“Cardio yoga” will hands down give you the best full-body sweat you can ask for


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Photo: Getty Images/Stígur Már Karlsson /Heimsmyndir

When I hear someone complain that they “hate yoga” because it’s “boring” and “not a good enough workout,” I can’t help but get annoyed. Because clearly, they aren’t going to the right yoga classes. Not only can yoga double as a serious strength training workout (especially for your core!), but it can also double as your daily dose of cardio—or should we say cardio yoga—by way of one-beat flows.

These series pair breath with movement, so that instead of holding poses for long periods of time you’re moving through them rapidly every time you inhale and exhale. This, understandably, will get your heart racing. “One breath per movement will increase the heart rate depending on the pacing and rhythm of the practice,” says Kajuan Douglas, founder of Merge New York, adding that timing is key with these types of flow. “Instead of moving like you’re taking a leisurely stroll in the park, move in your yoga practice like you a have some place to be five minutes ago. Create a tempo that means business.”

In addition to getting your heart pumping, these one-beat flows can also be helpful for centering your practice, too. “I truly believe that the breath is the most powerful tool in a yoga practice,” says yoga instructor Bee Creel. “It encourages us to move fluidly and with intention, it establishes a point of focus, and most importantly, it helps us create space where we feel stuck, both physically and mentally.”

And no—you don’t have to bother booking a class for the sake of that breath-related centering (especially if you’re one of those people who “hates” yoga). Below, four easy-to-follow, one-beat cardio yoga flows that will get your heart pumping and body bending in one fell-swoop. Try these cardio yoga flows from some of our favorite instructors.

NYC-based yogi Beth Cooke

1. Start in Downward Facing Dog.

2. Inhale, extend your right leg up into Three Legged Dog.

3. Exhale and step your right foot to your right thumb, dial your left heel down toward the mat.

4. Inhale, rise up to Warrior II.

5. Exhale, settle into a clear Warrior II shape.

6. Inhale, straighten your front leg as you reach your right arm up and tilt back into a Reverse Triangle.

7. Exhale, cartwheel your hands down into a Low Lunge.

8. Inhale, lift your right arm for a Low Lunge Twist.

9. Exhale, pour your weight into your left hand as you your stack right ankle on top of your left for a Left Side Plank (to modify, drop to your knees).

10. Inhale, take your right bicep along your right ear and bump your hips higher for an Extended Side Plank.

11. Exhale, move right hand down to Regular Plank, then press back into Downward Facing Dog.

12. Inhale, to either an Upward Facing Dog or Modified Upward Facing Dog.

13. Exhale, press back into Downward Facing Dog.

Repeat the entire sequence on left side.

NYC-based yogi, Bee Creel

1. Start in Mountain Pose.

2. Inhale, lift your shoulders up to your ears. Exhale, drop your shoulders down your back.

3. Inhale, reach your arms up and overhead, pressing your palms together for an Upward Salute.

4. Exhale, Forward Fold over your legs.

5. Inhale, lift halfway and bring your fingertips to your shins for a Halfway Lift.

6. Exhale, Forward Fold over your legs.

7. Inhale, plant your hands down on the mat and step back into Plank Pose.

8. Exhale, lower down to your belly.

9. Inhale, lift your chest for Cobra Pose, keeping your neck long and squeezing your legs together while pressing down into the tops of your feet

10. Exhale, bring your hips to your heels and find Child’s Pose. Breathe in and out.

11. Inhale, rock forward to all fours.

12. Exhale, lift your hips to the sky for Downward Facing Dog.

13. Inhale, lift your right leg up and back for Three-legged Dog. Keep your hips square, and right toes pointed to the right shin.

14. Exhale, bring your knee to your nose, round the spine and lightly step your right foot in between your hands as you lower your left knee to the mat for Low Lunge.

15. Inhale, lift your arms up by your ears.

16. Exhale, bend your elbows and find a cactus shape with your arms to open your chest.

17. Inhale, lift your arms back up by your ears, creating space in the sides of your body.

18. Exhale, lower your hands to the mat to frame your right foot.

19. Inhale, keep your left knee on the mat while pulling your hips back as you straighten your right leg for Half Split Pose.

20. Inhale, lift your heart. Exhale, fold deeper in to the pose.

21. Inhale, shift forward and re-bend your right knee, tucking your left toes under and lifting your left knee off of the mat for a Low Lunge.

22. Exhale, step your left foot to meet the right in a Forward Fold.

23. Inhale, reverse swan dive up to stand and press your palms together overhead for an Upward Salute.

24. Exhale, bring your right hands to heart center.

Repeat the entire sequence on left side.

NYC-based yogi Kristin Nichols

1. Start in Downward Facing Dog. 

2. Inhale, extend your right leg into the air for Three-Legged Dog. Shift your weight forward and hug your knee to your left elbow, pause

3. Exhale, look to the left, spin your left heel to the ground and begin to extend your right leg out to the side of the room for Fallen Triangle.

4. Inhale, reach your left arm to the ceiling. Exhale, bring your hand back to the floor.

5. Inhale, sweep your right leg back into Three-legged Dog.

6. Exhale, step your foot in between your hands, spin your left heel to the floor.

7. Inhale, open your arms up into a T for Warrior II,

8. Exhale, lengthen through your right leg and bring your right hand towards the floor and your left arm to the ceiling for Triangle Pose.

9. Inhale, look down at the ground while keeping both your chest and pelvis open to the side, bending your right leg shift the weight forward until you lift your back leg off the ground in line with the hip, flexing your foot into Half-Moon Pose.

10. Exhale, step back into Warrior II.

11. Inhale, flip your front palm toward the ceiling and reach back into Reverse Warrior.

12. Exhale, cartwheel your hands down to frame your foot.

13. Inhale, reach your right arm to the ceiling for a Low Lunge Twist.

14. Exhale, and plant the weight into your left hand and begin to step your right foot back on top of your left bringing your right arm into the sky for a Side Plank.

15. Exhale, bring both hands to the floor for a Plank, then bend your elbows back and in toward your ribs for Chaturanga Dandasana.

16. Inhale, flip to the tops of your feet and stretch lengthening your arms for Upward Facing Dog.

17. Exhale, lift your hips back into the air for Downward Facing Dog.

Repeat the entire sequence on left side.

Yoga Instructor Claire Grieve

1. Start in Downward Facing Dog.

2. Exhale, move to Plank.

3. Inhale, pull your right knee to your nose.

4. Exhale, push back into One-Legged Plank.

5. Inhale, bend your elbows back into One-Legged Chaturanga.

6. Exhale, push up into One-Legged Plank.

7. Inhale, move your hips back into One-Legged Downward Facing Dog

8. Exhale, plant your foot for Downward Facing Dog.

Repeat the entire sequence on left side.

Psst! These stretches are actually strength-training moves in disguise. And here’s what it means when a teacher tells you to “close your rib cage” in yoga class. 


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