Yoga for Weight Loss. Why Not?

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Yoga and Weight Loss

Recently, some ads posted on Facebook by Udemy, an online course company where one of my yoga-and-healthier eating programs is housed, received a lot of flack from a few yogis.

Admittedly, the ads, which I had no hand in creating, mentioned only the weight loss benefits of the 14-day Yoga and Detox course I created on the site. I believe the words “bikini body” were involved. Not great, I agreed.

So I had them change the ads to something more broad, including the empowerment and detox benefits of the program, and they did.

Simple as that, right?

Not so fat…I mean…fast.

The same people who raised concerns about the “superficiality” of a yoga program only for weight loss (which it isn’t), then seemed not to be able to let the conversation go. They were very upset by the promotion of this side of our yoga practice.

And it’s not the first time.

Which led me to wonder: what is it about the concept of weight loss as a result of our yoga practice that gets some people ready to rumble?

As someone who has lost 40 pounds doing yoga, and also created a style of yoga, Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga that often gives yogis more results—including a lean, toned body—in less time than many styles, I feel qualified, and responsible to examine the conversation.

I get it.

The core point of yoga is to be holistic, not partial, and go deep, not remain superficial.

When the craze to be physically “perfect”—whatever that is—overrides one’s ability to be at peace, satisfied and even happy from day to day, then, Houston, we have a problem.

I advocate that skinnier is not always better. I happen to be built like a telephone pole, but I’ve been 15 pounds lighter than this, and I didn’t look well. I invite students to become fit and strong and toned—and at a healthy weight for their frame. This is always a part of any discussion about yoga as a tool for inner and outer physical fitness.

Yet, some people are still living in the “prison of perfect.” 

There’s an urban myth out there that yoga doesn’t burn calories, build muscles or help students lose weight. Yet nothing could be further from the truth, and thousands of actual yogis who have transformed inside and out are living proof of this.

True, some styles just don’t move that much, or go very deep, so you can’t expect to balance out the scale with, say, a gentle or restorative practice. Yet, many more physically challenging styles, like a stronger vinyasa or power-type yoga, gives weight-loss or maintenance benefits beyond other yoga forms.

In fact, due to yoga’s lifestyle and spiritual teachings, deeper breathing, focus on balancing holistic strength with flexibility, and the addition of detoxifying moves like inversions and twists, yoga, I believe, can give superior benefits to any other type of exercise.

The deep belly work and core breathing technique we use in my classes and videos helps release serotonin, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the rest-and-digest chemistry of the body, so students process food and toxins better, and don’t gain stress-related weight (or eating habits).

Yoga can be cardio, too. The flowing movements coupled with the Ujjayi breath and valve at the vocal diaphragm creates resistance that tones the heart, lungs, breathing diaphragm and breathing muscles like the intercostals and abdominal wall. I’ve had participants strap a heart and calorie monitor on in my classes, and I have, too. The heart rate stays in the fat-burning and calorie-burning range for 45 minutes of that hour, at least, and we burn an average of 5-600 calories an hour. That’s not to mention the fact that long after class, because we built more lean muscle mass through endurance holds, we are requiring more calories all day (and night) long.

Thanks to yoga’s mindfulness and relaxation benefits, we also sleep better and become more mindful of our food choices, all directly improving how we look and feel on all levels.

The one-pointed focus that serves us well when we direct it toward our ultimate goal of yoga (unity), and love, can also be limiting and turn us into control freaks on a mission to death grip the nectar out of all the goodness and balance that freedom represents.

I’m not a big fan of purely physical practice, in which we show up on the mat to get a better asana, or six-pack, and leave before savasana, or continue to practice the same dysfunctions on and off the mat, realizing nothing deeper than a lower number on the scale.

I am a proponent of a physically based practice that leads students into other life lessons as they move. Maybe it’s my New Yorker coming out, but I prefer that my workout come with flexibility training, for the body, mind, heart and spirit too.

That’s why if you watch my latest Yoga for Weight Loss, or any, video of mine, or sit in a room with me in person, you’ll always hear a full spectrum of benefits you can receive from the time you’ve joined me, from calorie burn and weight loss to weight maintenance and whole body tone, but that’s not all.

Try a 10-minute Yoga for Weight Loss video practice with me that gives you the benefits of 20 minutes of most yoga in just 10!

I also mention that if you need to lose weight, then you can do it with this style. If you don’t, there’s always “weight” to drop on other levels—stress, tension, old constrictive stories, toxins and anything else blocking you from being in your inherent state of healthy vitality and inner balance.

And, by the way, when I began yoga, I came for the workout, and I left before savasana. I wanted my body to look like the yoga body. Period. I would no more have meditated or read the Sutras than the man in the moon.

Of course, as I became more strong in my body, and transformed it, I also became more healthy, happy, confident and calm. I started with a deep concern about my back fat, and progressed into a profound interest in my own well-being and living the other beyond back fat principles of yoga.

And yes, I learned to meditate, and (usually) like it.

The physical gateway got me into yoga. Then yoga seeped in, and here I am today, teaching millions of people about the whole enlightening, empowering, transformative enchilada that a Hatha yoga practice offers them.

So, rest assured, when I offer a Weight Loss practice, or anything else, I am quite aware of what I’m doing.

If you peruse my over 200 free videos on YouTube, you’ll see all sorts of topics, from how to breathe more deeply, to insomnia, quick meditations, power smoothies for energy, the meaning of OM, core strength, and—yep—weight loss.

I hear from virtual viewers all the time that they never thought of trying yoga until they found a video they needed for some issue or ailment, like dropping some unwanted pounds or de-stressing.

I haven’t covered every doorway in, but I full well know that some people are attracted through the body. And—why the hell not?

In my opinion, to try any fitness program, yoga or otherwise, for the sole purpose of losing weight, in a country whose obesity and diet-related illnesses are skyrocketing, is something we should all encourage, not attack.

If you are seeking a powerful weight loss routine that has additional benefits, then yoga can be a perfect fit!

And you know what? Good for you. You’re already practicing yoga.

Just the act of coming to the mat, whatever one’s intention, shows a spark of self-nourishment, a seed of self-esteem and the root of courage that we as teachers have committed to help grow, whatever the surface desire might seem at first.

Not to mention that being sick and depressed, too-overweight and out-of-balance are some of the first obstacles that we as practitioners must aim to improve if we want to be able to optimally focus on the deeper layers of our being. It’s not always possible, but, when it is under one’s control, when one’s habits are causing dukkha, or suffering, anxiety and stress on the system, then it is quite appropriate to target those areas, and shift them into more sukha, or ease in the body, mind, and heart.

As yoga philosophy itself tells us, there is no separation between our levels, and that there are many, many doorways to center.

So to claim that if one approaches the mat for a purely mental reason, or to improve their weight, or to help maintain sanity during a breakup or to relieve low back pain or for any other single reason, that it’s somehow “wrong” or “unyogic”—

 Well, I think you know by now what a crock I think that is.



Editor: Brianna Bemel

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About Sadie Nardini

Sadie Nardini, is the founder of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga, an anatomically-optimized flow style that gives you more results and benefits for every minute spent on your yoga mat. She is a holistic anatomy geek, healthy hedonism advocate, yoga expert, author, and TV host who travels internationally bringing empowering tools to yoga teachers and students everywhere. Her new book, The 21-Day Yoga Body: A Metabolic Makeover, Life-Styling Manual to Get You Fit, Fierce and Fabulous in Just 3 Weeks! (Random House), is out now, and her TV show, Rock Your Yoga, is playing across the country on the new Veria Living Network. With Sadie, you'll sweat, laugh, learn, and come away transformed, informed, and inspired anew. Learn more at


34 Responses to “Yoga for Weight Loss. Why Not?

  1. vsr says:

    i agree that a strong practice can dramatically reduce weight and builds more strength than any other training form

    i also agree that a lot of us including myself came to yoga for random reasons and stayed behind – opening the layers in yoga is a process that starts from the physical – it cannot be ignored and the hatha practice is for that – first the physical.

    a lot of people come to me to loose weight, i answer you will loose weight slowly but in the process you will also get fit, agile and strong – and you will loose weight permanently if you practice. one cannot start giving spiritual discourses and exotic sanskrit words right in the beginning … even in India.

    i dont advertise weight loss – i should because that is also a truth – you do loose weight because of yoga … we teachers know this.

    if it gets more people in to the studios and makes their life better, there seems no harm … there is truth in what you say …

    a lot of yoga needs to be revealed only when the student is ready for it …

  2. Mamaste says:

    Just intro'd on FB to: WOW, Health & Wellness, I'm Not Spiritual & Yoga.
    Thanks Sadie, for your generosity & wisdom.
    A beautiful video, as always.

  3. Beth says:

    I really liked this article, but did not like the self-promotion. The author loses credibility with lines like "Try a 10-minute Yoga for Weight Loss video practice with me that gives you the benefits of 20 minutes of most yoga in just 10!" These lines make it seem like Nardini is writing not to inform but to sell.

    • gphase says:

      I agree. Marketing and hard sell. What sells best? Weight loss, hence the whole calorie torching angle. Fine, there is nothing wrong with weight loss, just call what you sell a workout, asana fitness or something and be done with it. Why to drag yoga into this hard sell spiel? Or to invent convoluted notions such as "losing mental weight" etc? Sadie's TT is about asana and making money, at least she is upfront in listing those aspects, so that's honest. But what does yoga have to do with it?

      • Nonsense says:

        She has put many things on you tube and, indeed, on this site before. I suspect Sophie is not in it for the money but for the sharing of the gift. We all strive to find something we excel at and can make a living with. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, surely? Perhaps there's a bit of envy that she does things she enjoys and that benefit her in order to do that? People are so cynical. She's put this on free here. Follow links from previous Elephant posts and you'll find hundreds of FREE yoga instructions. Get a grip guys. Life is not all about greed and money.

        • gphase says:

          Re: money and gift sharing, she wrote articles specifically on her money making strategies and how putting put YouTube videos was a crucial move to her marketing and momentum so I'm not sure about the pure gift sharing motivation. It's probably half of one and half of the other but she is definitely the most hard sell of instructors featured here or around and her TT ad starts with "Do you want to make more money teaching yoga–much more?". Her YT videos are weight loss keyword stuffed, it's a pro campaign.

          I've no issues with people making money, teaching others to make money or putting out weight loss or fitness products. I used to work as movement instructor and weight loss was an angle to help promote classes. I use fitness products. I am happy that being active helps me stay trim.

          It's just that it's a whole different world to yoga (as in: eight limb yoga) and it's fake to stitch them together for money and claim it's all fine.

          • Sadie Nardini says:

            Hi darlings,

            This 10-minute video is FREE. So I'm not sure what you think I'm trying to sell here.

            Just go, and enjoy!


            • Thaddeus1 says:

              I'm not one to throw stones, but to pretend that this article isn't at least somewhat geared toward generating an interest in you and your "products" is somewhat dis-ingenious. Otherwise, why mention the style of yoga you "created" or your 200 youtube videos?

              And as for "free"…well, the first one typically is "free." This is itself is a well-known marketing strategy, not to mention increasing advertising (the above piece perhaps?) when sales are down.

              I'm cool with your desire to make money off of branding yourself and your approach, but at the very least be honest about it and own up to it.

            • kconnorsd says:

              Unfortunately Sadie, many people commenting on this website are very eager and quick to rip people apart in the name of promoting "being more yogic". Ironic, isn't it? You could start doing free classes, giving books away to people living in impoverished neighborhoods and teaching overweight kids yoga, and these same people would still accuse you of doing it all in the name of "self promotion". People love chastising those at the top – what matters is that you don't let it affect or stop what you do, because you are helping and touching people and that's what matters, not the opinions of some surprisingly harsh yogis.

              …the day you Bikrahm-style sue someone for their "yoga for weight loss" classes, maybe we'll have words 😉

  4. Mamaste says:

    Just intro'd on FB to: Main Page.

  5. shannon says:

    Sadie. You Rock! I think that yoga can be for everyone. I don't care what brings a person to the mat, maybe it's weigh loss (that is one of the reasons I did) maybe it's stress reduction. In the end we all find so much more there than the initial reason. I've struggled with weight my whole life and yoga was one, out of many, tools I found that HELP me deal with an eating disorder but more importantly yoga helped me to find a better way with how I take care of myself. Not only the nutrition aspect, hey, we all gotta eat, but a softening and/or quieting of the "mean girl – you fat disgusting blob" voices that played in the back of my head. Yeah, I've lost weight, and I notice that without taking that time for me on my mat I easily fall back into habits that put the weight back on. Yoga helps me take care of myself, whatever size I happen to be. And THANK YOU Sadie for that. I love your classes. xo

  6. Sadie Nardini says:

    Thanks, Shannon! I'm so glad you're releasing that heavy inner voice and perspective even more. That's major.

    And thanks to all who are stopping by here to learn more about how yoga can be a useful tool for weight loss–on every level, the point of my sharing. And please, go and enjoy the free yoga video, too. I made it for just this purpose.


  7. irem says:

    Sadie.i love love love this article..thank you for it!! When are you coming to İstanbul???

  8. I love your online classes, and I have incorporated things I learned from you in my personal practice and in my teaching. I teach power yoga classes as well as classes specifically for people with eating disorders, and while they are quite different on the external level, at the core of the practice (pun intended?) they are the same- they are about bringing the mind and heart to rest in the breath, and cultivating a deep awareness and acceptance of the body. The thing is, optimal weight might mean weight gain…so, only because you asked for feedback, I'd like to just offer this one reflection- I totally hear you and honor your commitment to making a deep practice more accessible to everybody- it is a total inspiration. But rather than referring to "weight loss" why not refer to "optimal weight"? There's such value attached to the numbers on the scale, and speaking as someone who came to yoga in the midst of an eating disorder, I feel it's really crucial to address the direct correlation we have between weight and worth. I see that you do this in all the aspects of your practice. but since this has struck a nerve, why not explore where our language as teachers can more succinctly and accurately say what we mean? Optimal body size might mean weight loss or gain or no change in the scale at all- I've weighed the same amount for years now, but yoga has definitely changed my body size, helping me to love my body after years of struggle. And at the same time, haters are gonna hate. As soon as you, someone who is naturally tall and slender, start saying "optimal weight" people are going to assume that you mean your size and weight is the optimal one. I guess that's just inevitable. Thank you so much for what you do- I'll keep on watching your videos, I love them! -Abigail Clarke, certified Embodyoga® teacher.

    • Sadie Nardini says:

      Hi Abigail!

      I'm really glad you posted this comment. I often invite people to see yoga as something that can help them with, as I did in this article too, weight loss…or healthy weight maintenance. I also mention that skinny isn't always better, nor the goal–also in the article. True, this piece focuses on the question of weight loss as a trigger for some people to feel that the practice is getting too superficial, or is somehow not in alignment with our yogi philosophies. So I'm focusing in on that here.

      But what you say is perhaps for another article…maybe you should write it? As a response to this one, and send to EJ? They would love it I'm sure–and such a powerful compliment to our conversation today.


  9. LSI says:

    I can speak from personal experience. I began practicing yoga last August (about ten months ago) at age 65 and have tried to attend a class each day since I started. Everyday has not been achievable but I have averaged about six days per week. I have lost 15 pounds, four inches in my waist, and improved my strength immensely. Yoga has improved my strength, flexibility, balance, and stamina. Yoga is great for me and I only wish I had started my practice 20 years ago. I try to take classes that really challenge me and I work very hard but I truly love it. Yoga is great. I would add though that good instruction is essential to a successful practice. There are just too many nuances to the poses and truthfully you can hurt yourself if you don't know what you are doing. I love yoga! Also, I love Sadie's videos.

  10. Nina says:

    Sadie I absolutely love your practice. I didn't start Yoga as a means of weight loss – for me it was just something fascinating I wanted (needed) to try at the time to help with fairly severe anxiety (and at times even agoraphobia) and depression.
    I gave been doing a local class for about half a year before I came across your lovely YouTube videos – BOY have they changed my practice! Your instructions are so easy to follow and with the explanations you gave I could feel my body fall into place with those poses and let go of resistance that I kept feeling. With the understanding of the poses came the mindfullness and proper breathing. Still every time I watch your videos I discover new ways and those edges you keep mentioning are being slowly but surely pushed back on all levels. You're an inspiration – and even more so for writing this article – I must admit I have felt before that some people are being too purist with Yoga. The impression I got from some comments I've been reading was that unless you know all the proper Indian names and can hold those asanas for a good 10 minutes whilst properly breathing and meditating then you're not a 'real' Yogi. I must say I resent that because surely we all had to start somewhere – nobody's born a pure Yogi with all the knowledge and physical stamina. In my opinion a person isn't a Yogi if they have aboslutely no desire to do any kind of Yoga for any reason at all. So noone should tell me I'm not a real Yogi when I love my practice so much.

    And on a last note – everyone has to earn money so shameless self promotion is perfectly acceptable in our day and age. 🙂 But especially considering how much free info/videos you have provided on so many different subjects. Thank You. Namaste.

  11. […] points essentially sum up Sadie Nardini’s argument in her recent post, “Yoga for Weight Loss. Why Not?” And while I admire Sadie as an incisive writer who’s never afraid to jump into the fray, I […]

  12. […] points essentially sum up Sadie Nardini’s argument in her recent post, “Yoga for Weight Loss. Why Not?” And while I admire Sadie as an incisive writer who’s never afraid to jump into the fray, I […]

  13. Maya says:

    Oh Sadie, your self promotion can sometimes really be too much. At some point you started doing nothing else but repeating yourself and promoting yourself.

    As for weight loss and yoga- well of course it will happen if body really needs it! Not because of your method but just because body reacts like that every time we treat it mindfully !
    Mindful treatment – body in balance. As simple as that. No self promotion needed.

  14. […] then I came across an article on Elephant Journal, “Yoga for Weight Loss. Why not?” which was written by Sadie Nardini. In the article, she addressed the recent discussion […]

  15. Mamaste says:

    Just intro'd on FB to: Main Page.
    Love this Sadie.

  16. Sandy Soto says:

    Hi Sadie, I'm sorry you have to deal with all the flack about nothing. There is so much elitism in yoga. "My yoga is real, yours isn't" – as if the yoga here in the US is the original. None of it is. Making money is viewed as "wrong" – you're a sellout if don't struggle to make a living. How about we let go of the ego (yes, that's what it is) and find something more constructive to do with our time and energy than point fingers at other yoga teachers for being successful.

  17. […] when Sadie Nardini last week resurrected the weight loss discussion by writing what appears to be a late-to-the-party piece of self-promotion for Elephant, a few of us were confused. I mean, those discussions about Sadie seem soooooooooo […]

  18. alex says:

    Something fishy is going on here. I thought I invented Core Strength Vinyasa. Shoot–and so did a bunch of other yoga teachers at Kula Yoga Project and some other yogaish places. And about this "Urban Myth" Sadie mentions that yoga doesn't burn calories and build muscles….Oddly enough way back in 1989 when I was 18 and I went to my first yoga class at Jivamukti on 2nd ave– THEY seemed to busting open that "urban myth" … or at least they thought they were. Well, listen guys and gals: I am officially challenging Sadie Nardini! I, Alexandra Auder, will counter Sadies claim ("Try a 10-minute Yoga for Weight Loss video practice with me that gives you the benefits of 20 minutes of most yoga in just 10!")
    with this:
    "Try a 3 (that's THREE)-minute yoga class (not video) with me and get the benefits of a 20 minute Sadie Nardini video practice"!
    Let the games begin.

  19. Shauna Nyrose says:

    My teacher Nicki Doane always said that our path to the deeper teachings will often begin with the body. It's where we start to notice the subtle nuances of sensation, without judgement. And if it is the issues that we have with body image or wanting to lose weight that bring us to the practice, whatever. I firmly believe that asana DOES reshape the body and can facilitate weight loss (along with proper diet and other lifestyle changes) – BUT, what makes yoga different than just 'excercise' is the potential to address the issues of the heart and the mind as well… the 'vrittis' that cause us to be self concious, to engage in self defeating behaviors, etc. It gives us tools to learn to love ourselves from the inside out. And it is in this way that it is a truly sustainable practice, one that teaches wholistically, not just focusing on the physical aspects. BUT it often starts with asana. And that's OK. It's up to us, as teachers, to light the path. Namaste.

  20. scott says:

    Another dumbing down of yoga by a capitalist American….What is Yoga? The Yoga Sutras states plainly that Yoga is Chitta Vritti Nirodhah..Sadie do you know what that means?? Look it up or go look in your sutras! Please don't try to justify your money making efforts.(make money) which of course you have every right to..but why not be honest???? know this??..the Elephant Journal. Sucks.

  21. […] Harvey first raised the questions on her blog after a Facebook ad promoting Sadie Nardini’s online yoga course on Udemy suggested the 14-day detox would help give women a “bikini body.” Nardini had no part in creating the ad, but later defended the approach on Elephant Journal. […]

  22. […] Harvey first raised the questions on her blog after a Facebook ad promoting Sadie Nardini’s online yoga course on Udemy suggested the 14-day detox would help give women a “bikini body.” Nardini had no part in creating the ad, but later defended the approach on Elephant Journal. […]

  23. says:

    An fascinating dialogue is worth comment. I feel that you must write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo topic but typically people are not sufficient to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers

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