How many calories does yoga burn?

A common question we get at our yoga studio, Move Your Hyde Power Yoga, is how many calories do you burn in a yoga class, in particular, how many calories are burned in a power yoga class? We did our own research to find out.

To understand how different types of yoga and other activities burn calories, you first need understand that to burn calories, your body requires oxygen. The harder the exercise, the more oxygen you require and the harder you breathe. In fact, one of the best ways to measure metabolism and how many calories your body burns during an activity is to measure how much oxygen you inhale and how much carbon dioxide you exhale. The more oxygen consumed by your body, the more calories burned.

So how do you determine how much oxygen is consumed during an activity? It turns out that your heart rate is directly related to how much oxygen you consume and calories you burn. Research has shown that there is roughly a linear relationship between heart rate and calories burned, though this linear relationship varies between people based on their age, weight, and gender.

One group of researchers estimated the parameters for this equation, publishing in the Journal of Sports Science the following formulas for determining the calories burned per minute:

Male: C/min = (-55.0969 + 0.6309 x heart rate + 0.1988 x weight + 0.2017 x age) / 4.184
Female: C/min = (-20.4022 + 0.4472 x heart rate – 0.1263 x weight + 0.074 x age) / 4.184

where weight is in kilograms and C is kilo-calories, which is what nutritionists refer to when talking about the calorie content of food. When your treadmill or runner’s watch gives you an estimate of the calories you are burning, it is using this or a variation of this formula.

To perform our own research on how many calories are burned during our power yoga classes, we purchased two pieces of equipment – a Timex Heart Rate Sensor and a Timex Data Recorder. The heart rate sensor is a strap that wraps around your chest and transmits your hear rate information wirelessly to the data recorder which simply clips to your belt. After recording the heart rate data, the information on the recorder can be downloaded via a USB port to your computer.

We then recruited a 235 lb, 44 year-old male test subject. The formulas above lead to the following relationship between heart rate and calories burned per minute for out test subject:

Relationship between heart rate and calories burned

We then strapped a heart rate monitor to the test subject’s chest and subjected him to a 60 minute Power Hour class. The following chart illustrates the subject’s heart rate during the class, measured in 2 second intervals:

Heart Rate During Power Hour Yoga Class

From these two pieces of information, we can then calculate the approximate calories burned during each 2 second increment and determine that our test subject burned approximately 650 calories during the power yoga class.

We can use this same technique to examine calories burned in other yoga classes. We strapped the heart rate monitor on our test subject again and sent him to one of our YOGA BODY BOOTCAMP classes. The chart below compares his heart rate between the two classes. The Power Hour heart rates are in red while the YOGA BODY BOOTCAMP ones are in blue.

Power Hour Yoga Class vs Yoga Body Bootcamp

Notice how during the first 20 minutes of class, the heart rates are very similar. This is because both classes begin with very similar vinyasa flows. After approximately 20 minutes, the YOGA BODY BOOTCAMP class diverges into four circuits of five stations. Included in each circuit is a balance station during which heart rate drops. These four circuits are visible in the four blue colored humps in the data after the 20 minute mark. Using this data and our formulas for measuring calories burned, we find our test subject burned approximately 705 calories during the class. For this test subject, the YOGA BODY BOOTCAMP class burned about 8.6% more calories than a regular power yoga class.

What about a hot room? Does hot yoga (yoga done in rooms heated from 90F to 110F) make you burn calories faster than other types of yoga? The answer is “Not so much”. Your heart does need to work a little harder to keep your muscles oxygenated in a hot room and to pump extra blood to your skin’s surface, so you do breathe a little harder, but the amount of extra calories burned is relatively modest compared to other types of exercise. One study showed that women kept in a respiration chamber at 81F burned about 10 calories more an hour than women kept in the chamber at 71.6F. This also explains why you can’t get skinny sitting in a sauna. You can lose temporary water weight, but you simply aren’t burning a significant amount of calories.

So, if you are interested in losing weight and burning calories, look for power yoga classes that boost your heart rate and make you sweat the old-fashioned way, through effort. To estimate how many calories you burn during a power yoga class, please visit our Yoga Calorie Calculator.

If you found this post useful, how about picking up a bag of our Power Granola to say thanks? It tastes great mixed with yogurt or as a cereal and it’s a good source of calories. Seriously, you need calories and you might as well get them from something as nutritious as our granola. You can get more info about our granola on our home page.

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  1. Pingback: Deborah Williamson's Wild Abundant Life | THE DAILY DEB: How is Yoga Body Bootcamp Different from Yoga Class?

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