Q: To stay fit, do I need a combo of traditional cardio (running, spinning, etc) and asana or is there a way to get everything from my practice?
—Sarah Meyers, Kansas City, MO
A: The short answer is—it depends and it can!
Cardiovascular health is paramount to our overall vitality. Cardio (or aerobic exercise) is when the heart beats faster, due to repeated movement of large muscle groups—like your arms, legs, and hips—increasing blood flow to your muscles and back to your lungs.
A strong, physical yoga practice can combine the intensity of a cardiovascular workout with functional strength training, which can help you lose weight as well as increase your strength and flexibility. This is not the goal of yoga and yet it is a pretty awesome by-product of the practice. The bigger goals, being truth and overall health for mind, body and spirit, are pretty phenomenal reasons to roll out your mat right now!
To fully answer your question and determine whether your yoga practice is giving you the cardio, you have to consider a few factors:
1) The style and intensity of asana that you practice: A slow-moving, gentle, restorative yoga practice, while beneficial for many reasons, will not be adequate cardiovascular training, but a Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga class for 90 minutes can do the trick.
2) The frequency of your yoga sessions: In other words, once a week doesn’t cut it (and that is true for any cardio program)—3 to 5 times a week is the goal.
3) The duration of your practice: Research has indicated for cardiovascular fitness we need to work out at 65–90% of our maximum heart rate and stay in that range for over 20 minutes. A great tool to determine where you really are is a heart rate monitor, which are super easy to use and can big eye-openers for many yoga students.
If you enjoy running and spinning, then by all means, keep them in your regimen and add yoga in!
Bethany Lyons is a powerful leader, creator, community builder and cofounder of Lyons Den Power Yoga, Manhattan's only Baptiste-style yoga studio. Bethany is a classically trained ballet dancer, Certified Baptiste Yoga Teacher and Master Instructor at SoulCycle. In cofounding Lyons Den Power Yoga, Bethany seeks to showcase the endless possibilities all around us and to show up in a big way for her students and in her life.