Your Yoga Practice Could Count As Cardio, According To Science


Let’s face it: when it comes to exercise, most of us would rather hit our yoga mats than pound the pavement. But are we doing ourselves any favors in the cardio department? Well, according to research from the University of Miami, we could be.

In a small study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine earlier this year, 22 healthy adult men and women (with yoga experience) were tasked with completing as many sun salutations as they could within a span of eight minutes. They were assigned two different speeds, either holding each pose for three seconds or holding each pose for 12 seconds. The research team then monitored their varying energy expenditure and muscular activity via masks and sensors.

Unsurprisingly, the group that moved through their vinyasa flow every three seconds burned an average of 48 calories during the yoga practice while those who changed postures every 12 seconds only burned 29 calories. The interesting finding, however, is that the pose transitions took the bulk of study participants’ effort, as opposed to holding the poses themselves.


“The salutations, particularly when done three times as fast, functioned as intense interval training,” senior study author Joseph Signorile told the New York Times. “Transitioning from pose to pose was similar to sprinting while the poses allowed for brief recovery. Eight minutes of almost any type of high-intensity interval training qualifies as an aerobic workout.”

Now, we know most yoga classes don’t flow this quickly, but who says you can’t ramp up the speed a bit during your self-guided, at-home asana? You’ll check off that pesky cardio box on your workout list while also reducing your stress and improving your flexibility. Plus, you’ll likely free up more time for a focused round of meditation following your savasana. Sounds like the ideal way to spend an hour to us.