Any kind of cardio activity will, essentially, elevate your heart rate and increase the body’s use of oxygen, to convert glucose into cellular energy. And, in the process, it’ll strengthen our cardiovascular health, plus burn major calories.
Typically, a cardio exercise comprises pursuits like running, swimming, cycling. Anything that revs up your heart, works your muscles and breaks you into a sweat.
Interestingly, even yoga is a potent cardio workout.
What is cardio yoga?
To use any type of yoga for cardio purposes, the asanas are modified, often also combined with fast-paced activities like calisthenics, to become more intense and sped-up.
Therefore, cardio, or aerobic yoga is just traditional yoga remixed—to make the poses more dynamic.
However, there are some formats that may lend themselves more easily to cardio workouts than others. According to a report by Nike, for instance, styles like Hatha and Bikram Yoga are more for strength training, while Ashtanga and Vinyasa Yoga make for good cardio alternatives while also enabling strength training.
How does it help in weight management?
An impressive body of research has established that yoga is great for the body and can improve muscle strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance. It can also torch major calories.
A review concluded that yoga, although typically classified as a “light-intensity physical activity,” comprises a few sequences, like Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation, that “meet the criteria for moderate to vigorous physical activity”.
It is, generally, estimated that yoga can burn up to 600 calories an hour, depending on what style you practice, and how. Performing Vinyasa or Ashtanga Yoga for about 50 minutes, for example, can make you lighter by 344 calories, as found in a study sponsored by American Council On Exercise.
One full cycle of the 12-pose Surya Namaskar—that takes a little over 3 minutes to complete—demolishes about 13.9 calories, according to multiple studies. Which means, in a 25-minute session, you can end up losing an estimated 350 calories.
Some other calorie-torching asanas you can try for a cardio workout:
Chair pose: It activates the largest muscles in the body—the glutes, and engages your core, hamstrings, back and shoulders.
- Turn up the heat: with plyometric movements like One-Legged Squats and Squat Jumps. Or with variations like Twisting Chair Pose, One-legged Chair Pose, Chair Pose On Tiptoes, etc.
Boat pose: This one is fire for your core, if you want those abs. It strengthens the torso, stretches hamstrings and tones legs.
- Turn up the heat: by graduating on to poses like High-Low Boat, Both Big Toe, Elevated Boat, Half Bound Lotus. You can also club this asana with mermaid crunches and swim kicks.
Upward-Facing Dog Pose: A full-body strengthening asana, it bends the back, deep-stretching it, and stimulates the core.
- Turn up the heat: by incorporating this in your burpees routine. Or add versions of the Cobra Pose to it.
Planks: This pose engages all your muscles—while forcing your body to resist gravity—to burn some serious calories.
- Turn up the heat: by changing things a bit, like raising one foot off the ground, or doing it with ankle weights, etc. Again, the longer you hold, the tougher it gets. You can add Mountain Climbers and Plan Jacks to the mix, too.
How does yoga compare to other forms of cardio exercises?
According to a study by Harvard Medical School, in a 30-minute Hatha Yoga session, an individual weighing about 57 kgs (125 pounds) can burn approximately 120 calories—the same as a half-an-hour session of water aerobics. Many experts say Vinyasa Yoga for an hour can burn around 300 calories, while a 90-min Hot Yoga class can rid you of 350 calories.
So yes, yoga does rate rather highly as a workout. However, seek your fitness/yoga instructor’s help to chalk out any routine, for best results. Furthermore, those with underlying health conditions or injuries should not enrol without consulting their doctor. It is also advisable to start easy, and gradually, level up.