Yoga for Cardiovascular Fitness: Get Your Heart Racing Next Time You Hit the Mat

Amber Scriven
Yoga for Cardiovascular Fitness: Get Your Heart Racing Next Time You Hit the Mat

Getting your heart rate up on a regular basis is vital for a balanced healthy body. In yoga this is not as hard as it sounds, especially with hybrid classes like Core Power Yoga, Power Yoga and all the various Vinyasa Yoga classes that we have access to these days.

Here are a few ways you can raise your heart rate throughout your regular yoga practice using dynamic movement; a practice that focuses on one movement per breath in shapes that flow from one to the next, or repeat several themselves over and over using the entire body.

Sun Salutations

These are specific to the warm up phase and designed to get your blood pumping to protect your muscles when entering the deeper stretches. Repeat any of the Sun Salutes 5-9 times with one movement per breath and watch how fast that heart rate comes up. 

Want even more? Do all three types in one practice! Simply take a short break in Down Dog or Child’s Pose between 5 sets of Sun A, Sun B and Sun C. Move rapidly between each sequence and you’ll feel your heart race before you know it. 

Mountain Climbers

Adding in Mountain climbers to each Sun B set is another way to elevate the heart rate. Want even more? Do a push up with each elbow to knee set.

You can step this up even more by doing a round of Mountain Climbers running in place. In plank bring your right knee to your right elbow then step the foot back and switch sides. Get faster and faster until you are running. 

Why not also try switching it up between each round of sun salutations and holding your knee in by your chest for some fiery core work? Give it a go and feel the burn.

Flip Dog into Fallen Triangle

Using two shapes that are opposite inversions of each other in a back and forth flow feels great on the body and brings more energy to the cardiovascular system. 

When you start moving more quickly make sure to stay fully aware of your hand and foot placement and stay engaged in your core to protect yourself. In this case your shoulder and ankle joints need a little extra attention. 

Also remember to inhale to stretch in a shape and exhale to contract or move. Here’s what this particular example would look like with that in mind:

 - INHALE in Down Dog to enter three legged dog and stack your hips or flip your dog over, 
 - EXHALE to engage your core as you align back towards Down Dog, then extend your lifted leg under the opposite arm with both heels on the ground.
 - INHALE to lift the opposite arm up. 
 - EXHALE to reflip back to stacked dog or flipped dog.
 - INHALE when you get there to start again. 

You could repeat as many times as you like- each time being very aware of pulling your core in on the exhale and where you are placing your hands and feet so as to stay strong in the ankle and shoulder joints.

Yoga Squat to Chaturanga

This is similar to burpees and a step up from the earlier described Mountain Climbers. 

Check with your teacher to make sure your Chaturanga is well aligned before you try this. It’s the most commonly misaligned shape and can cause wrist, low back and shoulder soreness if not done properly.

With a strong, and well aligned Chaturanga in your back pocket you can start in yoga squat with your hips behind your knees and your feet as wide as it takes to get your feet flat on the floor. Then jump both feet back to Chaturanga, making sure your elbows are bent to protect your shoulders. Now either push-up to Plank (with your knees up or down) and slide back to Down Dog before hopping forward to yoga squat to start again, or skip the push up and go straight back up to yoga squat.

Repeat this until your heart rate is up and you’re sweating!

Dancing Warriors

The dancing warriors is a term referring to a fast flow from Warrior 2 to Peaceful Warrior and into Side Angle then back to Peaceful Warrior again. These three shapes strung together and repeated several times at a rate of one movement per breath, encourage an aerobic set that elevates the heart rate nicely while still grounding into the legs.

Hopefully this is enough to get you interested in integrating cardio into your yoga practice! Once you start you are sure to love it. Already doing this? Great! Tell us your favorite way to raise your heart rate during your yoga practice- we want to know!