I often get asked by sceptics if Yoga can provide any cardio benefit. This is especially pertinent for those incorporating cardio into their exercise routine to maintain a certain level of fitness or for those looking to lose weight and tone up.
Traditionally, many view yoga as exclusively the means to stretch the body and mind – increasing flexibility and range of motion while finding a sense of inner harmony. It’s widely accepted that regular yoga practice can help improve overall cardiovascular health by lowering heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Yoga postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama) assist the body in maintaining a good circulation of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to every cell in the body.
Yet, yoga can become quite vigorous, athletic and calorie burning, incorporating more cardio components simply by the repetition of poses and the speed at which the repetitive motions are executed (maybe even incorporating more explosive movements if you are really adventurous). A simple flow (vinyasa) series of poses like Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar) can become quite the cardio workout (check out my “Sweat” live-stream class attached to this blog post).
The key here, especially if you are practicing from home and have more flexibility in your routine and practice, is to find the rhythm and speed that works best for the goals you are setting for each particular practice.
Two golden rules that you may want to keep in mind if you are upping your cardio ante:
Don’t be afraid to take the flows (vinyasas): If you want to get in some cardio and really make the most of a yoga workout, then you’ve got to take vinyasas. Most teachers give the option of whether or not to take the vinyasa. Don’t be afraid to take up the challenge, just work at your own pace, don’t worry about what speed the next person may be working at. Find a speed that challenges you (you are here for yourself, so focus on you).
Don’t bail on tough poses: When the going gets tough in yoga, it’s so very easy to give up – sometimes checking out mentally, before you have even tried to physically execute the movement. We all have to start somewhere. Baby steps to “break it down” (an all time favorite of mine) are a great way to deconstruct the movement into digestible components, each one building on the other, until you can bring all the components together in a symphony of movement that allows you to attain your end pose goal, while moving with confidence and control. Understand though, that this might not be physically possible for every pose – remember that we are all unique individuals, each with a unique body composition and set of limitations. Get to understand your body so that you are aware of when you need to modify your movements, but at the same time don’t limit your future possibilities as you become stronger and more confident on the mat.
Bottom line, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself (even if you have to work progressively to get there)!!!
That’s it for now – see you all for playtime on the mat😉
Till next time – Keep it Light😘