You may be under the impression that yoga is mostly an exercise in relaxation. (Really, who hasn’t fallen asleep in Savasana?) But the right approach can actually take your session from sedating to percolating. For starters, “Yoga breathing can be absolutely amazing in lifting your energy,” notes Christina Brown, author of the bestselling book The Yoga Bible and owner of the Sydney, Australian-based studio Transform Yoga & Pilates.
Whether you are a six-day-a-week yogi, or someone who considers it a supplement to their normal training program, Brown notes that including several different types of yoga in your program (some fast-paced flows, other sessions that lean on long, drawn-out holds) can help bring equilibrium to your body.
One caveat: the better you get at Ashtanga or other flow styles of yoga, your average heart rate actually lowers, since your cardiovascular health and control over your respiratory system is improving. This reduces some, but not all, of the caloric deficit benefits. “As yogis slow their breathing they are also trying to slow their heart rate, even when their body is working quite hard,” Brown points out, so even a peppy yoga class still can’t hold a candle, aerobically, to running or another high-intensity activity.
To get fired up during your yoga practice, Brown recommends incorporating the following Up-Down Dog series after you do one leg of a standing pose for five breaths. So if you did a Warrior I pose, you would follow it up with this sequence, and then repeat again after you’ve completed Warrior I on the other side.