| Simon Bradley | Novembre 2019 |


Will yoga help me lose weight?

This is quite possibly one of the most common questions I get asked as both a Personal trainer and Yoga Teacher! And as is often the case, there is both a short answer and a longer answer! The short answer is very definitely YES – doing yoga will help anyone lose weight, but it does require a bit more explanation than this…


Losing weight, or in fact gaining weight too, boils down to a very simple equation. Simple in concept, but usually not so simple to put into practice! That equation can be described in a number of ways too. On one side of the equation is the amount of fuel your body burns in a day, on the other side of the equation is the fuel you put into your body. Another way of putting it – the “energy” your body uses, against the energy you take in. And although often these days the word itself is controversial, it really is a case of “Calories in versus Calories out” or Calories “burned” by the body on one side of the equation against calories in the food you eat on the other.


If you take in fewer calories than you burn off, you will lose weight. If you take in more calories than you burn off, you will put on weight.


If you take in exactly the same number of calories as you burn off, your weight simply won’t change from its current state. This in some ways is the proof of the concept, and we nearly all have a weight that our body strives to maintain – even though this differs from person to person. This is also the reason why it is very hard to change our weight. If we suddenly try to exercise to tip the equation, we get hungrier than usual, as the body tries to go back to its comfortable state, and of course this negates the extra calories we burnt while exercising!


At first it appears more complex than it sounds because muscle tissue is in fact heavier than fat tissue, and so you can lose the fat that covers your muscles, revealing the six pack underneath, while at the same time exercising to sculpt the body and build and tone the muscles – and the scales you weigh yourself on may not change at all! All exercise, whether it is yoga or running or weight training builds muscle tissue. This is the nature of exercise. Exercise makes your muscles stronger. A stronger muscle is – even on a small scale – a bigger muscle. You can’t make muscles smaller by exercising them (unless you are quite literally starving them – which of course is not the goal for anyone). And so you can go from a high level of body fat to a lower level of body fat, and if you have been increasing muscle at the same time – the scales won’t show a change in “weight”. I often tell my Personal Training clients that the mirror is a better tool than weighing scales in judging the progress they are making with our training programs. And sometimes they will see an astonishing change in the way they look in the mirror, without any discernible difference on the weighing scales! (In fact often an even better way of assessing change is often in the fit of the clothes you wear. A new body may require a whole new wardrobe!).


The word “Calorie” itself can be a scary and of-putting word, but the way to think about a calorie is that it is simply a way of  MEASURING. It is a unit of measurement. It isn’t a “thing” you can see, or an actual “component” of food. Rather, it is a way of measuring, not only food, but in fact “energy”. The technical definition of as calorie is:


The energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 °C.


It refers to the heat generated by your body processing the food you have eaten, or the energy used during the bodily processes fuelled by the food you eat, or the energy and heat expended converting this food into muscle and also whilst getting rid of the fat covering those muscles!


You can’t really “fool” the Calorie Equation. This is because it already takes into consideration that different food types or “Macro Nutrients” have different Calorie counts: 1gram of protein contains 4 calories, 1gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories, but 1gram of fat contains 9 calories. And even though the protein and carbohydrate have the same per gram calorie count, the energy they both represent is used differently within the body.


Protein is the main building block for repairing and building muscle tissue that is used in both weight training and yoga! – Whereas carbohydrate is the energy source used to fuel those and any other physical activity. And even though fat has a higher calorie count, it is still a vital component of our diets, and must be consumed – but in carefully measured quantities as part of a balanced and thought out nutrition plan.


So, ok, back to the original question, “Can yoga help me lose weight?”. From the discussion so far, it is probably already clear that we have to tip the calorie equation so that we burn more calories than we consume to lose weight. Exercise and movement of any kind will of course help burn more calories, and so YES absolutely, yoga will help you do this. But of course it will also depend on how often you practice yoga, how many classes per week you attend, how much you practice on your own, what other activities form part of your routine, and of course, crucially, the food you consume alongside your yoga practice.


Yoga is not the most “intense’ way of burning calories, in the same way as aerobic or cardiovascular exercise would be, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used in a weight management plan. If you look at it another way, it is a lot easier to split the calorie “deficit” between exercise and nutrition, rather than going extreme with one or the other. Trying to reduce your daily intake by 500 calories a day is hard work. Trying to burn 500 calories a day is also hard work. But if you eat just 250 calories less a day, keeping in mind the recommended daily intake for a woman or a man, and then burn only 250 calories that same day – you have achieved the same calorie deficit, and are well on the way to achieving your goals. And Yoga could very definitely be part of this plan!


Simon Bradley


Disclaimer:  It is always advisable for anyone and everyone to consult a doctor or healthcare provider before embarking on any exercise program. The above article is for informational purposes only. It is always advisable to seek the guidance and instruction of a qualified teacher or trainer before trying the exercises given in the article