Written by Rachel Debling  |  Photos by Brian Reilly of West Studio

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.

Down Dog Series

After performing a standing pose…

The Yoga Flow That Doubles As Cardio

1. Move into Downward Facing Dog by folding forward from your hips, bending your knees if necessary, until your hands touch the floor. Step your feet one at a time behind you, and then lift your tailbone into the air, directing it toward the ceiling. Hold for five breaths.

The Yoga Flow That Doubles As Cardio

2. Transition into Plank pose (the top of a push-up position), then lower down to the floor in a triceps push-up (elbows tight to the body) to come into Chaturanga Dandasana. Take five deep breaths.

The Yoga Flow That Doubles As Cardio

3. Next, move into either Cobra pose (keeping your legs on the floor and lifting your chest to the sky or Upward Facing Dog (planting only your hands and feet on the floor). Maintain this position for five full breaths, then move back into Downward Facing Dog.

The Yoga Flow That Doubles As Cardio

4. Step forward and rise into the other side of the standing pose you began with (Ex: Warrior I), then repeat this series.


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