Hardcore yoga, Shred yoga, cardio yoga—no matter what you call it, fitness trainers who combine the flexibility of yoga with blood-pumping cardio are more popular than ever.
A mashup of traditional stances (think ‘downward dog’) and power moves like the ‘rotating half Jack’ and ‘wide second punches’, cardio yoga aims to target specific muscle groups—namely abs, obliques, glutes, and thighs—along with fitness enthusiasts seeking more sweat than Sanskrit.
Carlos Rodriguez, who runs his trademarked Caponyasa cardio yoga class on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, summarized the cardio yoga concept in a recent New York Times article: “It is yoga for Type A personalities who want to get a workout in and move and sweat.”
But just how effective is cardio yoga? According to Ben Greensfield, voted Personal Trainer of the Year 2008 by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and host of the highly popular Get-Fit Guy podcast (which gets about 170,000 downloads per month), a 2006 study measured the heart rate of participants performing Ashtanga, a more cardio-intensive form of yoga, versus traditional yoga. The study showed that while participants’ heart rate during Ashtanga yoga increased by over 30 beats from their resting heart rate, their heart rate during the easier yoga sessions increased by only about 15 beats—which may seem significant, but is the equivalent of transitioning from sitting on the couch to vacuuming the living room.
And yes, while an increase of 30 beats over resting heart rate can absolutely boost cardiovascular fitness—15-30 hours of yoga per week (even the hardcore kind) certainly isn’t the most efficient way to lose weight.
Of course, the overall benefits of yoga—reduced stress, greater mental discipline, healthy habits—far outweigh the stark results of a study focused solely on weight loss. What’s more, if your goals go beyond (or don’t include) weight loss, then hardcore yoga could be a perfect fit for you.