Weight Loss Made Practical » Exercise

Does Yoga Help You Burn Belly Fat?

Does Yoga Help You Burn Belly Fat

Some people exercise for the health benefits. Others to lose fat in areas like their belly. Does yoga help you burn belly fat?

Unfortunately it is generally not possible to choose where you lose fat. So to burn belly fat your best bet is to burn fat overall until your abdominal area is next.

An important factor in how much fat you lose is how much energy, calories, your body uses. Exercises like yoga can help you with this.

However, yoga burns a relatively low number of calories for the time spent exercising. Yoga does help you build some muscle which in turn benefits long-term calorie burning. But again there are better exercises to do this.

In short, yoga does help you burn some body fat, and thus potentially belly fat, but it is a relatively bad exercise to burn a lot of belly fat in a short amount of time.

Other lifestyle factors like what you eat are also very important factors in whether or not you will burn fat.

There are also situations where your belly can be bloated that have nothing to do with accumulating fat. By resolving the root cause of that you might be able to slim down your belly to some extent without fat loss.

Why you generally can’t focus fat loss

Some people get the impression that to burn fat you have to stay at a certain heart rate, eat certain foods, or do specific workouts.

Unfortunately, targetting fat loss in a specific area like your belly is generally not possible. To burn fat, or more specifically belly fat, you have to lose weight overall.

Some people claim that you can feel a “burn” in a specific place when you are working the muscles in that area with a certain exercise. However, it’s not because specific muscles are working that your body only uses energy from that place.

Your body looks at your body fat as a single store of energy. It does prioritize certain areas but you don’t have a say in the order this happens.

How do you gain body fat?

Every day you do all kinds of activities that require energy. Walking, breathing, sleeping, eating,.. you need energy to do all these things. Your body gets this energy, which is measured in calories, from food.

When you absorb more calories from your food than you use your body stores this energy for later use. As body fat and in other ways. Ultimately, the more excess calories you consume the more body fat you will gain.

Your body prefers some areas over others for fat storage. Most often the preferred areas are places like your abdomen and hips.

At a certain point, it can be more useful for your body to have the excess body fat divided into different areas. From a certain point on you will gain gradually gain body fat in other areas too.

The problem is that excess body fat increases the risk of all kinds of diseases and is generally not considered visually appealing.

In what order does fat loss happen?

Luckily it is also possible to reduce these excess energy stores again. When your body wants to use more energy than there is coming in from food it starts using its energy stores.

Once you start losing body fat, the reverse of this storing process usually happens. The last place you gained fat will most likely be the first place you will lose fat again.

This means that in the beginning, you will lose a lot of body fat in places like face, hands, and feet. The places where you gained fat first will most likely be the last where you lose fat. That’s why you may have heard from “stubborn belly fat”.

The main reason this order of fat loss is different in different people is mainly due to genetics. Some people easily gain weight on their belly, others easily store fat in their thighs. There is little you can do to influence this order.

Woman with flat stomach

Is yoga good for calorie burning?

A popular way to increase the number of calories burned and thus tap into body fat energy stores is by exercising. By moving more intensely and building muscle you increase the amount of energy your body requires.

Yoga is a popular type of exercise. Partly because it is so easy to implement in your routine but also because it can help you burn some extra calories and build a bit of muscle mass.

Below you can find rough estimations for calories burned for individuals doing different types of yoga for 30 minutes. Keep in mind that in reality these numbers will likely look different for you (1).

If you want more in-depth estimations and techniques to burn more calories while doing yoga make sure you read the article on how many calories yoga burns.

Yoga Type
Weight Person
Nadisodhana YogaHatha YogaSurya Namaskar YogaPower Yoga
125 Pounds (56 kg)59 calories74 calories97 calories118 calories
155 Pounds (70 kg)73 calories92 calories121 calories146 calories
185 Pounds (83 kg)87 calories109 calories144 calories175 calories
215 Pounds (97 kg)102 calories127 calories168 calories203 calories
Chart of calories burned per 30 minutes while doing different types of yoga

These estimations are for during the exercise. Doing a workout like yoga also helps you build a bit of muscle. This extra muscle helps you burn calories for a while after you stop doing the exercise.

It’s hard to estimate these more long-term calorie burning effects.

Is yoga a good way to lose belly fat?

Whether yoga burns any calories is not the only question. How does this workout compare to the amount of energy in food and other exercises?

Here are some food examples to put the calorie-burning estimations into perspective. 100 grams of boiled potatoes contains about 87 calories (2). 100 grams of salmon contains about 182 calories (3).

And these are relatively weight loss friendly food examples. It’s clear that what you eat plays a big role in whether or not you will lose belly fat while doing yoga.

The following numbers are calorie-burning estimations for a 155-pound person doing Hatha yoga vs other workouts for 30 minutes (4).

  • Hatha Yoga: 92 calories
  • Water Aerobics: 149 calories
  • Dancing (Fast, ballet, twist): 223 calories
  • Stair Step Machine (general): 223 calories
  • Rowing, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
  • Bicycling, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
  • Running 5.2 mph: 335 calories
  • Elliptical Trainer (general): 335 calories
  • General Moderate Tempo Rope Jumping: 366 calories
  • Running 6.7 mph: 409 calories
  • Swimming (crawl): 409 calories
  • Fast Rope Jumping: 439 calories
  • Bicycling 16-19 mph: 446 calories
  • Running 10 mph: 614 calories

Overall, yoga are one of the worst workouts you can do in terms of calorie burning and thus losing belly fat.

Women doing yoga to lose belly fat

How long should you do yoga to burn fat?

One pound of body fat is about 3500 calories (one kg +-8000). How long it takes to see weight loss results from yoga will also depend on the number of calories in your diet.

One person might eat more than the other. This might make it so they need to exercise longer or more intense to see the same weight loss results. You can even lose weight without exercising so there are many factors that influence it.

15 minutes of yoga a day could help you burn an extra 460 calories in 10 days which is about 0.13 pounds of body fat. 30 days 1380 calories and so on…

Keep in mind that losing weight too fast can be harmful. In general, a 500 calorie deficit per day is considered to be a healthy weight loss rate.

Relevant studies

While it is not the best exercise, yoga can still help you lose belly fat. When put into practice there are studies that confirm this.

One study with 60 women with abdominal obesity looked at the impact of a 12-week yoga intervention compared to no extra exercise. They measured a significant reduction in abdominal circumference in the yoga group compared to the control group (5).

Another study with 182 individuals with metabolic syndrome also found a significant reduction in waist circumference in the group that did 1 year of yoga compared to the group that did not do extra exercise (6).

Other studies with yoga interventions generally have similar findings (7). However, sometimes the relatively small effect of yoga on belly fat is not big enough to be statistically significant (8).

How to improve appearance in body areas

There are many reasons why someone would want to lose belly fat. One of these reasons is simply improving their appearance. While you can’t target fat loss you can sometimes improve the appearance of certain areas of your body.

Reducing bloating

The first way you can make your belly appear less fat is by reducing swelling. You do have to keep in mind that not everyone who has a belly that appears fat necessarily has swelling.

You can learn what some possible causes are. By excluding these you know whether or not you need to lose fat in your belly if you want to see a visual change.

Here are some possible reasons your belly might be bloated (9):

  • Eating a lot of salt
  • Fluid retention
  • Constipation
  • Allergies
  • Drinking too many carbonated drinks
  • Certain medicines
  • Medical conditions

While excluding these factors can help, keep in mind that if the number on the scale is high too you likely have to focus on losing fat too.

Toning body parts

The second way you can make body parts appear less fat is by building muscle in these areas. This won’t improve fat burning in the area but the muscle can make it look better.

In the case of your belly, yoga will help you build your abdominal muscles a little bit but there are better exercises like for example sit-ups.

woman doing yoga pose

Things to keep in mind

Yoga is not the best workout choice to lose a lot of belly fat. There are plenty of workouts that can help you lose more belly fat in a shorter amount of time spent exercising.

One benefit yoga does have is that many people consider it to be a fun way to get in some extra movement. Consistency is a big factor when trying to lose belly fat. The difference between two vs three workouts every week makes a big difference in the long-term.

Another benefit of yoga is that it may help with improving things like mindfulness which in turn can help with not overeating (10, 11).

If losing belly fat is your main goal and you do decide to implement more yoga, it may also be smart to implement some exercises in your schedule specifically for building muscle on top of your yoga workouts. The extra muscle mass will help you burn more calories day in, day out, including during your yoga sessions.

Also keep in mind that the things you eat stay important no matter what exercise routine you’re following. It’s hard to out-exercise a bad diet.