“Yoga is the ultimate path to vibrant health and wellness”.
You may not think of yoga being cardio. Maybe you’re a marathon runner, a keen athlete, or you may workout six times a week in the gym and think yoga is “too soft” and just for improved flexibility and relaxation. A regular yoga practice which consists of yoga poses (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and meditation, offers you a myriad of health benefits and plays an integral part of your daily routine to boost your fitness.1
This article looks at why yoga, primarily a more physically demanding style of yoga, such as Ashtanga2 or Power Yoga can be considered cardio.
What Is Good Health And Fitness?
The World Health Organisation defines health as a “state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.3 Fitness is your ability to do physical activities, such as walking, carrying shopping, doing housework, gardening. A regular, well-rounded yoga sequence offers you all the benefits you would expect from a fitness program.
There are 9 main components of fitness: Strength, Power, Coordination, Local Muscle Endurance, Flexibility, Balance, Agility, Cardiovascular Endurance, and Strength Endurance.4 A general yoga class provides you with all of these benefits. Out of these aspects of fitness, cardiovascular is considered the most important and beneficial for health and fitness as it provides the fuel for all the other activities.
What Is Cardio?
Cardio, which is short for cardiovascular exercise, is any activity which gets your heart rate up and increases blood circulation throughout your body.
There are two types of cardio:
1. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
High-intensity interval training consists of extremely demanding physical activity, for example, running up a steep hill, pulling a tire, followed by a period of low intensity ‘recovery’ work, such as light jogging/walking, without the tire!
2. Steady-State Moderate Intensity Cardio
Steady-state cardio is what most people consider ‘cardio’. This covers any activity which involves you exercising at a steady pace for around 40 to 90 minutes, such as jogging or a fast-paced sweaty Vinyasa yoga sequence.
How Do You Get A Yoga Cardio Work-Out?
To get a well-balanced cardio workout, you need to exercise within 55 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR) for at least 20 to 30 minutes.5 Your MHR is roughly calculated as 220 minus your age. It is the maximum limit of what your cardiovascular system can cope with during physical activity.
Some people say yoga doesn’t get your heart rate up and beating “moderately for a sustained period”. However, if you have ever taken a high powered sweaty Vinyasa yoga class, then you’ll feel your heart getting up and staying up for the duration of the class! Or, if you have ever done 5 to 12 rounds of the Sun Salutation, which can last up to 20 minutes followed by fast moving hot yoga class, you will feel exhausted yet exhilarated at the end of the class.
In summary, a cardio workout, whether it is a HIIT or a more moderate sustained level of activity, involves you working about 55 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. More rigorous scientific research needs to be conducted to determine the precise effects of a fast-paced, physically challenging yoga sequence for cardio fitness. Alternatively, you can always wear a heart monitor as you practice and aim to do 20 minutes of the sun salutation or a fast-paced flowing yoga sequence 3 times a week to meet your cardio quota!6
|↑1||The Benefits of Yoga. American Osteopathic Association.|
|↑2||Ashtanga Yoga. Shri K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute.|
|↑3||Constitution of WHO: Principles. World Health Organization.|
|↑4||Components of Fitness. BrianMac.|
|↑5||Target Heart Rates. American Heart Association.|
|↑6||Sun Salutation: 12 Questions Yoga Beginners Ask About Sun Salutation, Pt 3. Yoga Inspires.|