Yoga is the best known physical activity for maximum health benefits. It is relaxing and peaceful. It benefits a person physically, mentally, and spiritually and enhances you, unlike straightforward cardiovascular fitness exercises, aerobic exercise, pilates, etc. So is yoga for cardio? Let us learn in this piece today!
There have been stipulations about yoga being a good source of cardio. Of course, cardio is the best way to lose weight, but what if it is done in the possibly most relaxing form of yoga?
Cardio Yoga- What is It?
Burning calories cannot be easier than doing cardio yoga. It can get your heart pumping blood throughout the body. A continuous flow of oxygenated blood is generated. Cardio yoga is a form of workout that mixes both yoga and cardiovascular workout or cardio exercise. While calming your mind in yoga poses, breathing soundly, and providing oxygen to muscles, you can burn calories and lose weight.
Such exercises include quicker movements to elevate heart rate and are responsible for faster elimination of fat and improvement in muscle development. Any yoga teacher will tell you how extraordinary a form of art cardio yoga is. There are no limitations for when and how to practice yoga. Mind and body are needed in synchronization to perform this form of art.
Two Types of Cardio
Cardio has two main streams-
- Aerobic exercise: The word “aerobic” means the presence of oxygen. It includes a continuous process of workout with heart rate at an even level. You can perform it for a longer duration of time and certainly can have the benefits of yoga cardio without any injuries. From legs to the shoulder, every part is equally affected. Aerobic exercise can be performed almost every day with different time sets. You’ll have increased flexibility and a better heart pumping rate.
- HIIT: High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT is usually performed by athletes or someone who is trying to build strength. It is non-continuous and has varying intervals for each exercise. It is very intense, and hence, it needs to be performed only a couple of times weekly. HIIT also depends upon a person’s fitness level. It rises with each progressive level.
HIIT requires a lot of willpower compared to aerobic. It is tiring, and if someone is malnourished, it can cause nausea. The legs and hip flexors burn while breath shortens.
The muscles get stronger and toned. In contrast, yoga is very calm and does not let anyone get exhausted. Cardio yoga workout is considered to be the gold standard in exercise science.
The 3 Factors in Cardio
You shall remember the three main factors of cardio for a workout with ultimate cardio benefit.
- Duration: How long you practice yoga or cardio yoga.
- Intensity: At the pressure you perform on demand yoga or cardio workout.
- Frequency: How many times you practice yoga or cardio workout.
If all of these are considered during cardio yoga workouts, the perfect cardiorespiratory fitness or endurance will be achieved. Moreover, a warm-up session should always be followed before the cardio.
How Intense is Yoga?
From power yoga to cardio yoga, you will be exposed to various yoga poses which will guide your body to marvelous healthy results. The intensity of an exercise is measured in the units of MET (Metabolic Equivalent Value) and is classified in to four categories of intensity-
Some examples of MET:
|Moderate||Vinyasa, Power yoga|
Different yoga poses provide different levels of MET and hence, their effect on the human body. Every light-intensity physical activity also has some or other effects and cardio benefits. Plank pose, chair pose, mountain pose, etc., have considered cardio too. Even sports medicine keeps MET of an athlete’s workout in mind to manufacture medicinal drugs.
While improving your cardiovascular fitness, you will notice drastic changes in your body by performing yoga at a suitable intensity your body deserves. Indeed HIIT and aerobics have more intensity, but cardio yoga is an all-rounder.
Aerobic Exercise Vs Anaerobic Exercise
In scientific terms, aerobic means “presence of oxygen,” and anaerobic means “without the presence of oxygen.” In aerobic exercises, the major muscle groups work together for a long time with a continuous oxygen flow. Cardiovascular workouts fall under the same category. Oxygen is continuously used to supply energy. These exercises last for a longer duration of time with a constant heart rate. In cardio yoga, sun salutations are known to give the same cardio benefits.
In anaerobic exercises, the interval of training is short. Hence, the energy supply is limited. Weight lifting is an anaerobic exercise. You lift weight for 30 seconds, and the oxygen demand is limited in that time frame. The heart rate also stabilizes and destabilizes accordingly. It is usually performed at a fast pace.
American college explicitly offers courses in yoga to teach students how to reach cardiovascular fitness and attain spirituality. Some enroll for a better lifestyle, and some choose it as a career.
Specific Movements in Cardio Yoga Workouts for Better Results
Yoga teachers often mix their versions of cardio into yoga or vice versa. Some specific cardio yoga workouts are moderately intense for working out the major muscle groups.
Sun Salutation or Surya Namaskar
It is the most basic and widely-known yoga. Considered to be the best of all yoga poses, it enhances cardiovascular fitness. There are 11 asanas of yoga poses included in one workout.
You receive the benefit of 11 exercises.
- Pranamasana: Stand straight with feet flat on the ground. Distribute your weight equally on both legs. Hang your hands on your side and roll back your shoulders with the chest open. Keep the chin parallel to the ground.
- Hasta Uttanasana: Inhale with the knees bent a little. Raise arms over the head and palms facing together. Now, look upward.
- Hastapadasana: With a deep exhale, bend your body forwards with the hands coming down to touch the feet.
- Ashwa Sanchalanasana: Take a breath again by facing forward and lengthen the spine. Step backward with right foot back, and left knee bent with left foot forward. Breathe out and look upward.
- Dandasana: Now get into plank pose by bringing the left leg to the right. The arms should be straight shoulder-width apart. Keep the spine and each leg straight in a line with the toes touching the ground.
- Ashtanga Namaskara: Bring both knees on the ground to touch. Move hips back and slide forward. Your chin and chest should be rested on the ground. Only two hands, feet, chest, knee, and chin shall be touching.
- Bhujangasana: This is the cobra pose where you slide forward by bringing your chin upwards. The lower portion of the body now fully rests on the ground while the chest is up and open outwards. Here, look at the ceiling as far as possible and inhale.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana: Get into an inverted-V position by breathing out and moving the hips upward. Tuck your chin inside.
- Ashwa Sanchalanasana: Breathe in to bring your right knee forward and left foot back. This is where you start reversing the postures.
- Perform steps 3 to 1 in reverse.
The Formula for Cardio Yoga
Whether it be yoga cardio, or any form of cardio workout, everything has a formula. There are specific impactful points to remember while doing an exercise. The 3 factors of cardio apply. Only then will you have the most significant cardiovascular fitness.
Let’s take into consideration “Power Yoga”-
- Frequency: Beginners shall perform this yoga 2 to 3 times weekly while others should perform it 4 to 5 times per week.
- Intensity: Moderate level performance is necessary for maximum heart rate.
- Duration: At first, a 20 to 45 minutes session is enough. After that, 60 to 75 minutes is beneficial.
For each yoga cardio workout, adding sun salutations increases the intensity.
5 Yoga Poses That Can Turn Into a Cardio Workout
These 5 yoga poses are used in cardio workouts more often than often. And they can turn into a good intensity workout for cardio benefits.
Take a yoga mat and get into a plank position. Push your body upwards by extending the arms straight. Tighten the core and breathe. Keep the arms under the shoulders and hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds as per your comfort. Plan position is one of the basic but most effective cardio workouts for strengthening the core, shoulder, back, wrists, triceps, neck, and buttocks. It is also one of the most vigorous yoga poses.
Stand straight and extend your arms straight up towards the sky. Relax the shoulders and breathe in. Exhale and slowly lower the hips and lunge with the front knees bent at a 90-degree angle. The arms will extend forward at hip-width. Imitate sitting on a chair with feet flat on the ground. Hold this chair pose for 60 seconds. Now, bring your body back to its original state by lifting with your chest. The chair pose is good for major muscle groups, including hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, abs, triceps, spine muscles, lower limbs, and deltoids.
This yoga exercise is excellent for strengthening the back and legs. Stand with every leg straight. Bring your left leg forward. Now, bring the left foot forward and bend your left knee at a 90-degree angle. Make sure your left thigh is parallel with the ground. Your right foot will go back, and the right knee will be a little above the ground. Only the toes of the back foot should be on the ground. Extend the arms up so that the palms face each other and are touching. Your left side must feel the pressure. Maintain this position for 20 seconds or more and then repeat with the right leg.
Crescent lunge is best to improve balance and stability. If the back knee starts to tremble, it is better to switch the legs. Always make sure neither the back leg nor the front leg is tensing up.
It strengthens the shoulders, ankles, wrists, back, hamstrings, and arms. The downward-facing dog is an inversion pose, just like a plank. It means that you are facing the ground on the stomach side. It requires muscle strength. Get into a plank pose and try to move your back upwards with feet still flat, don’t the ground. You will be making a mountain shape. When you feel a stretch, it will mean that it has created equal amounts of energy flow in all limbs. No one leg gets the effects, but both do. It is the reverse position of the upward-facing dog.
This yoga position is not limited to its area. Cardio workouts include it with the name of “ab holds” for the ultimate toned abs. But, it targets the entire core instead. Some may call it opposite to a plank pose. Sit on the yoga mat with your knees bent and feet touching the ground. Extend your arms in front while lifting both lower limbs. The right elbow and left elbow must be at the same distance above the ground. It would help if you made a “V-shape.”
If your fitness level is a beginner’s, you can bend the knees a little. Remember, do not bend forward front knee unless you feel uneasy. The boat pose is one of the best cardio yoga that works the entire core muscles to improve balance. Heart rate remains the same throughout the exercise.
The Three Stages of Fitness
There are three stages of fitness level. People are categorized into the same classes and given workout and exercise plans accordingly. They are-
- Initial: This stage lasts for about 4 weeks and focuses on building an exercise habit. It requires performing exercises 3 days weekly. With the duration of 30 minutes of continuous workout, you will get habituated and make your body learn the new changes. Cardiorespiratory fitness improves at the initial stage. You will learn about how your heart rate changes.
- Improvement: This stage lasts for the next 4 to 5 months. Cardiorespiratory fitness improves by performing workouts up to 5 times per week. Here, the duration and intensity start changing. The goal of your fitness is reached here. The heart rate will start increasing, and you might feel restless. Although, this is a good sign.
- Maintenance: As the word suggests, this stage is meant to maintain the results from the last two stages. Your hard-worked results are maintained after approximately 6 months of focus. Finally, you will be able to guide your body’s heart rate. You will be able to follow your body’s needs.
If you stop following this timeline in the middle, you will lose your progress by 50%, and starting again will take more stress.
Is yoga a good cardiovascular fitness exercise?
Yes, certainly. Yoga is full of cardiorespiratory fitness benefits, which is ultimately the basis of cardio. Yoga postures like sun salutations have MET levels that are good for cardiovascular fitness.
What yoga is best for cardio exercise?
Yoga postures like plank pose, chair pose, mountain pose, and plank jacks are some of the best cardio to perform. Your cardiorespiratory fitness will be enhanced drastically.
Is yoga more effective than cardio?
Yoga is known to enhance spirituality and induce physical changes. It can improve cardiorespiratory fitness with intense poses. Cardio directly increases your heart rate, while yoga takes small steps towards it. That is why cardio yoga has emerged to provide cardio benefits better than traditional yoga. With dynamic movements, you will burn more calories than usual.
Is yoga equivalent to cardio?
Yoga supports the heart by pumping blood to other parts of the body while relieving stress. Some might think it is a light intensity workout and can’t give results like cardio, but that’s not true. Vinyasa yoga is very intense and falls equivalent to cardio when performed for a minimum of 45 minutes and 3 to 5 days per week.
Everyone knows yoga and its benefits. Flexibility, injury protection, energy, weight maintenance, respiration, and more are some of its target areas. The most significant factor is improved mental health. Cardio yoga is an additional perk to your lifestyle. It suits well for every fitness level and can give you a combination of two of the best physical activity out there in the world of fitness.