How To Do Cardio Yoga For A Serious Sweat

Ankle weights are optional.

What is cardio yoga? Here are all the benefits.
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When you think about yoga, chances are you imagine slow, serene movements, relaxing music, and lots of deep breathing. But with cardio yoga, it’s all about getting your sweat on.

Cardio yoga is designed to boost your heart rate and keep it there for a while, says Kimberlee Morrison, yoga teacher and founder of Love Revolution Yoga. “Rather than focusing on maintaining a steady, calm breath — as is the goal with yoga generally — students in a cardio yoga class might actually find themselves with their hearts pumping and breathing heavily,” she tells Bustle.

The reason? Cardio-based yoga takes the gentler elements of the fitness modality, like the postures (or asanas), and speeds them up to create a more intense form of exercise. “In a traditional yoga class, you might expect to hold postures for anywhere from five to 15 breaths,” Kelly Turner, the director of education at YogaSix, tells Bustle. “In a cardio-focused class, you can expect to hold postures for a shorter period of time, like three to five breaths, or even as little as one breath.” So you’re transitioning between poses at a quicker rate.

Postures are also more likely to be repeated in quick succession, kind of like reps. “It may look like something as simple as repeating rounds of a basic sun salutation,” Turner explains. “As a result, you will likely do more total postures and transitions, or visit them more often in a class.”

Some teachers might even suggest wearing ankle weights, incorporating exercise bands, or using light hand weights in your flow session to up the difficulty level even more, says Morrison. To give cardio yoga a try, look for classes labeled power yoga, power vinyasa, yoga HIIT, or yoga sculpt, and you’re bound to get a solid sweat in. Read on for more intel on the cardio-based benefits of this form of yoga, along with an example sequence to try the next time you unroll your mat.

What To Know About Cardio Yoga

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According to Morrison, the benefits of a cardio yoga class are the same as any other cardio workout: improved heart health and stamina from maintaining an elevated heart rate, a boost in mood from the endorphin release, and better sleep. You’ll also get the benefits of your more traditional yoga practice: think increased flexibility and improved strength and mobility thanks to all the stretching.

There are a few things to keep in mind, though, before you dive into a cardio yoga class or pull one up online. Because you’re about to sweat — sometimes a lot — Morrison recommends focusing on hydration. “Of course it's a good idea to have water on hand, but it's so important to hydrate well before doing any cardio, too,” she says.

Also, remember it’s a cardio fitness class, so it’s bound to be tough — be sure to give yourself plenty of time to build up your endurance. “Don't feel like you have to do all the moves,” Morrison says. “Sure, you want to challenge yourself, but it's really more important to keep your practice sustainable.” If you need to slow down or take a break, go for it!

How To Do Cardio Yoga

For an idea of what cardio yoga looks like, check out this high-intensity workout from Yoga with Kassandra. It’s only 10 minutes long, but the quick series of poses will definitely get your heart rate up. Or try this HIIT flow from Morrison below. She recommends wearing light ankle weights to up the challenge.

- Start in a mountain pose at the top of your mat. Connect to your breath.

- Inhale, lift your arms up into an extended mountain pose.

- Dive into a forward fold, lift halfway back up on the inhale, then exhale and plant your palms.

- Hop your feet back into a plank.

- Immediately hop feet forward again, inhale into an extended chair pose.

- Exhale to stand up. Repeat this flow 3 times.

- For an added cardio element, do 3 hops straight up into the air, landing with soft knees, after the chair pose.

- You could also do 10 plank jacks while in the plank position.

- Lower to the mat after the plank jacks, then lift your hips up into downward facing dog to recover.

Go for a 10-minute flow or commit to an hour-long class. If you’re sweaty and out of breath by the end, you’ve successfully done cardio yoga.

Studies referenced:

Bernotiene G, Slapsinskaite A, Berškienė K, Daunoravičienė A, Vainoras A, Razón S. Yoga's Effects on the Cardiovascular System of Healthy Women: Implications for Best Practices. Altern Ther Health Med. 2020 Sep;26(5):18-26. PMID: 32663177.

Dolezal, B. A., Neufeld, E. V., Boland, D. M., Martin, J. L., & Cooper, C. B. (2017). Interrelationship between Sleep and Exercise: A Systematic Review. Advances in preventive medicine, 2017, 1364387.

Papp, M. E., Lindfors, P., Nygren-Bonnier, M., Gullstrand, L., & Wändell, P. E. (2016). Effects of High-Intensity Hatha Yoga on Cardiovascular Fitness, Adipocytokines, and Apolipoproteins in Healthy Students: A Randomized Controlled Study. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 22(1), 81–87.

Polsgrove, M. J., Eggleston, B. M., & Lockyer, R. J. (2016). Impact of 10-weeks of yoga practice on flexibility and balance of college athletes. International journal of yoga, 9(1), 27–34.

Youkhana S, Dean CM, Wolff M, Sherrington C, Tiedemann A. Yoga-based exercise improves balance and mobility in people aged 60 and over: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Age Ageing. 2016 Jan;45(1):21-9. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afv175. Epub 2015 Dec 25. PMID: 26707903.


Kimberlee Morrison, yoga teacher and founder of Love Revolution Yoga

Kelly Turner, director of education at YogaSix