Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Yoga is renowned for its beneficial effects on mental well-being and body flexibility. But you probably weren’t aware that yoga can help you lose weight and tone your muscles. Yep, that’s in addition to its benefits for flexibility, balance, and general wellbeing. 

Until recently, society associated yoga with a more spiritual way of life. But the last decade has brought about a yoga upsurge, with yoga studios popping up in most towns and social media becoming inundated with yoga influencers. You can even go to classes in most big gyms or do an online class. 

This increase in popularity is no coincidence. Simply put, yoga works.

Young woman stretching her back in yoga pose on floor

What is yoga? 

Yoga originated thousands of years ago and its roots lie in India. It involves positioning the body in specific poses. There are different styles of yoga. Some styles incorporate meditation, and some require more strength. With the different options available, yoga can meet everyone’s needs. Depending on the yoga style, you may be required to hold a pose for several minutes, or at other times you may flow through different positions quite quickly. 

Five of the most popular styles of yoga are: 

  • Hatha yoga. 
  • Ashtanga yoga. 
  • Vinyasa yoga. 
  • Kundalini yoga. 
  • Anusara yoga. 

These have become incorporated into several different formats of yoga including:

  • Yin yoga. 
  • Yang yoga. 
  • Power yoga. 
  • Restorative yoga. 

Yoga incorporates breathing techniques, which help to engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the system that helps relax the body and calm down any internal response to perceived danger. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for reducing the production of stress hormones, lowering the heart rate, and aiding a feeling of relaxation and safety within you. 

Benefits of yoga for weight loss (and much more!)

In the last decade, the dialogue around mental health and well-being has increased in prevalence. With well-being becoming a prominent part of everyday life, yoga has soared in popularity and is used as a tool for self-care. But yoga can help you lose weight too.

The wonderful thing about yoga is that anyone can do it, you can do it anywhere, and you don’t require any specialist equipment. This accessibility means it is excellent for all age groups and genders. 

Install free Chrome extension for easy recipe saving


Carers use yoga in nursing homes, and some teachers use it in schools. Professional athletes are encouraged to participate in yoga. And it also suits those who live a more sedentary lifestyle. 

You may opt to go to a yoga class to be under the watchful eye of a trained yoga instructor. Alternatively, you can select one of the millions of yoga videos online and practice yoga from the comfort and safety of your own home. 

Yoga helps restore your mind and body balance. It alleviates stress, depression, and anxiety and increases your well-being

3 surprising effects of yoga on weight and body composition

It’s not just the calming impact of yoga that will benefit you. Yoga is an effective way to improve your body composition by toning muscles and aiding weight loss. 

While yoga may not serve as a substitute for strength training, it does help you build muscle. And while it may not burn the same number of calories as running, it aids in weight loss. The short answer? Yes, yoga can help you lose weight – but it does so much more than that.

1. Builds muscle 

Yoga isn’t all about relaxation and flexibility. It helps build muscle as well. 

A scientific article on stretching and muscle hypertrophy confirms that although the research is limited, stretching muscles between periods of load can increase muscle growth.  

The muscle-building properties of yoga aren’t limited to its stretching element. This study looked at the effect of hatha yoga carried out three times a week for one hour over eight weeks. It concluded that yoga is as effective in building functional fitness as a standard stretching-strengthening program. 

Like any fitness plan, the key to building muscle is to start with the basic exercises and progress to more challenging exercises when your body is ready and able. This progression also applies to yoga. You can progress in yoga by loading the muscle and allowing for body adaptations, then advance to more technical poses and positions that place a more significant load on the muscles. 

elderly man doing yoga at home in front of laptop

2. Burns calories 

Obesity is a disease, and a complex one at that. It’s more complex than calories in, calories out. Managing excess weight is more complex than focusing on food and exercise. There is a connection between your weight, mental health, and sense of well-being. 

Yoga can assist with weight loss by improving your sense of well-being, reducing stress and anxiety, and therefore reducing the cortisol in your body. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is linked to weight gain. Not only that, but studies have found that increased cortisol levels are associated with abdominal obesity. 

One of the most challenging aspects of weight loss is keeping it off and maintaining an optimum weight. Yoga is showing promise in helping change habits. This positive behavior change promotes weight loss and aids weight maintenance. 

Another way yoga and weight loss are related is through the symbiotic relationship between an increase in muscle mass which helps burn more calories. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body requires to operate these muscles. 

3. Sculpts a leaner body 

We know that there are mental health benefits to exercise, but especially to yoga. Yoga is a holistic and therapeutic exercise. Not only does it aid strength and an increase in muscle mass through the load of the yoga positions and poses on the muscles.

But the influence of yoga on the parasympathetic nervous system helps alleviate stress hormones and calm the body down, inviting weight loss. 

Combining these effects of yoga produces a leaner and more sculpted body. Yoga can overhaul your body composition and result in less abdominal fat and greater strength. 

woman doing yoga on rock in front of lake in mountains

It’s time to embrace the downward dog 

There’s a reason everyone is doing yoga these days. If you haven’t already tried it, now is the time to give it a go. Yoga is a win-win exercise; it’s great for your mind and body. 

Getting strong, lean, and fit doesn’t always require you to pound the pavement or lift heavy weights. Yoga may be the perfect exercise if you want a more positive relationship with your body and seek to carve out a more sculpted body. 

Words by Ali Hall