Ask the Health Coach: Is Yoga a Good Cardio Workout?

Yogis argue this point all the time. Our health coach (and yoga expert) weighs in.

Dear Maura,

I know you are a yoga teacher, so I’m hoping you can answer this for me because my husband and I argue about it all the time. Can you obtain an adequate cardio workout from hot yoga or non-hot vinyasa yoga? Is there a specific amount of time we should practice?

~ Jenn C.

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Dear Jenn,

So great to hear from you! This is a question lots of people ask. Yogis love to argue that their practice is enough (myself included) and suffices for a good cardio workout, too. But in my personal opinion, the answer is no. Well, kind of.

Sure, when you’re moving through 30 minutes of sun salutations whether in a heated room or not, you are improving your cardiovascular system. Strenuous exercise coupled with deep breathing to increase respiration means your heart rate is going to elevate, you’re going to sweat and your body will start detoxifying. However, I don’t think that’s enough. Now, don’t get me wrong. I heart yoga—big time—and I personally would love if I didn’t have to do any cardio. But not all classes are created equal. Teachers differ. Not all practices incorporate 30 minutes of salutations, especially if it’s only a 60 minute class.

Now, that doesn’t mean that yoga can’t help you lose weight: it can. It doesn’t mean that yoga can’t help you achieve a leaner look: it will. It doesn’t mean that yoga isn’t an amazing total mind-body workout that keeps you healthy: it is.

Stretching the muscles increases their strength and endurance. Pranayama (breathwork) boosts lung capacity and helps bring more oxygen to the blood. Your heart will get stronger. That’s a fact. But if you aren’t practicing a vigorous style of yoga three to four times a week for a minimum of one hour, then I would say it doesn’t qualify as sufficient cardiovascular exercise.

The good news is that there are some cool classes in the area that partner cardio and yoga for a complete workout. Both Focus Fitness and Aim High couple spin and yoga into one class. There are yoga and running clubs everywhere (check your local Lululemon). Or you can always take matters into your own hands and jog or bike to/from class.

Hope this helps. Oh, and yes, Namaste,

MM

>> Have a question for Maura? Email us, and your question could be answered in an upcoming column!

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Maura Manzo is a yoga teacher and health coach specializing in integrating diet, health and wellness. She supports others in becoming their best possible selves. Maura is available for private instruction and coaching, as well as on-site corporate classes and speaking engagements. She is co-creator of the Beyond Asana 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training and the Art of Letting Go: Maya Tulum Mexican Yoga Vacation. Learn more about her teaching schedule, coaching practice and yoga trainings at www.mauramanzo.com.

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  • Shannon

    Hi there,
    I am looking to strengthen and lose inches/weight and want to know of a great yoga dvd that I could do at home.

    Thanks,
    Shannon, NB, Canada