It’s Not About the Calories….

At least once every couple of weeks I get the question, “So, how many calories do you burn in the hot room?”  As a student I heard teachers relay that you were burning calories according to how hard you are working, somewhere between 500 to 1000 calories.  So naturally as a teacher I relayed the same message.  But I always followed it up with, “But there’s a lot more going in the room than calorie burning.  Just do the yoga and everything will work out.”

This weekend I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Brian Tracy of Colorado State University working with Pure Action Yoga Research, lecture about the findings in some of the studies conducted concerning Bikram Yoga, at one of my studios.  As stated on their website,, “Pure Action is a non-profit research group devoted to establishing the feasibility and the effectiveness of yoga therapy as an alternative medicine through continued research.  It is in the hopes that their studies will enhance the knowledge of the benefits of yoga to gain recognition among health professionals and in the medical science arena. “

Most of us with a regular yoga practice know that yoga heals the body.  But Pure Action is set out to prove it.  How cool is that?  The lecture Dr. Brian Tracy gave was absolutely fascinating.  He was able to track exactly what happened to the body throughout the Bikram series, tracking metabolic rate, heart rate, core temperature, and the perceived intensity level of seasoned yoga practitioners.  Everyone in the room was completely engaged and on board with all of his findings until he hit the amount of calories burned in the hot room during a single session.

Take in mind the participants in this study were already well established in their practice.  They were also tested in a room without an instructor pushing them to correct form or go a little bit farther into a posture.  They were not surrounded by their yogi peers.  With that in mind I thought the 400-600 calories that were burned on average (woman lower than men due to their smaller size) was right on target.  But everyone at the lecture seemed upset about this data.

Hands flew up in the air to ask questions regarding reasons why the calorie burn was so low.  Whispered discussions happened throughout the crowd.  How dare someone not only insinuate, but prove, that the calorie burn they thought they were receiving throughout the 90 minute class was lower than promised?

Dr. Brian Tracy handled the questions with patience and understanding.  The research has to start somewhere.  And this now opens the conversation to whether novice students, when tested under the same conditions, would have similar results.  But as everyone got their feathers ruffled concerning calories burned in the hot room my good friend leaned into me and whispered, “It’s not about the calories.”  And I can’t say I agree more.

Is it just the workout that we are showing up for? Maybe at first.  It was definitely why I showed up to my first class.  But what other form of exercise stretches every muscle and tendon, compresses every organ, and releases the toxins built up in the system?  After a 90-minute session in the hot room don’t you feel incredible?  Relaxed, at ease with those around you, with the situations you encounter as you go about your day.  You feel cleaned out from the top of your head to the tips of your toes emotionally, physically, and psychologically.

It’s way more than burning some calories.  So why get all bent out of shape about it?  When you really think about the human experience and what it is to be in the human body you start to get blown away by the gravity of it all.  The human body can take a lot of abuse – obesity, cigarette smoke, drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, etc. – and keep on ticking.  And still we always wish it to be more.  We want the body to look like this and perform this task better and yet never take stock in the amazing tool it already is.  It has become the norm to bully the body rather than to celebrate it.

We have the choice to enjoy this human body that we get to occupy for only a short amount of time – it is an incredible and often underappreciated thing in our lives. Yoga helps us to do this.  By taking care of your body you open your life up to unlimited potential.  So don’t make it about the calories.  Make it about your life and getting the most out of it.

I personally cannot wait to hear what further studies Pure Action Research takes on and what their findings may be.  To prove to the scientific community that yoga works to heal is crucial to the already growing population of believers and to those who may then be open to giving this method of balancing and healing the body a try.

To find out more about Pure Action check out their website listed above or visit their Facebook page at:

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8 thoughts on “It’s Not About the Calories….

  1. Pure Action stemmed from my studio in Austin (Pure Yoga Austin)!!! So glad you were able to hear about what they’re doing!! Pretty cool research! I support Pure Action when I can! I think Jeff was up there this weekend. Love Mardy and Jeff!!

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