Hatha yoga is an increasingly popular form of physical activity and meditative practice in the U.S. It is important to understand the calorie cost and intensity of yoga in relation to the national physical activity guidelines, such as those recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA). These guidelines encourage 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week.
This study was a systematic review that evaluated published research investigations that have directly measured the calorie cost of yoga and calculated the metabolic intensity (METS) of individual yoga poses including a popular sequence called “sun salutations.”
Based on ACSM/AHA classification, the intensity of holding most poses and of full yoga sessions ranged from light (less than 3 METS) to moderate-intensity (3-6 METS), with the majority classified as light-intensity.
A few sequences/poses, including the sun salutations, met the criteria for moderate-intensity activity. The health benefits of yoga, however, should not be discounted. The regular practice of yoga may also increase strength, balance and flexibility, calm the mind and reduce stress.