Time to sweat!

3:48 PM

If you're like me and enjoy a regular yoga practise but also want to work on sculpting your body and improving your overall fitness, cardio might be exactly what you need. I'm not talking about running on the treadmill (...boring!) I'm talking about some fast workouts that produce fast results. They don't get boring and can actually improve your yoga practise!

What are the benefits of doing cardio?
Improves your mood: cardio stimulates the release of endorphins which are pain relieving and enhance the immune system. It also reduces stress and anxiety, and releases toxins from the body. I always find it helpful to do some cardio before a big performance, because it releases negative tension and toxins from my body and helps to reduce nerves before getting on stage. Not only does cardio leave you calmer than before, but also more energized. The increased heart rate and circulation refreshes your body and ensures all areas of your body are flushed with oxygen-rich blood. Do you love the buzz you get after yoga class? Try a runner’s high!

Improves endurance: cardiovascular exercise helps to build and improve endurance. As your muscles work hard, they require more oxygen-rich blood, so your heart has to work harder to produce and deliver it around your body. The more you build your endurance, the more efficient your heart and lungs become, improving your overall fitness. For this reason, cardio is also linked with better attention, memory, accuracy and information processing in the brain, as more oxygen-rich blood is delivered to the brain.

Burns fat: cardio burns more calories than any other form of exercise, which makes it great for burning fat! Adding just a few sweat sessions in a week can produce fast results in any fitness routine, and will compliment a strength based yoga practice. Plus, sweating helps to detoxify the body through the skin!

How can cardio benefit my yoga practice?
Most of the people you meet who are crazy about yoga have not started it for the weight loss benefits, but for the blissful feeling of connection with spirit. The flexibility and toning of the body along with weight loss effects are just an added bonus. However, adding cardio to your routine will see amplified results on both your body and mind. Although most yoga is focused on the spiritual, many yoga schools offer power yoga or interval yoga, which combine cardio, strength training, body toning and mindful meditation. This means you get all the benefits of yoga combined with a full body workout. This form of yoga burns serious calories and will produce fast results! However, if you’re like me and prefer to keep your spiritual yoga separate, you can add another form of cardio. 

When you contract your muscles, they shorten; this is how movement occurs. The difference  between yoga and most other forms of exercise is that it naturally builds lean muscle by shortening the muscles in strengthening poses and then lengthening them in stretching poses. Pilates cardio or Barre are great complimenting cardio workouts as they are the only other forms of exercise that combine lengthening the muscles into the routine. My favourite Pilates workouts are by Blogilates and can be done almost anywhere! (No need to pay for classes... bonus!) While stretching can still burn a few calories, it is not comparable to other aerobic exercise so if you want to burn fat and sculpt your body, a high strength based yoga practise, cardio, weights and high intensity exercises are more effective.

By increasing circulation to all the major muscles in your body, strength training becomes more effective (I use yoga as my strength training). The stimulation of the muscles means that when you work them, the muscles build strength faster. You will also find that most forms of cardio include some strength training, so you will be increasing the amount of work your muscles do a week; increasing muscle mass. By building strength faster you will notice improvements in different areas of your yoga practice because asanas require muscle control and strength. I have especially noticed an improvement in my arm balances since regularly including cardio in my routine. 

By adding cardio to your routine, you build faster endurance (both physically and mentally), which is especially beneficial for the more challenging styles of yoga like Bikram or Ashtanga. I have found mental endurance the most beneficial to both my yoga practice and daily life. Vigorous exercise challenges your mind; often your body is capable of a lot more than you think! When you learn how to push yourself to new boundaries in your cardio routine, you also learn to push yourself and try new things in your yoga practice. I have found that I am more capable of difficult poses than I thought and the mental persistence makes a HUGE difference. It’s all mind over matter and this can be applied to many areas of your life.

It can be hard to find time for all the things you love as well as stay in shape, so I have included some fast and simple HIIT circuit workouts for all you busy yogis! 
5 mins
30 secs jumprope
30 secs burpees
Repeat 5 times no rest

10 mins
30 secs jumprope 
30 secs burpees 
30 secs squats or squat and press
30 secs rest
Repeat 5 times

15 mins
30 secs burpees
30 secs squats or squat and press
30 secs skaters
30 secs in-outs 
1 min rest 
Repeat 5 times

What is HIIT?
HIIT is the abbreviation for High Intensity Interval Training. A HIIT workout consists of short bursts of high intensity work followed by short periods of rest. It is the most effective form of cardio and burns more calories than any other exercise. It is also super efficient, making it ideal for those wanting to fit a workout into their busy schedule. Research overwhelmingly supports HIIT workouts and the best part is that you can complete an effective HIIT workout in as little as 4 minutes!
Many will argue that steady state cardio is better because 45 minutes of running on the treadmill burns 400 and 15 minutes of HIIT only burns 250. But HIIT gets your heart rate up really quickly, and then continues to burn calories for hours after your workout. In fact research shows that the ‘afterburn effect’ can occur for up to 38 hours AFTER your workout! 
Give these workouts a go, or create your own! Tabata format is known as one of the best templates for a HIIT workout. It consists of 20 seconds of as-hard-as-you-can work followed by 10 seconds rest. Pick some exercises and repeat 8 times for an effective workout that only lasts 4 minutes!

Starting in a plank position with your toes together (or knees if you need an easier variation), keep your core engaged and back straight. It may help you to look forwards slightly to achieve correct posture. Bend your arms and lower your torso to the floor until your arms reach a 90 degree angle, making sure you are lowering your elbows back down the spine (away from your head). Push back up through your chest and extend your arms until you come back to the beginning position.

Plant both feet firmly on the ground, slightly wider than shoulder width apart with feet pointed out slightly. Looking straight-ahead with shoulders back, bend at both the hips and knees, making sure your knees follow the direction of your toes. Sit down backwards until your upper legs are parallel to the ground, like sitting down into an imaginary chair. Weight back in your heels, and your spine at 45 degrees to your hips, push up engaging all support in your glutes, returning to a neutral standing position. You can extend your arms for balance if you wish. For a SQUAT AND PRESS: hold weights at chest level as you lower into a squat and lift them above your head as you come back to neutral standing position.

Preparing for a squat, bend at the knees and hips, and lean the body slightly forward to allow your hands to touch the floor in front of you. Shifting the weight into your hands, jump or kick your legs back into a plank position, making sure your back is straight and your core is engaged. Transfer the weight back into your hands and jump the legs forwards into a squat position. Propel your body upwards with a jump, before coming back to a neutral standing position, ensuring you land with the balls of your feet first and with ‘soft’ knees to prevent too much shock on the joints.

Begin in a neutral standing position with feet and knees together, knees slightly bent (IN). From here, jump your legs outwards into a full squat (OUT), engaging the glutes as you propel yourself back up and straight back into the ‘in’ position. Repeat. You could also do this move with a step for an extra challenge. Begin standing on the step, then as you come into a squat position, jump your legs either side of the step onto the ground. Engage your glutes and propel yourself back into the ‘in’ position on the step.

Beginning in a neutral standing position, take your left leg behind your right leg on a 45 degree angle keeping the weight in your right leg. Lean your body slightly forwards and touch the ground in front of you with your left hand. Return to a neural standing position and repeat on the other side. You will get into a rhythm and ‘skate’ between each side. It may help to add a little jump or bounce in the middle before switching sides.

Standing on the balls of your feet with a skipping rope handle in each hand, swing the rope upwards over your head with small rotations in the wrist. As the rope is about to touch the floor, jump upwards and allow the rope to swing under your feet before continuing the motion. You should not get a double bounce before jumping over the rope, we are after a continuous single jump.

xx Courtney

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