The Complete Guide of Cardio Yoga

Updated on November 11th, 2020
Cardio Yoga

Cardio yoga is a well-known style of exercise that combines yoga with cardio or cardiovascular exercises. It has become popular among people who enjoy the relaxation benefits of yoga but want more intensity.

This write-up elucidates everything you need to know about cardio yoga, including specific workouts, its advantages, and how it compares with other cardio variants.

What is cardio yoga?

With origins in Indian philosophy, yoga focuses on breathing techniques, poses, and meditation practices to relieve anxiety and enhance consciousness [1].

The practice has become increasingly popular worldwide as a means to improve sleep, relieve stress,  boost emotional and mental health, and relieve neck pain and general low back [2].

While there are several yoga types, Hatha yoga is the most commonly practiced, referring to any type of yoga that teaches physical postures. Most yoga classes — vinyasa, ashtanga, and power yoga — are hatha yoga.

While these yoga types differ in the movement, series, and pace of the physical postures, they generally aren’t thought of as aerobic or cardio exercise. This is because they focus on body flow, breathing techniques, and postures, rather than dynamic movements that elevate your heart rate and ramp up the intensity.

Conversely, cardio yoga exercises involve performing yoga-inspired movements faster and with a continuous flow to engage more muscles and challenge your circulatory or cardiovascular system [3].

[Also Read: Yoga for Beauty]

Specific cardio yoga workouts

Because there’s no accepted definition of cardio yoga, instructors may mix in their favorite movement sequences and movements. While yoga is generally safe, be sure you are on a flat surface and do not have any conditions that can interfere with balance, such as orthopedic or neuropathy-related limitations.

Here are a few moderate-intensity cardio yoga exercises to try that work all your major muscle groups, including your chest, arms, back, and legs.

Sun Salutation  (Surya Namaskar)

Sun Salutation, commonly known as the Surya Namaskar, is a series of postures performed in a sequence.

Here is the sequence:

1. Samasthiti

Start standing up straight with weight evenly distributed and your feet together. The hands should be hanging by your side with the chin parallel to the ground, and shoulders should be rolled back.

2. Urdhva Hastasana

Bend your knees slightly and inhale, raising your arms over your head. Look at your thumbs and bring your palms together.

3. Uttanasana 

Straighten your legs and Exhale. Bring your hands down and bend forward from the hips. Relax your neck.

4. Urdvah Uttanasana

Lengthen your spine and inhale, opening your shoulders and looking forward.

5. Chaturanga Dandasana

Step your feet back or exhale and jump. Bend the elbows and keep them tucked into the sides. Lower the body. You may either modify the exercise by bringing your knees to the ground or keep your knees off the floor.

[Also Read: Important Fitness Goals to Live a Healthier Life]

6. Urdhva Mukha svanasana

Inhale and point the toes away from the body. Lift the chest while the knees stay off the ground. Look up to the sky and open the shoulders.

7. Adho mukha svanasana

Exhale and tuck the toes under, lifting the hips and bringing the shoulders down. Look at the navel. You can stay in this position for up to 5 deep breaths.

8. Urdhva Uttanasana

Inhale and jump or step the feet together between the hands, lengthen the spine and look to the front while opening the shoulders (same as step 4).

9. Uttanasana

Exhale and lower your head’s crown toward the ground and relax the neck (same as step 3).

10. Urdhva Hastasana

Inhale and bend the knees, raising the arms over the head and bringing the palms together while looking at the thumbs (same as step 2).

11. Samasthiti

Exhale and straighten the legs, bringing the arms to your sides (same as step 1).

Complete this sequence quickly and repeat it for 15 minutes with no rest in between to keep the heart rate elevated.

[Read: Benefits of Yoga For Mental Health]

Other movements

Here are other movements that you may do as part of a sequence:

1. Child’s pose pushup

Starting in a kneeling plank position, do a kneeling push up, then sit back onto the heels with the arms extended in front (child’s pose). Bring the body forward into the kneeling plank position and repeat it.

2. Leg lift pigeon sequence

Starting in plank pose, slightly lift the hips as you raise the left leg toward the ceiling. Gradually pull the left leg back down and through, tucking the knee in toward the chest.

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Lift the left leg again toward the ceiling, and this time as you pull the left knee through, allow the outer portion of the left leg to rest on the floor as you lower the left glute down. Revert to the initial position and repeat with the right leg.

[Read: Yoga for Strength]

3. Walk downs 

Beginning from a standing position, bend at the hips and walk yourself down to a plank position. Push yourself into a downward-facing dog by pushing the hips to the sky. Be in this position for one to two seconds. Gradually walk yourself back, maintaining hand contact with the floor. Come back to the standing posture and repeat it.

Perform each movement 15–20 times before moving onto the next workout.

You may separate these movements with 30-second activities like air squats, jumping jacks, and stationary lunges to keep the heart rate elevated and body moving.

Weight loss

Although yoga has been indicated to aid weight loss, studies have found conflicting evidence. A review of thirty studies, including over 2,000 participants, found that yoga did not affect body mass index (BMI), weight, body fat percentage, or waist circumference.

However, when the researchers analyzed studies on obese or overweight people, yoga significantly reduced BMI.

Still, few variables, such as different types of bias among the research, may have influenced the research results.

In either case, while starter to intermediate-level yoga sessions aren’t typically considered adequate for improving cardiovascular fitness, more intensive forms of yoga-like cardio yoga can train your heart while increasing calories burned and aiding weight loss.

That said, performing cardio yoga at least five times per week for 30 minutes may help you lose weight if that’s your goal.

However, remember that exercise alone is not adequate to lose a significant amount of weight and keep it off — you should also consume fewer calories than you burn.

Typically, reducing your daily calorie intake by 500 is sufficient for weight loss. You can measure your calorie needs by using a calorie needs calculator.

[Read: Health Benefits of Hot Yoga]

Bottom Line

Cardio yoga is a more intense form of traditional yoga, which is usually not thought of as cardio. It blends yoga-inspired and dynamic movements in various sequences to increase and sustain an elevated heart rate, helping burn calories and train your heart.

Cardio yoga outperforms exercising on an elliptical at a moderate effort or walking at a moderate pace — but not hiking, jogging, or running — in regards to calories burned.

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