Yoga is great for stress busting, improving flexibility and making you leaner and fitter. Even short bursts of regular yoga at home will bring mental and physical health benefits. We list some good reasons to give it a try.

Burn more fat with yoga

When it comes to burning fat and getting lean, we don’t think of yoga as an obvious choice. But the right type of yoga can get you working up a good sweat and burning more calories than you might imagine. If you want to try yoga to burn fat and get lean, the more strenuous types of yoga include Vinyasa, Ashtanga and Power yoga, all of which are more energetic.

Vinyasa yoga is made up a series of sun salutations that you work through quickly, which means you won’t have time to recover in between each pose and your heart rate will rise, leading to a higher metabolic rate. Ashtanga yoga is a series of non-stop poses that you perform in a hot room in a temperature of more than 100 degrees. Bikram yoga, also known as hot yoga, lasts for 90 minutes.

Improve shape and tone

Yoga will help you tone up as well as lose weight, as some of the moves involve supporting your own body weight, which effectively means using your body weight as resistance, instead of dumbbells. Vinyasa yoga involves holding certain poses for long periods of time, which means your heart and lungs will be working harder to replenish lost muscles with fuel afterwards. Even more gentle forms of yoga like Hatha yoga can help weight loss and of course it can also improve posture, making you look taller and leaner.

Reduce injury risk

When you’re doing high intensity interval training sessions, you may find you can get stiff and tight afterwards if you don’t stretch properly. And even if you do stretch at the end of a workout, regular cardiovascular workouts can still cause you get stiff. Yoga will improve your flexibility and reduce injury risk. Many injuries occur when we ask our body to move in a position that it’s not used to. Joints may not have the range of movement or the stability (control) needed to get us into the correct position, which means our injury risk can increase. Yoga will help improve flexibility and strength around the joints.

If you want to get lean and toned, you may want to choose yoga over more strenuous types of strength training. When you do classic strength exercises like deadlifts or squats with weights, there is a greater risk of injury (as you are doing them with weights) if your technique isn’t spot on. With yoga, injury risk can be lower.

Boost exercise recovery

Yoga can also help you recover faster from your workout sessions. This is because it can flush out toxins like lactic acid, which build up in the body during exercise. A study that was published in Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research in November 2014 revealed that a single bout of yoga appeared to reduce muscle soreness in women.

Better balance

Yoga often involves doing poses like tree pose, where you stand on one leg, and some moves throw you away from your centre of gravity, which strengthens the ligaments in the knees and ankles. This can improve balance and prevent injury. Better balance is also useful during certain cardiovascular exercise, like running, where you are effectively hopping from one foot to the other. The better your balance when you run, the more efficient you will be as a runner.

Better sleep

Many people who practice yoga regularly report better sleep patterns. If you’ve managed to calm your mind during a yoga class, you will feel more relaxed and will be more likely to get to sleep.

How to choose the right form of yoga for you

You can do some of the exercises on the next page from home or on a mat in the gym. However, if you can spare an hour a week to do a weekly yoga class, you’ll reap the benefits. Good yoga classes for beginner include Hatha yoga, which is a gentle slower pace3d class, Iyengar Yoga, which focused on detail and is slow paced, and Kripalu yoga, which is also gentle with slow movements.

If you would like a more strenuous class, Ashtanga yoga or Power yoga may be for you, but bear in mind that some of the above slower classes will give you more time to get used to the poses.