This is a question that crosses most minds—can I do yoga instead of cardio and still lose weight? Yoga is generally associated with relaxing, and sequences of poses that don't get your heart rate up. It is typically classified as a "light-intensity physical activity", but there are “a few poses meet the criteria for moderate to vigorous intensity activity,” says celebrity yoga expert Samiksha Shetty. She further explains, “Yoga can be a challenging exercise, especially if you choose the right poses and do them in a continuous flow, which will raise your heart rate the way cardio workouts do. If you've ever had the opportunity to attend a vigorous 90-minute vinyasa yoga class, then you know just how intense it can get in there.”
So, the next time you can't bear to hop on a treadmill, grab your yoga mat and flow through this sequence recommended by Samiksha for a cardiovascular workout that's every bit as good for you as your go-to sweat sessions.
1. Surya Namaskar
Step 1. Namaskarasana
Stand at the top of the mat with your feet together and balance your weight equally on both the feet. Keep your toes active and well spread on the mat. Expand your chest and relax your shoulders. As you breathe in, lift both arms up from the sides, and as you exhale, bring your palms together in front of your chest in prayer position.
Step 2. Urdhva Hastasana (Raised arms pose)
Inhale- from Namaskarasana lift the arms straight up keeping the biceps close to the ears and keeping your palms pressed against each other. In this pose, the effort is to stretch the whole body up from the heels to the tips of the fingers. Push the hips forward whole arching the back. Tighten the core and the glutes. Look at your thumbs (dhristi).
Step 3. Padahastasana (Standing forward bend) (Pada-Foot, Hasta- hands)
Exhale- from Urdhva Hastasana bend forward from the waist keeping the spine erect. As you exhale completely, bring the hands down to the floor beside the feet.
Step 4. Eka- Pada Prasaranasana (Eka- one, Pada- foot, Prasar- spread)
Inhale- Take your right leg back, as far back as possible. Drop the right knee on the floor and stretch the right toe backwards flattening the foot . Ensure that the left foot is exactly in between the palms and look up.
Step 5. Dwi- Pada Prasaranasana (Dwi- two, Pada- Foot, Prasar-Spread or Plank Pose)
Exhale- Take the left leg back and bring the whole body in a straight line. Both knees off the floor and toes tucked.
Step 6. Sashtanga Namaskarasana (Sa- surrender, Astanga- Eight, Namaskar- salutation (Salute with eight parts or points)
Hold after Exhalation- Gently bring your knees down to the floor. Your palms remain next to the chest. Take the hips back slightly, rest your chest and forehead on the floor. The two hands, two feet, two knees, chest and forehead (eight parts of the body) should be placed onto the floor.
Step 7. Bhujangasana (Cobra pose)
Inhale: Slide slightly forward and raise the head and chest up. Keep the waste on the floor, arch the back and look up. Keep your elbows bent in this pose with the shoulders away from the ears.
Step 8. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing dog pose)
Exhale- Now, straighten your legs by lifting your knees off the floor and push your heels down as far as they can go. Lift the hips upwards. Extend the spine by pushing away from the ground using your palms. Engage the entire body and pull in the belly.
Step 9. Eka- Pada Prasaranasana (Eka- one, Pada- foot, Prasar- spread)
Inhale- bring the right foot forward in between the two hands. The left knee goes down on the floor. Press the hips down and lookup.
Step 10. Padahastasana (Standing forward bend) (Pada-Foot, Hasta- hands)
Exhale- Get the left foot forward. Bringing both the feet together into a standing forward bend. Keep the palms on the floor in line with the feet. You may bend the knees, if necessary.
Step 11. Urdhva Hastaasana (Raised arms pose)
Inhale- slowly with a straight spine lengthen the spine up towards the ceiling. Raise the hands up and bend backward with the palms together, pushing the hips slightly outward.
Step 12. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Exhale- Bring the arms down and stand up straight, tall and steady. This completes the right side of the Surya Namaskar. Repeat the same starting with the left leg
2. Downward facing dog and Upward facing dog plank
Start on the floor by placing your hands and knees down. Keep your hands shoulder distance apart and knees hip width apart. Now, straighten your legs by lifting your knees off the floor and push your heels down as far as they can go. Extend the spine by pushing away from the ground using your palms.
Engage the entire body and pull in the belly. (Downward facing dog/ Adho Mukh Svanasana)
Stay here for 5 breaths.
To make this static pose more fluid add-on after Downward Facing Dog move into high plank (get your body parallel to the floor) hold here for 5 breaths.
Now move into Upward Facing Dog (Urdhav Mukh Svanasana) by dropping your hips down, arching your back upwards and lifting the chest up, hold here for 5 breaths.
3. Lizard pose/ Utthan Pristhasana
Many yoga asanas are named after creatures of the wild. By embodying the spirit of the lizard we can strengthen our shoulder muscle, arms, chest and work on our glutes. Cause you doesn’t want a good booty? With bringing awareness into this pose one can also engage and strengthen the abdominal muscles and reduces excess fat around the belly and the hips.
Start by getting into Downward Facing Dog. Inhale, step your right foot forward to the outside edge of your right palm, coming into an extended lunge position. Now stink your hip keeping your arms straight and spine flat and lengthened. If comfortable here only then slowly lower onto your forearms. Press onto the ball of your left foot as you straighten up your left leg. Stay here for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
To add in a little mobility and movement to this static pose, lets flow:
Exhale- Downward Facing Dog,
Inhale- Raise your right leg up towards the ceiling (3 legged Downward Facing Dog).
Exhale- Lizard Pose on the right leg,
Hold for a breath.
On your next Exhale back to Downward facing dog.
Inhale- raise your left leg up to the ceiling (3 legged downward facing dog)
Exhale- Lizard Pose on the left leg, hold for a breath.
Perform this movement in coordination with your breath around 5 to 10 times on each side.