International Day of Yoga 2022: Can yoga be a good substitute for cardio exercises?

Yoga is known to impart several mental, physical and spiritual benefits. It calms the mind, alleviates stress and keeps your overall well-being in check. But, can it also give you benefits like a blood-pumping and heart-shaking cardio workout does?

On this International Day of Yoga, health and fitness experts elucidate how the age-old practice of yoga can also be considered cardio and improve your fitness levels if you practise certain forms. “If you practise certain styles of yoga, such as vinyasa yoga, for a minimum of 45 minutes, 3-5 times per week, yoga can be considered cardio and thus enhance your fitness level,” Dr Parmila Sharma, HOD – Physiotherapy, Paras Hospitals, Gurugram said.

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She added that when done correctly, “a yoga session may be more difficult and calorie-burning than an hour on the treadmill, and it’s a terrific method to develop and keep toned by using your own body weight.”

Agreed Dr Narendra Shetty, Chief wellness officer, Kshemavana, Bangalore. “Yes, yoga is the best substitute for cardio exercises; Yoga is not a ‘work out’ as pronounced in a yoga scripture it is said to be ‘work in’.”

“Cardio is an aerobic exercise that focuses on activities that increase the heart rate to strengthen the cardiac muscles but at the same time, it leaves the individual strained and exhausted. Yoga focuses on improving the cardiovascular circulation with minimal effort and higher stability,” he said.

Explaining the same, Dr BN Singh, Principal Consultant Internal Medicine, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad said, “Yoga enhances the ability of your body to pump enough blood and deliver enough oxygen to your muscles as you are sustaining your exercise. The healthier and fitter you are, the longer you can exercise at a constant rate. By increasing your cardiorespiratory fitness level, you can also take the daily load off your heart and thus live longer.”

Certain yoga poses can give cardio-like effects (Express photo by Jithendra M)

Citing statistics and research, Dr Singh highlighted the role of yoga in improving blood circulation, reducing blood cholesterol levels and the accumulation of lipid build-up within the blood vessels “thereby reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke, heart blockage etc.”

Here are some yoga asanas to attempt, which will give you a cardio-like effect, according to the experts.

*Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation): Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) is a series of postures performed in a specific order. “The effect of fast rounds of Surya Namaskar is similar to those of physical aerobic exercise with increased muscular endurance and power. It increases heart rate, and cardiovascular circulation and improves oxygenation of cardiac tissues,” Dr Shetty explained.

*Chaturanga Dandasana (Plank Pose): The best way to strengthen your core is to do Chaturanga Dandasana. “Its advantages are enormous, despite how easy it appears,” Dr Sharma said.

*Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog Pose): It tones your entire body while paying special focus to specific muscles.

*Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand Pose): There are numerous benefits to Sarvangasana, including increased strength and improved digestion. It is, however, well-known for stimulating metabolism and regulating thyroid levels.

Dr Shetty concluded by saying that with the right postures and continuous flow, “yoga can increase heart rate and can replace cardio”.

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