Can you lose weight by doing yoga?

Updated: Nov 14, 2020

women doing mahamudra

In 2015-2016, The prevalence of obesity was 39.8% and affected about 93.3 million U.S. adults. Obesity among children and adolescents is still higher. Obesity leads to metabolic syndrome and lifestyle-related diseases. If you are in the U.S, the probability of being obese is almost 50%. The U.S contributes 70% of the adult obesity among all other nations included.

Map showing global adult obesity
Global Obesity Data

What is the weight to be considered obese?

When a person's BMI is between 18.5 to 25, it is the ideal weight. Below this is considered under-weight. When BMI reaches 25 and below 30, he is considered overweight. If it reaches 30 and above, he is considered obese. Refer here to know more about BMI.

How can obesity be caused?

Consuming more calories than the requirements for daily activities adds up and results in obesity. The general causes include one or many of the following.

  1. High intake of fat and Carbohydrates

  2. Insufficient sleep triggering the hormones for excess food intake.

  3. Genetics

  4. Age: slows down the metabolic rate

  5. Pregnancy: not losing the weight gained during pregnancy.

  6. According to, the health-conditions like poly-cystic ovary syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Cushing’s syndrome, hypothyroidism, osteoarthritis.

  7. Depression

  8. Quitting smoking may sometimes cause over-weight.

  9. Medications like steroids and birth control pills.

What obesity can lead to?

Obesity may lead to one or many of the following diseases and most of them are responding after weight reduction.

  1. Diabetes Mellitus

  2. Hypertension

  3. Dyslipidaemia

  4. Coronary artery disease

  5. Heart failure

  6. Asthma

  7. Non-alcoholic fatty liver

  8. sleep apnea and other breathing problems

  9. Stroke

  10. Arthritis

  11. Infertility

  12. Cancer

It is also to be noted that not all obese patients develop complications.

Who is most at risk for obesity?

According to S.D.H. Malnick, H. Knobler; The medical complications of obesity, QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, Volume 99, Issue 9, 1 September 2006, Pages 565–579,, the following persons are at a high risk of developing complications.

Clinical characteristics of the ‘high-risk’ obese patient

Abdominal obesity (increased waist-hip ratio)

Low physical fitness 

High triglycerides and low HDL-cholesterol levels 

High fasting insulin levels 

High fasting glucose levels 

Family history: 




Coronary heart disease 

Can you cure obesity?

The mainstay of treatment for overweight and obese patients is lifestyle modification and behavioral changes. Physical exercises up to 300 minutes per week are recommended. Balanced and healthy diet. In extreme cases, medical weight-loss and surgery are recommended.

Can yoga help reduce weight?

According to various scientific studies published over time, it is evident that yoga helps reduce body weight. A couple of studies are given below as a reference.

A study published in the International Journal of Research in Medical Sciences (See Ref.No:5 below) observes that statistically significant decrease in Systolic BP, Diastolic BP, and BMI after 3 months of Yoga training.

A study (See Ref.No:6 below) published in Medical Science Monitor on 21.12.2009, ID: 878317 observes that following the 6-day yoga residential program, participants showed a decrease in BMI (1.6 percent), waist and hip circumferences, fat-free mass, total cholesterol (7.7 percent decrease), high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (8.7 percent decrease), fasting serum leptin levels (44.2 percent decrease) and an increase in postural stability and handgrip strength (p<0.05, all comparisons).

A study (See Ref.No:7 below) published in Clinical Nutrition in 2006 observes that the objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of Hatha and relaxation yoga on obesity, blood pressure, and quality of life. Seventy healthy women and men aged 18 years or older completed a survey. A statistically significant body mass index for obesity (30.0) was observed (P < .001). A significantly lower systolic blood pressure was detected in the 1- to 4-year yoga participant group as compared to the less than 1-year yoga group (P <.023). The mean Total Mood Disturbance score was −5.04, indicating the survey participants scored a positive mood state. Hatha and relaxation yoga had a statistically significant role in controlling weight, hypertension, and mood.

What Yoga Practices are recommended for weight loss?

Though all yoga practices normally reduce BMI, scriptures mainly recommend Sarvangasana, Vipareetakarani, and Pranayama. The following practices are notable among the many yogic kriyas available for our purpose.

  1. Sarvangasana

  2. Surya Namaskar

  3. Mayurasana

  4. Paschimottanasana

  5. Tibetan Kriya

  6. Nadi Sodhana Pranyama ( Normally all Pranayama practices reduce weight)

  7. Bastrika Pranayama

  8. Nauli Kriya and Uddiyana Bandha


References and Further readings








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