What separates yoga classes from pilates, bodypump, cross-fit, kettle bell and many other fitness style classes in studios and gyms is the lineage from which yoga has evolved.
Yoga emphasizes an ethical lifestyle as a path to enlightenment through philosophy, physical movements and postures, breathwork, meditation, and other mindful elements included in the eight-limbed path. Over the past few decades yoga has evolved throughout the western world to include a wide variety of interpretations of the practice. Among those interpretations include vinyasa, hatha, power yoga, and piyo. Awareness of the benefits of yoga, fitness and health has prompted those seeking to lose weight and increase overall health to turn to yoga as a means of increasing cardiovascular health, muscle development, and flexibility within muscles, joints and ligaments. For many, the question remains, what are the benefits of yoga for our overall health and does yoga count as a cardiovascular workout?
Expert Amy Kreger relays, “According to the American College of Sports Medicine, cardio, or cardiovascular exercise, is any activity that increases heart rate and respiration while using large muscle groups repetitively and rhythmically.” To keep the heart healthy and working efficiently the Centers for Disease Control and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend we get at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise each day. Recognized types of cardio workouts include running, biking, swimming, and certain competitive sports like soccer, tennis, rowing etc.
Does Yoga count as cardio?
Few studies exist as to whether or not establishing a strong yoga practice is considered a cardiovascular workout. Yoga Journal editors agree, “Attaining cardiovascular fitness requires balancing three components of exercise: intensity, duration, and frequency.” To glean cardiovascular benefits from a yoga practice students need to ask themselves how rigorous their practice is, how long do they practice, and also how often. Over time cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and flexibility will increase when students dedicate themselves to a frequent yoga practice. Powerful vinyasa sequences which include core work, balancing and flowing namaskars will increase your heart rate and certainly have elements of repetitive and rhythmic movements targeting larger muscle groups throughout the entire body. The goal is to elevate the heart rate into your target heart rate zone. If you are looking to add more cardio to your practice do not be afraid to add quicker (but safe) vinyasas and namaskars, dynamic stretching and movement, and core based exercises. Throwing in the occasional mountain climber or burpee will also do the trick 😉
However, Sage Rountree and other experts still recommend incorporating other types of cardio into your overall fitness routine for optimum health. Allowing yoga to be it’s own entity or complement to your exercise regimen. The benefits of movement, stress reduction and breath control. As always, remember the goal of our practice is to find synchronicity with body, mind and spirit. The side effects of certain practices include improving cardiovascular health, strengthening bone density and enhancing flexibility in addition to weight loss and stress reduction. Make sure to consult with your doctor on the best practices for your overall health, but consider including yoga as a part of your fitness or wellness routine. Listen to your body and practice in a way that mindfully contributes to your health.
“The more you step onto your yoga mat, the more you get to uncover and discover the true essence of this practice. Working out becomes overrated, working in becomes your main priority. Keep showing up.” – Bee Bosnak, Yoga Teacher