While yoga may be a total mind and body experience for some, it may be a preferred way to tone and develop strength. If the latter sounds like you, you may not be getting as much out of the practice as you’d like.
A study conducted in 2016 reviewed a body of research and studies on yoga to understand the metabolic intensity of yoga as it compares to the standards outlined by the ACSM and AHA. Researchers found that “the intensity of most asanas and full yoga sessions ranged from light to moderate aerobic intensity, with the majority classified as light intensity.”
In other words, most yoga is a light-intensity workout even on its toughest days.
These studies looked at the METs a particular pose generates, or metabolic intensity of task, to grade the amount of energy required to complete a task. Of the 37 popular yoga poses reviewed, only four could produce 3+ METs, the threshold for qualifying moderate-intensity exercise. For comparison, positions on your back raised 1 MET and inversions raised up to 2.5 MET.
To light your yoga practice on fire, and have it count toward the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio each week, consider adding these four powerful yoga poses to your practice.
- Dandayamana-Janushirasana (Standing Head to Knee)
- Dandayamana-Dhanurasana (Standing Bow)
- Trikanasana (Triangle Pose)
- Tuladandasana (Balancing Stick)
To make any of these positions even more intense, increase the frequency or duration of the poses.
The study also found that experienced yogis drew more METs from their poses than beginners because they can hold the pose more efficiently. Swiftly moving between positions increased METs. Temperature and humidity did not impact the results of the study.
While considered an outlier, the study did find that Surya Namaskar, or sun salutations, could reach as high as 7.4 MET!
What’s your favorite yoga pose?