Is it possible to replace cardio exercise by yoga?

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Yoga can be very different: a slow and recovering, or intensive and fast. When the movements rapidly flow into one another, and you try to synchronize them with your breathing, yoga turns into a real cardio. This is what we are going to tell you. Our editors often work with texts connected with healthy lifestyle and yoga is very popular now.

 Try a 90-minute workout on the Vinyasa Yoga: your breathing and heart rate quickens, the sweat begins to flow down the face and hands – isn’t it a good cardio?

When people talk about cardio, usually they mean aerobic exercises - a continuous activity that raises your heart rate to the range where such exercises can already be called heart trainings. Yoga is perceived more as an exercise that calms the restless mind, develops the mind and body, gives us flexibility and strength. So can yoga be considered as a cardio workout?


For the exercise to fall under the definition of cardio, it must include three components: intensity, duration and frequency of occurrence. Ask yourself a simple question: “How intense is my practice of yoga?”, “How long does these intense periods last?”, “How often do I practice such trainings?”.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) offers the basic indicators that show how much time and effort it takes to maintain the cardio-vascular system of an adult person in a healthy condition. In particular, the heart rate should be within the range of 65-90% of maximum heart rates for at least 20 minutes at a frequency of workouts 3-5 times a week. But the latest research shows that the overall amount of exercises, and the balance of these three components, is far more important than reaching a certain threshold of intensity. That's according to Dr. Carol Garber from Columbia University, co-author of the latest regulation on the quantity and quality of exercises needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle issued by ACSM.

One can easily pull from this information to maintain own exercises. If you have exercises with low-intensity, you can increase the runtime or frequency of repetitions. If the intensity is high, simply reduce the training time or add short periods of rest between sets. The main thing is not to forget to keep track of heart rate, since this factor will help to answer the question whether you can consider this workout of yoga as cardio.

Is it possible to replace cardio by yoga at a quick pace?

To see whether your yoga exercises can be considered as cardio, you need to determine what exactly kind of yoga you are doing. If your main practice consists from sessions at a slow pace with recovering asana when you need to stay in one position for a long period, this training will not raise your heart rate to the desired level. But if you prefer an energetic workout, the answer may be YES.

American College of Sports Medicine recommends continuous, rhythmic aerobic exercises, which include the work with different categories of muscles. Yoga consists of many styles that fall under this description. However, even yoga teachers have not agreed on this issue yet.

For example, Lisa Black, coach and owner of the Shakti Vinyasa Yoga studio in Seattle, said that her 90-minute yoga session could replace cardio training, as the heart rate accelerates to the desired level during the first 30 minutes of training.

Others believe that vinyasa yoga training is not enough and you need to add other styles of yoga, as well as swimming and even brisk walking practice.

Scientific experiment

To test the theory whether yoga can replace cardio or not, scientists have carried out an experiment, which involved three persons who were practicing yoga for a long time and had an excellent physical form. Each of them was doing yoga exercises six times a week for 75 minutes.

Tim Fleming (Mill Valley, California) assessed the condition of the cardiovascular system of the volunteers. The obtained data should help to determine whether yoga practice is sufficient to maintain your health.

All three participants received heart rate monitors. Data was collected during the week, and then it was delivered to Tim for the analysis. After analyzing the indicators, he came to the conclusion that all of the participants got enough amount of exercise thus yoga can be equated to the cardio. Fleming also noted that these results were achieved thanks to the duration, frequency and intensity of each workout, and a great number of training during the week.

After that, the participants were sent to pass tests on the run track and measured VO2 max level. The results were 70-80%. Of course, this is not the result that can be obtained after testing professional runners or cyclists, but it allows to include our three participants of the experiment to athletes with physical education with level higher than the average. That is why yoga practice is enough to maintain heart health.


If you frequently visit an active yoga class (for example Ashtanga, Vinyasa, strength yoga training and so on), you will cope with complex asanas easier than it seemed at first lessons. Your heart rate after six months of regular yoga practice will increase from 175 beats per minute to 160. This can be considered as a good progress, because your heart muscle develops and becomes stronger.

For this purpose, it is not necessary to do yoga exercises six times a week during 75 minutes. Fleming said that regular exercises three times a week would be enough. The main thing is that you feel the progress and you can easily keep track of it.

Try to attend yoga classes for a month and do not forget to wear a heart rate monitor, and observe the changes in your heart rate. We are sure you'll get interesting results, which will help you to look at yoga practice in a different way.

Our team of hopes that this article will be useful for you and will help you to tap into the healthy lifestyle. Feel free to share your comments and questions with us or apply for professional academic help now!

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