
Article
Taylor Lautner
Article