The beauty of yoga lies in its ability to clear your mind, tone your body and increase your flexibility, but in comparison to a good run or swimming laps, yoga's calorie burn doesn't stack up. If losing weight is your goal, you'll need to accent your yoga program with regular cardiovascular exercise, but every calorie counts in the end. If you want to split hairs, the number of calories burned in Hatha and Bikram yoga differs substantially.
Heart-Pumping in Hatha
Nowadays, Hatha yoga typically refers to your standard, garden-variety yoga. When most people say “yoga,” they mean Hatha yoga. As the most basic form of the exercise, Hatha burns about 189 calories per hour for a 150-pound woman, according to the calories burned calculator at HealthStatus. Considering that a pound of body weight equals 3,500 calories, this puts it on the low end of caloric expenditure when held up against other styles of yoga.
Bikram yoga puts you in a sauna-like environment – typically about 105 degrees Fahreneheit – to cleanse your body of toxins and encourage healthy blood flow. Just as Bikram, or “hot yoga,” turns up the heat, it also pumps up the burn. HealthStatus estimates that a 150-pound woman who practices Bikram yoga for an hour burns roughly 477 calories, two and half times the number of calories burned by Hatha yoga.
Although calorie burn estimates clearly put Bikram above Hatha in turns of melting away fat, the numbers aren't cut and dry. As an individual woman, the exact number of calories you burn during yoga practice varies based on myriad factors, including your body weight, the intensity, stretching depth and challenge of the postures performed and the time you spend doing yoga. For instance, 90 minutes of Bikram boosts the burn up to a substantial 716 calories.
Hatha and Bikram aren't the end of the line when it comes to different yoga techniques. Vinyasa yoga, or “power yoga,” focuses on connecting your postures in a smooth, flowing fashion. This method sometimes incorporates strength-training moves like pushups and planks, and the result is a generally higher calorie burn than either Hatha or Bikram yoga. HealthStatus estimates that a 150-pound woman spends about 594 calories per hour practicing Vinyasa. In any type of yoga, increasing the depth of your stretch and keeping your core muscles engaged helps you squeeze out a little more caloric expenditure.
Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.