Cardio exercise is a vital part of maintaining a healthy weight and a healthy heart, but can a yoga practice be enough to set your heart racing? It’s a contentious issue.
What is Cardio Exercise?
Cardio, or cardio-vascular exercise, is any exercise that is aerobic and increases your heart rate and challenges your lung capacity. Most fitness experts advocate getting the heart rate moderately elevated for at least 30 minutes a day for heart health and to a higher rate to lose weight. Of course the rate itself depends on your age and current weight, so check with your doctor or a personal trainer.
The Heart Foundation recommends at least 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity every day for a healthy heart. Newer research is showing, though, that cardio exercise doesn’t have to be an endurance test. The Heart Foundation says that you can also accumulate your 30 minutes per day in shorter bursts such as three 10-minute walks per day, as long as you get the heart pumping to a rate where you can still talk but are a little short of breath.
Yoga and Cardio
Depending on the type of yoga practice you choose, there can definitely be a cardio-vascular element.
If a cardio workout is one of your pre-requisites for a yoga practice, favour styles which have a strong “vinyasa” element such as astanga, power or Bikram yoga. Vinyasa refers to the flow of poses from one to another using the breath, and styles which use this epithet are usually more vigorous in nature. A traditional sun salutation is the perfect example of vinyasa.
A few rounds of sun salutes get the heart pumping and lungs working to keep oxygen moving in and out of the body, especially if you do a number of both sun salute A and sun salute B (which includes the warrior pose).
Apart from the vinyasa warming the body and increasing circulation, your heart rate will go up and down in short bursts during those times when you hold strong standing poses, as the large muscles such as those in the legs work to hold the body in place.
Adding the benefits of cardio, yoga is the all-round tonic for your mind and body – it’s great for strength and muscle tone, lung capacity (through the vinyasas and also breathing exercises called pranayama), relaxation and connection to your inner core of calm.
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