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Calorie Count: Hatha, Vinyasa, and Hot Yoga

hot yoga

**Note: All measurements, numbers, and statistics are based on a female weighing 150 lbs.**

A couple of weeks ago, I was on my way into my local health food store to load up on a week’s supply of Kombucha, when I spotted an eye-catching billboard for a local hot yoga studio. “Each class burns 1200 calories!" The advert said. My first thought was, “Wow! Where is this place? I need to hit up this studio!" But it wasn’t a few seconds after when my skepticism kicked into high gear. “This can’t be true!" I thought. Then I noticed a similar claim on my local Bikram studio’s website. “With Bikram hot yoga, you burn up to 1250 calories in just one session," the website claims. So I hit the books and Google to see what I could prove and what I would debunk.

I quickly found out that doing yoga in a hot and humid room does little more to help in the calorie burning process than practicing in a “normal" environment. However, hot yoga will make you feel that you are burning more calories. And, you will likely lose water weight right away when you start regularly practicing hot yoga which might make you seem like it has been instrumental in losing actual weight. This might be why the “30 Day Bikram Challenge" has been so popular.

Here’s how hot yoga’s perceived exertion works: when your body enters a hot/humid environment, your body’s natural cooling system kicks in. Your heart rate increases and you begin to sweat. Even if you aren’t moving around you will start to sweat, like you would if you were sitting in a sauna. You are dripping sweat and your body’s natural instincts are going to kick in and tell you that you are working too hard. But you push yourself, you finish the class, and you feel like you just kicked yoga’s butt and vice/versa.Yoga’s mentally taxing nature coupled with high perceived (not actual) exertion is what makes hot yogis think that they are getting the most efficient workout possible. It’s much easier to run on a treadmill with headphones on, the TV blaring, and a magazine in front of your face than to concentrate on acute posture modifications while holding strenuous poses. If you weigh 150 lbs and jog on the treadmill for an hour (60 min) at 7 mph for one hour, you will burn 800 calories.

Yes, working out in a hot and humid room does increase calorie expenditure -- about 10 extra calories per hour per 9 degrees of increase. So if you are doing gentle hatha-style yoga in a 70 degree room for sixty minutes, you will burn 189 calories. Crank the heat up to 88 degrees, and you will burn 209 calories. You know what else burns 20 calories a whole lot quicker and without as much mental anguish? Walking up 4 flights of stairs.

Of course, style of yoga and duration of your favorite yoga practice as well as your weight will also effect the exact number of calories burned. Hatha yoga is a light form of exercise, on par with walking at a leisurely 2 mph pace. Hot yoga (e.g. Bikram) burns more calories than regular hatha yoga, and Power yoga as well as vinyasa yoga burn quite a bit more than Bikram. The most rigorous and highest calorie-burning yoga is hot power yoga (not to be confused with regular hot yoga or Bikram), which can be downright dangerous for people who are not in perfect health. Here’s a look at calories burned by doing yoga based on style and duration:

Total Calories: 60 MinutesTotal Calories: 90 Minutes
Hatha (Gentle) Yoga189 cal.284 cal.
Vinyasa Flow or Power Yoga594 cal.

891 cal.

Hot Hatha or Bikram477 cal.716 cal.
Hot Power Yoga620 cal.930 cal.

*all measurements based on 150-lb. female.

Yoga in general (hatha, gentle, yin/yang, restorative) is one of the least efficient ways of burning calories. Plus, studies have shown yoga to slow the metabolism causing your body to become less efficient at burning calories on your own. In The Healthiest You by Kelly Traver, M.D., general yoga is considered light exercise that will burn less calories than “heavy house cleaning" and gardening. It ranks a little higher than bowling and “golfing with a cart". If you are trying to lose weight, yoga -- like any form of exercise -- can definitely help. Vinyasa yoga or power yoga is probably the best form if you are looking to use yoga to lose weight efficiently. For weight loss, skip the heat. It causes dehydration and exhaustion. You will be less likely to sustain high activity throughout your day if you wear yourself down in the morning with a hot yoga class.

For me, I like the added mental exertion of hot yoga. I like the way it makes my body feel cleansed after a vigorous and sweaty practice. I notice a decreased appetite following hot yoga. However, if I was looking to burn calories and/or lose weight, I would run. I would go to an air-conditioned gym and hit the treadmill.

Julie Biller Date 8/27/2013
I find this article to be very negative in speaking about the different styles of Yoga and full of misinformation which is unfortunate if a beginner were to read it. I own a hot studio (not bikram) and the transformation I see on a daily basis is mind blowing. They would have never stepped into class after reading this article. Such a DIS service in my opinion.
Christen Date 8/27/2013
I found this article informative and not negative at all. I found the writer to speak without any particular bias, giving the pros and cons of different types of yoga. I think different things work for different people, and we should all be encouraged to find our own information and try things for ourselves to form judgements.
Pamela Date 8/29/2013
Thank you for your insight and for doing the research on this! I agree with Christen that you spoke without any particiular bias..
Chyna Leigh-Ann Date 8/29/2013
I did not see any negative connotations in this article. I'm a fan of Bikram Yoga and all that is discussed in this article are well known facts. I practice many forms of yoga as I see yoga as being well, yoga. If we just stick to the positive effects that yoga gives us from our practice and not focus on "calorie count" it would be so much more effective. Many Blessings.
Amanda R Date 8/29/2013
If your only intention of doing yoga is for burning calories, you might want to do something else anyway. Or you can learn more about yoga and go deeper. All these pop-up Hot Yoga studios are getting annoying and although it is introducing more people to the wonderful experience and even mental and health benefits of yoga they seem to just be trendy. namaste
Steve Date 8/29/2013
The anti-bikram bias is very noticeable. The author also omits many benefits of yoga that make it a far superior form of exercise to running: toning of ALL muscle groups, rather than just three or four; lengthening and healing of joints and connective tissues; compression and release of internal lymphatic and digestive systems; thorough cleansing of sweat glands and the attendant lymphatic structures (hot and bikram); and activation and exercise of the vagal nerve systems. Running does NONE of these things, and is harmful to joints, spine, digestive and foot structures. Calorie burning never happens in a vacuum.
Sasanna Date 8/29/2013
The truth is the truth. Some people like hot yoga, but it is not the miracle it is prescribed to be, unless they think it is, and then it is for them! The yoga itself is the source of energy, strength and healing. And there is so much more to health than calorie-burning. The author is making an important point about calorie expenditure only. I found the chart, and the clarification that it is based on a particular individual of a certain weight, highly accurate and informative.
Linda Date 8/29/2013
I agree with Steve wholeheartedly. Yoga does indeed have MANY benefits. In all fairness to the author though, I think the point being made was that yoga is not the best exercise/method for burning calories. Last point, I also agree, running, especially over a long period of time, is very harmful to joints, spine, & foot structures....and calorie burning never happens in a vacuum.
Amanda Date 8/29/2013
I'd like to see the actual "research" data and where this person is getting their facts. The part where it said, "Plus, studies have shown yoga to slow the metabolism causing your body to become less efficient at burning calories on your own." Is a complete lie. Since I started doing hot yoga, I've notived my metabolism has increased substantionally. Very disappointing article to read. Very off putting. My body fat has gone down by 5% while my muscle mass continues to grow. The person who wrote this article s ignorant.
Loren Date 8/30/2013
As a NASM personal trainer, student of yoga (Hatha and Bikram) and owner of a fitness business, I understand the defensive nature of fellow business owners. However, regarding the article; I believe that the author was trying to get across a point that the advertised caloric burn for yoga is inaccurate for the average yoga-goer. I don't think it was a fair assessment to state yoga *most inefficient way of burning calories* that perhaps would have been more appropriate following an ass-on-couch statement. I think it is also easy to presume it is "negatively biased" because the author did not touch on one of the most beneficial properties of yoga: the mental exercise, as the focus was purely on the caloric effect. That being said, this only proves the point that health and exercise is right in different ways for different people. Sure, obese population could burn 1000+ calories in 90 minutes performing postures. It is not enough of a caloric burn for someone let's say, like me to constitute a heavy workout (I am 105lbs, 9% BF) but the joint mobility, flexibility and most importantly, self centering attributes are how yoga remains effective for me. To people like Amanda who may or may not be new to the practice, a change to your system *should* yield results and that is a wonderful achievement to have lost 5%BF. I believe that there are a few "trendy" studios that are stirring the pot for you authentic yogis, and, no, that's not fair advertising to the uninformed, 150lb, average female client (the example, not being sexist) but that 's also not to knock running or to say that one thing is the BEST. Do what works for you in harmony and you will find BALANCE. Yin, yang. Thanks
YogiBar Date 8/30/2013
I've been practicing yoga for over 30 years. I do enjoy, on occasion some hot yoga mostly because I don't sweat much. I have found that folks who participate in Bikram or hot yoga become addicted to it. It's very rajasic in nature. However, these same folks are all about the "workout". Yoga is not about kicking butt & burning calories even though that's what a lot of people want--they don't know what yoga is truly about. Samadhi, anyone?
Summer Date 8/30/2013
I'm the girl in the "30 Day Bikram Challenge" link and agree on the anti-Bikram bias. I also disagree on the calorie count. I only weigh around 115 pounds and I *easily* burn at least 1,000 calories per BIkram yoga class. (I have a calorie monitor that I wear around my waist sometimes.) I'm not a runner and it would take me around 10 miles to burn anywhere near that same amount of calories, which is something I am not incapable of doing. I understand and appreciate that hot yoga, especially Bikram, is not for everyone, but some of the above claims are baseless. Hot yoga causes dehydration and exhaustion? Do you know hard would be for an out of shape person to "jog on a treadmill for an hour?" Talk about sweat and dehydration. Overall I think this article makes rather sweeping statements without much evidence to back up the claims.
MattD Date 8/31/2013 Here's another article that supports the claims here with science and actual studies.
MattD Date 8/31/2013
Chris Date 8/31/2013
When yoga teachers first began to come to the West from India, there was a great concern that yoga would be commercialized and stripped of its spirituality. They were correct in their fears. Yoga has been prostituted and commercialized by many immoral people who will do or say anything to make a buck off of some naïve person. Yoga has changed more in the last 30 years than it has in the 5000 years prior to coming to the West. Many studios in the West cater to the ego driven desires of their particular demographics and will sell them whatever they want to hear. I am not a sports physiologist, but common sense should be enough to know that anything that would burn 1200 calories in 90 minutes would either kill someone or severely damage organ systems. Shame on those whose weak egos drive them to such extremes, and shame on those who, in the name of yoga, would take advantage of these poor people.
Dana D Date 8/31/2013
For the ultimate lowdown on this subject, one should read the yoga/calorie burn specs sections in "Light On Yoga", "Yoga Mala" and "The Hatha Yoga Pradipika". Just kidding...
Kathleen Gallen Date 9/2/2013
I think the writer, along with many other westerners have missed the boat on what yoga is about. We seem to be such a physically focused society and have lost sight of the mental benefits of yoga.
Denise Date 9/3/2013
I can personally attest to what Chris has stated. Six years ago I had a near-death experience while attending a "hot yoga" teacher training. Despite taking salt, electrolyte supplements and drinking a minimum of 6 liters of electrolyte-enhanced water per day, I could not maintain the serum sodium levels in my body. Fortunately I survived and did not sustain permanent organ damage. What a hard lesson for my ego to learn! Also, I agree with Kathleen that asana and the body are tools to move one from the "gross" to the "subtle."
R. Date 9/3/2013
I suspect that opinions are much like seated postures, everyone has one:) So I will express mine, all in all isn't our real mission to share yoga with more people on this earth we inhabit, and create a more shared consiousness and kindness. So really there is probably less of a perversion of yoga and more of a diversification occurring, actually I can't say I have experienced any form of yoga anywhere that doesn't utIlize some type of hatha postures, so therefore the only true roots lie in the end state we are trying to get to stillness "peace". So does it really matter how we collectively move people towards YOGA.
Jo-Ann Date 9/3/2013
First of all let me sa this: Yoga is a lifestyle, a way of life, a way of keeping fit mentally spiritually and physically. Yoga is a science a connection of mind, body, and breath, the breath being the connection. I have being practicing yoga for 43 years, since I was 25 years old. I must say I have never used yoga as way of losing weight but as expressed earlier a way of keeping fit mentally physically and spiritually. I have never had a weight problem but all four of my sisters (they are not yogis) have had fluctuations of weight and are constantly on some kind of diet or other. I am a teacher and trainer of Iyengar yoga and a great believer in the age old adage "When the body is fit, the mind will naturally follow". Over the years I have watched and witnessed such a change in how yoga is perceived in the western world. Since hitting the western world in such a huge way Yoga has lots its essence it has become main stream and just another world-wide fitness craze. There used to be just yoga and those who went looking for it knew what they were getting. Now there is swimmers yoga, runners yoga, laughing yoga, wellness yoga, prenatal yoga, therapeutic yoga chair yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Bikram yoga,Jivamukti yoga, ashtanga yoga, hot yoga, flow yoga, stress yoga, aqua yoga, children's yoga, thai yoga, soul yoga, yoga pants, yoga tops, yoga blocks, yoga blankets, yoga straps, yoga swings, yoga earrings, yoga pendants to name a few. Unfortunately the word YOGA has become a marketing tool. The focus in my studio is never weight loss but lifestyle and total body/mind/spirituality wellness. The changes I have witnessed on my yoga journey, in my own life and those of others has been amazing. Our focus should be to bring the essence of yoga back to its roots not to how may calories we can burn is a session. But having said that a regular hatha yoga practice will rev the metabolism for forty-eight hours, therefore burning calories in a very efficient manner.
R. Date 9/3/2013
I suspect that opinions are much like seated postures, everyone has one:) So I will express mine, all in all isn't our real mission to share yoga with more people on this earth we inhabit, and create a more shared consiousness and kindness. So really there is probably less of a perversion of yoga and more of a diversification occurring, actually I can't say I have experienced any form of yoga anywhere that doesn't utIlize some type of hatha postures, so therefore the only true roots lie in the end state we are trying to get to stillness "peace". So does it really matter how we collectively move people towards YOGA.
Rick Date 2/16/2015
Hello to all:) I have to say that there are certainly as many opinions being expressed here as there are forms of yoga practice. A movement towards any type of yoga practice is a positive movement which with repetition and frequency of practice will lead the practitioner down the path of development and growth as a better human being, let the yoga do you. Regardless of practice preferences understand that our "Ujjayi" breath heats our internal furnace with movement we will build heat where we are supposed to inside out, with this sweat is produced therefore detoxifying, now add a few twists to wring out those organs and we are kind of accomplishing the same if not more than sitting in a sauna. Now that we have cleansed and stretched out our bodies let's consider the real intent and purpose of this process "savasana". Get there however you choose hot or not hot is irrelevant its all about getting to a space in which we are at perfect stillness, our thoughts, words and actions are far more critical than our style of practice. Peace my friends
Jax Date 3/27/2015
The statement that yoga can slow metabolism is a pretty big generalization since for people with cortisol issues it can actually help lower your stress and therefore improve your metabolism and stress management. The relaxing nature of gentle yoga could help lower cortisol, therefore resulting in weight loss. So I believe it depends on the individual, especially as far as metabolism is concerned.
Renee 12/22/2015 Date 12/22/2015
i have been practicing everyday for a year now. As a previous gym rat (I still workout there also), I joined a hot yoga studio after I had a lower spine fusion and needed to work on getting some flexibility back. I became addicted, not thinking about calories burned, but about how it makes me feel. I only question the author's comment about hot yoga slowing down one's metabolism?
Rob Pittman Date 8/2/2016
I've been practicing various forms of Yoga for nearly ten years, and only in the last year have tried hot yoga (Moksha). I am also a competitive road cyclist, and use my yoga practice to enhance my flexibility, correct imbalances that come from being hunched over a bicycle for five hours most days, to improve my cardiovascular fitness, and finally, to control my weight. I have also gained significant improvements to self-awareness, both physically and mentally through my yoga practice, and I find that the Moksha classes typically encourage mindfulness and meditation as much as classes I've done with"real" yogis, as one commenter alluded to earlier. Back to the physical benefits for a moment, since this is the topic of this article: Anyone who believes they can burn 2000 calories in 60 minutes is either a competitive athlete, or deluded. As a 171lb male, I can expend 2000 calories in 60 minutes doing a sustained, maximal effort; the kind of thing I could only do once a week and would require significant rest thereafter. Furthermore, such maximal efforts (with the heart rate at or above anaerobic threshold) would not be very effective for anyone seeking weight loss. That kind of energy expenditure would quickly become catabolic, meaning that muscle tissue, rather than fat, would be burned. Yoga may not be terribly effective at burning calories (I have tested myself during many practices with a heart rate monitor, and found that I've burned 700 calories at the absolute most), but it is very effective at aiding in weight loss, as your heart rate will remain primarily in the lower three zones; recovery, aerobic endurance, and "tempo". This lower-intensity exercise, while it may not have high caloric expenditure, triggers chemical processes that cause the body to use fat for fuel. As an added bonus, the increase in cardiovascular fitness that comes especially from hot yoga means that over time, your body will maintain a lower heart rate at higher rates of perceived effort (RPE), essentially keeping your body in "fat-burn" mode during harder workouts. Finally, as many other commenters have pointed out, yoga is a physical extension of a mental or spiritual practice. It should be an exercise in remaining mindful and aware despite external (physical) stresses. Hopefully, with time and guidance, you will be able to take the focus you develop through yoga into your daily lives. Anyone who expects to burn 2000 calories in a hot yoga session lasting 60 minutes.
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