New to yoga? You might be considering trying yoga as a means to get fit and lose weight.
And for those reasons, one of the questions you might be wondering is whether yoga is aerobic or anaerobic exercise.
The short and simple answer is… neither. Yoga is not an aerobic exercise, and nor is yoga an anaerobic exercise.
Despite that, yoga can be an aerobic exercise in some cases – something that’s worth talking about.
For the full answer, make sure to read this short guide to the end!
Aerobic Exercise Explained
To better understand the answer to the question, it’s important to understand what aerobic exercise means.
And to put it in layman’s terms, aerobic exercise is any exercise that challenges your cardiovascular system (your heart and lungs) to the point that you are using at least 60% (up to 80%) of your maximum heart rate.
Common aerobic exercises used to reach this heart rate zone include jogging/running, swimming, cycling, and playing sports.
Anaerobic Exercise Explained
We can’t explain aerobic exercise without explaining what anaerobic exercise means!
And to put it in layman’s terms once again, anaerobic exercise is any exercise that challenges your cardiovascular system to the point that you are using at least 80% (up to 90%) of your maximum heart rate.
As a result, anaerobic exercise is more demanding than aerobic exercise, being the heart rate zone above aerobic.
Common anaerobic exercises used to reach this heart rate zone include high-intensity interval training (HIIT), sprinting, and sprint swimming.
Is Yoga Aerobic Exercise Or Anaerobic Exercise?
As answered up above, yoga is not aerobic or anaerobic.
The reason for this is that yoga doesn’t physically challenge the cardiovascular system enough to reach either heart rate zone/threshold.
To be classed as aerobic, the exercise must bring your heart rate to 60-80% of your maximum heart rate.
To be classed as anaerobic, the exercise must bring your heart rate to 80-90% of your maximum heart rate.
And since yoga is generally slow-paced and relaxed, most people doing yoga will find that their heart rate remains below 60% (of their maximum heart rate).
Due to this, yoga is classed as “light exercise”, the heart rate zone below aerobic.
Can You Lose Weight Doing Yoga?
If yoga is neither aerobic nor anaerobic exercise, can you still lose weight by doing yoga?
Weight loss is achieved by burning calories (or by eating fewer calories than you need).
And to burn calories with exercise, you need to elevate your heart rate to the aerobic zone – specifically, to at least 70% (or above) of your maximum heart rate.
To reach this heart rate zone, it requires relatively demanding physical activity that challenges your cardiovascular system.
As a result, yoga, which is typically slow-paced and relaxed, is not an effective exercise to do this – and is therefore not effective for weight loss.
Despite that, it’s possible for yoga to be aerobic to help weight loss.
Advanced or physically demanding yoga routines can elevate some people’s heart rate to the aerobic zone.
And people who are unfit and overweight can reach the aerobic zone with yoga, since their cardiovascular systems will be working harder as a result of being unfit.
The Best Yoga For Weight Loss
Since it’s possible for yoga to help weight loss, it’s worth going over the best yoga styles that can help you to reach the aerobic heart rate zone and lose weight.
- Power yoga
- Vinyasa yoga
- Ashtanga yoga
Power yoga is as its name suggests: it involves a lot of strength-based movements and sequences that challenge the muscles.
These sequences can be slow or fast, but in most power yoga classes you can expect the experience to be fast-paced and physical.
Vinyasa yoga is considered the most athletic yoga style. It involves intense and dynamic yoga flows, often focused on posture and mobility. It’s ideal for people who like moving about as opposed to holding poses for long periods of time.
Ashtanga yoga is a physical yoga style that’s typically not ideal for beginners. It involves a variety of yoga poses that are held standing and seated, often leaning towards more advanced poses.
Advanced Yoga Poses
Much like some of the more physically demanding styles of yoga—power yoga, vinyasa yoga, and ashtanga yoga (explained above)—there are some advanced yoga poses that can also help promote weight loss as aerobic exercises.
This is due to the fact that these advanced yoga poses require full-body strength, skill, and control.
So, training to achieve them, or even holding the poses themselves, can result in an elevated aerobic heart rate that causes calorie burn.
To provide examples of physically demanding advanced yoga poses, these include:
- Peacock pose (mayurasana)
- Headstand/handstand (adho mukha vrksasana)
- Scorpion pose (vrischikasana)
- Scorpion handstand (vrischikasana b)
- Floating stick pose (utpluti dandasana)
- Crow pose (kakasana) and crow pose (bakasana)
- One-legged crow pose (eka pada kakasana)
- Flying pigeon pose (eka pada galavasana)
- Eight-angle pose (astavakrasana)
Why Do Yoga? – The Benefits of Doing Yoga
So, if yoga isn’t anaerobic or anaerobic exercise, what is the point of doing yoga?
Put simply, the point of doing yoga isn’t to lose weight – at least for most people.
Yoga offers other physical and mental benefits, and these include:
- Improved flexibility
- Improved mobility
- Improved balance
- Improved strength
- Muscle toning and muscle growth
- Improved mood
- Reduced stress
- Improved concentration and focus
- Improved sleep
- Improved breathing
So while yoga isn’t your best option if you’re solely looking to burn calories and lose weight, yoga offers many other benefits that can make it a great new fitness regimen to try out or at least incorporate into your exercise routine.
To wrap up, yoga is not aerobic or anaerobic exercise. The reason for this is that, for most people, yoga does not challenge the cardiovascular system enough to elevate heart rate to either heart rate zone.
Aerobic exercise involves bringing your heart rate to 60-80% of your maximum heart rate while anaerobic exercise involves bringing your heart rate to 80-90% of your maximum heart rate.
Yoga, however, typically keeps most people’s heart rates below 60% (of their maximum heart rate), classing it as a light exercise.