In this Article : Pairing Cardio and Yoga, Practicing Basic Sun Salutations, Incorporating Additional Poses
Regular yoga practice can increase your cardiovascular endurance, strengthen muscles, and stretch out your body. Practicing any type of yoga—from active styles such as Ashtanga or Jivamukti to more passive types such as restorative and yin— can also provide a welcome complement to your cardio routine. You can complement your cardio with yoga by incorporating daily sessions, such as a few rounds of sun salutations.
Do cardio activities most days of the week. Every adult should get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity every week. You can also do a mixture of moderate and vigorous cardio.
Aim to get at least 30 minutes of cardio every day. You can do this all at once or break it up into manageable chunks, such as 3 10-minute sessions.
Choose exercises you enjoy such as running, walking, swimming, or biking.
Recognize that yoga styles characterized by continuous movement can count towards your daily totals. These styles can include Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Vinyasa, and power flow.
Add yoga sessions as you like. Doing just 10 minutes of yoga per day provides benefits for your body and mind. Start with an amount that’s manageable and sustainable for you. You can gradually increase the amount of yoga you do per day.
Remember that you can count more vigorous yoga to your weekly cardio totals if you like.
Avoid setting unrealistic goals for yourself with your yoga practice.
Choose postures that enhance your cardio. Yoga can complement your cardio exercise by increasing your stamina and strengthening your muscles. It also helps to build your balance and flexibility. Poses that can complement cardio include:
Standing split to stretch and strengthen quads, hamstrings, and the stabilizing muscles of the gluteus
Happy baby to release and stretch hip joints
Low lunges to stretch the thigh muscles and hip flexors while opening the chest muscles
High lunges to lengthen hip flexors and lengthen quads
Extended puppy pose to stretch and lengthen the spine and open the chest
Locust pose to strengthen the torso, legs, and arms
Reclining bound angle pose to stretch hip and groin muscles
Cross-legged twist to stretch the hips, chest, and back
Schedule regular rest days. Take at least one rest day per week from your yoga and cardio workouts. This is important because it lets your body recover, rebuild, and refresh for your next workout. You can either schedule a day on the sofa or have an “active” rest day where you do something such as go for a casual stroll or take a restorative yoga class.
Keep in mind that active recovery should get you moving but not require a ton of effort. Stick to 30-60 minutes of easy movement as your active recovery. It’s also acceptable to just take the day off altogether.
Begin in mountain pose. Sun salutations are a great complement to cardio and are the start of a healthy yoga practice. Not only do they build strength and endurance, they also help stretch out your muscles. Start by standing in mountain pose, which gets you ready to flow through sun salutations.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and arms outstretched down your sides. Look straight ahead and distribute your weight evenly on each foot.
Engage your core and roll your tailbone towards the ground to elongate your spine. Roll your shoulders down and back to stack your shoulders over your hips. Engage your upper core by knitting your ribs together.
Inhale and exhale evenly through your nose. This can aid your flow through sun salutations if you match each movement with an inhale or exhale.
Sit your bum into chair pose. Breathe in and bend your knees to “sit” towards the floor while raising your arms into the air. Keep your weight in your heels and arch your back slightly as you look up towards your extended arms. Keep your shoulders down and tilt your pelvis towards the floor.
Lift your elbows as much as you can. Keep your hands in prayer position, which can make this easier.
Sit down as far as you can to try and get your knees parallel to the floor.
Hinge and bend forward. From chair pose, you will flow into your next pose. Exhale, engage your core, and hinge at your hips into a forward fold.
Use your core muscles to keep your back straight when you fold from chair pose to your forward bend.
Place your palms flat on the floor parallel to each foot. Place a block beneath your hands or bend your knees slightly if your hands can’t reach the floor. Point your hands and fingers towards the front of your mat and keep your whole hand pressing into the floor. This can make it easier to flow into the next positions in your wake-up sun salutation.
Rise up halfway into standing half forward bend. Inhale as you rise up into a standing half forward bend. Your torso should be parallel to the floor. Your hands should also still be parallel to your feet; they can remain on the floor or shift to your legs to keep your spine parallel with the floor.
Step back or jump into four-limbed staff pose. Chatturanga dandasana, or four-limbed staff pose, is the next movement in your sun salutation. It should look as though you’re hovering in a pushup position over the floor. Four-limbed staff pose will build overall strength and endurance.
Step back into plank and slowly lower yourself into four-limbed staff pose if you are new to yoga. Jump into it if you are more advanced. Land with your body in a hovering push up position, keeping your weight as evenly distributed as possible.
Engage your arms so they are close to your sides, forming a 90-degree angle with your upper arms. Pull your shoulders down and back, keeping a slight lift between them so that your shoulder blades don’t jut out of your back.
Note that this pose can cause shoulder injuries if done improperly. You can look up the modifications for this transition if necessary.
Roll your toes into upward facing dog. From four-legged staff pose, roll over your toes into upward facing dog. You can also set your feet on the ground if rolling is not possible. Engage your back muscles, open your chest, and look up as the tops of your feet rest on the ground. Upward dog easily transitions you into the final position, downward facing dog.
Engage your thighs to help you safely and effectively stay in upward facing dog. Pulling your tailbone towards your heels can also protect your back. Press your palms fully into the floor.
You can lower down to a place of comfort or press your hips to the floor if you feel tension in your lower back.
Finish in downward facing dog. Breathe, roll back over your toes, and lift your hips into downward dog. As an alternative to rolling over, you can also tuck your toes under and then lift into downward dog. Your body should look like an inverted “V” shape. This is the final position in sun salutations.
Relax your shoulders and roll your arms inward so the inside of your elbows are facing. Lift your sitting bones towards the ceiling. Keep your palms pressed flat against the floor.
Allow your heels to fall where they want. Your heels may not touch the floor, depending on the flexibility in your lower back, hamstrings, and calf muscles.
Repeat sun salutations. In order to get the most out of your sun salutations, repeat the sequence for 10-12 rounds. Beginners may only want to do 3-5 rounds. If you are short on time, practice sun salutations for 10 minutes. Repeating your sun salutations will boost your energy as well as strengthen and stretch your body and mind.
Choose to do quick transitions between poses for more cardio benefit. You can also do a slower and more meditative sequence of sun salutations to build more stability and strength. This can stretch you out more than quickly progressing through poses.
Add new poses after your sun salutations. You may want to try yoga poses beyond sun salutations. Choosing poses from the 4 groups of asanas that complement your cardio can bring you maximum benefits. Remember that you can have an effective yoga practice with just a few poses. Incorporating and mastering different poses can also help you put together a stimulating practice that won’t feel like a routine.
Start with poses that seem easier and more accessible to you, then work your way up to more challenging ones.
Incorporate poses from each asana group: standing poses, inversions, backbends, and forward bends.
Consider adding twisting poses to neutralize and stretch your spine between backbends and forward bends.
Hold each asana for 3-5 breaths.
Add standing poses. Standing poses can help strengthen and stretch your legs and the inner muscles that stabilize your hips. They also help you balance and focus. Start with basic standing poses such as tree pose or the Warrior Series.
Add or substitute other standing poses such as extended triangle pose and or revolved triangle pose as you progress.
Perform inversions and backbends. Inversions and backbends are poses that can strengthen and stretch your back and chest muscles. Add 1 or 2 backbends to your routine, following each backbend with an inversion. This can complement your cardio routine by building your endurance and muscle while stretching out muscles tight from exercise.
Add backbends including locust pose, cobra pose, or bridge pose. You could also do a mini backbend while standing by placing your hands on your sacrum (the bottom of your spine) and gently pressing your hips forward. Keep your weight in your heels and lift up out of the heart to avoid compressing your spine.
Work up to dhanurasana (bow pose) and urdhva dhanurasana (full wheel or upward bow).
Try inversions such as handstands or headstands using a wall until you build enough strength to do the full pose.
Take a twist pose if you need reset yourself between backbends and forward bends. Start with simple variations such as Bharadvaja’s twist or half lord of the fishes pose.
Finish with seated postures. Seated postures help balance out your body after backbends and inversions. They are also an excellent way to stretch out tight muscles from cardio. Hold seated postures for 8-10 breaths.
Add seated forward bend, head to the knee pose, or reclined star pose to stretch out your entire body. Gradually add more difficult postures such as pigeon and boat pose.
End your practice in savasana. Every yoga practice should end with corpse pose, or savasana. This pose neutralizes and recharges your mind and body. It also helps open your chest, relax your legs and release your shoulders. Lie on the floor with your feet hip width apart, your arms slightly out to the side, and your eyes closed. Allow yourself to relax fully for as long as you like.
Lie on your back and place your legs so they go up the wall. Your whole foot should point towards the ceiling. This can help your legs relax better than if your legs are on the ground. It may also be more appropriate if you have lower back issues or find savasana difficult.