Restorative Kripalu-style classes, where you spend most of your time lying on the mat, will burn fewer calories than faster-paced classes of more intense styles like Ashtanga, Vinyasa, or Jivamukti. In these classes, you spend most of the class doing standing postures. If your studio schedule is organized by levels rather than styles, choose the higher number classes such as level two or three. The more you’re moving, the more calories you’re burning. Hot hatha yoga class is performed in a hot room and can also increase the amount of calories being burned, with the additional benefit of sweating out some excess water weight.
In many classes, you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time in Down Dog. While it is a challenging pose on its own, you can make it harder (and burn more calories) by doing variations like Quarter Dog with your forearms resting on the mat (this also gives tired wrists a break), Three-Legged Dog with one leg in the air, or get all fancy and do Down Dog Dancer. All these variations require more balance and upper body strength, so you’re exerting more energy to hold them.
Your instructor might suggest resting in Child’s Pose between postures, but if your breath feels steady and you don’t feel the need to rest, skip it and do a vinyasa between postures instead. Or you can always use those five breaths to work on a challenging pose like kicking up into handstand, as long as it seems appropriate for the types of yoga class. Some instructors will give you the evil eye if you stray too far from the sequence they’ve laid out, so be respectful.
The longer you sweat it out, the more calories you’ll likely burn. Choose 90-minute classes (403 calories burned) over those that are 60 minutes (269 calories burned) or 45 minutes (202 calories burned). You might have to practice at a yoga studio rather than a gym, since studios tend to offer longer yoga sessions.
Traditionally poses are held for five breaths, but if you’re feeling comfortable and have the strength (and time allows for it), hold poses for longer. The longer you engage your muscles, the stronger you’ll become, and the more calories you’ll burn.
If you go through the same postures all the time, your body will become so accustomed to doing them, they’ll seem easy, which means using less energy to do them. Challenge your muscles by trying out new or more difficult poses to place new demands on your muscles. When you feel your arms and abs shake in an arm balance like Headstand B, you’ll know you’re working hard and burning more calories in the process. Obviously only do poses you’re ready for, being sure to ask your instructor for safe ways to approach them.