I have a dedicated fitness regimen that is almost exclusive to yoga, with the occasional run/jump-rope/weekend-warrior sport thrown in for good measure. But when my yoga instructor went out of town for a week, leaving me to my own devices (er, vices), I decided to try some of the hot new workouts everyone’s been talking about. So I sprinted, SoulCycle-d, and TRX-ed my way to oblivion to see if there was a workout that had me missing out. The result? A massive pain in the arse. Literally. By the end of the week I could barely walk from insulting and old butt-bone injury (formerly caused by doing too much of whatever it was I was doing too much of. Surprise.) Cue yoga metaphor: We practice Virabhadrasana (warrior pose) to fight our own ignorance (read: stupidity) and ego. I guess karma really does bite you in the ass. Meanwhile, as I was soothing a battered behind and assessing my week of workout wanderlust, I came upon a recent article in Yoga Journal that questioned whether yoga offers “cardiovascular fitness”–the kind of heart training, measured by intensity, frequency, and duration, that leads to ultimate health, longevity and disease prevention. Good question: I knew there was a reason for my stupidity–curiosity! The take home from the article was that not all yoga practices are created equal and that in order to elevate your heart rate to a level of conditioning, you have to perform “continuous rhythmic” sequences at a pace that is somewhere between moderate and hard (but sustainable) for at least 20 minutes. A vigorous flow, therefore, should get your heart pumping within 30 minutes (long holds of poses, on the other hand, do not). With my curiosity piqued, I put my own yoga practice to the test to see if I was working in the “zone” of my target heart rate (60 to 80 percent of max heart rate, calculated by subtracting my age from 220). Thankfully, they have a HRM APP now since self-check allows for too much human error and those bulky monitors scream nerd-alert.

Modern Times: This APP detects pulse by placing fingertip on the camera lens. Works best with iPhone 4S flash.

Since I’m typically a sweaty mess during my yoga practice I wasn’t surprised to see the numbers “125 BPM” pop up on the HRM APP, showing me that indeed, I am working within my target heart rate. But the verdict amongst most fitness experts–even yogis–is that yoga doesn’t challenge the heart the way swimming or running does. But few exercises do. I say its apples and oranges, and if fitness is your only goal, you might just end up with a sore ass and a bruised ego. Still, I would like to continue to condition my heart at a peak level and I’m pretty sure the only way to do that is to increase the demands. Adding in cardio–or changing up my regimen once a week–may still be the best way to achieve optimum heart health. So herewith, the three most efficient workouts I have found that really can enhance, not hurt (unless you ignorantly do them, ahem, every day–in the same week), your regular yoga practice.

Sprint Training: This has been a hot topic of late, written about in Time among other publications, contesting that speed-interval training can better condition the body than long distance running. The idea being that fast and slow intervals rev up the heart and work large muscle groups more efficiently than the bone-and-joint taxing that can occur over many miles of terrain. My take: It works; and just when you think all the sprinting is for naught, you’ll find yourself doing it with more ease and less strain. Within a to 2 to 3 mile jog, aim to sprint about 20 yards every quarter of a mile. Boom, thirty minutes and you’re done. Same calories and conditioning you might find after running for 12 miles. It’s a no-brainer.

SoulCycle: Kelly Ripa, Jake Gyllenhaal, Tom Cruise–these are just a few of the a-listers addicted to SoulCycle. And I can see why: It’s highly efficient, burning up to 600 calories in just an hour. The difference, compared to your same-old indoor cycling class, is that it’s a total-body workout that employs hand weights to engage the upper body and core. Plus, the music rocks and the instructors are bursting with motivation (mine was an actress who broke out in song). Us Weekly calls it, “a Cardio Party.” So right up might alley. Available in New York City, Long Island, and opening this month in LA. (www.soul-cycle.com)

TRX: NOT to be confused with the monotonous P90-X, TRX is a cable suspension program that uses gravity, movement, and your body weight for ultimate strength, endurance, coordination, flexibility, power, balance, and core stability. It is currently used in the military and was developed by a NAVY SEAL on assignment in a submarine. (Don’t you just love how resourceful those guys are?)I heart this workout. The best part is that once you have the TRX cables, you can attach them to anything, including a tree. Portable, affordable, with fast results. I’m hooked. (www.trx-training.com)

I love that TRX sounds like T-Rex--I do feel pretty dangerous after my workouts.


If you want to amp up your yoga practice and get your heart rate in the zone, experts recommend weaving in at least 20 minutes of vigorous Sun Salutations or other intense cardio-style moves like stairclimbers and kicks, at least three days a week. Not sure how to energize your sun salute? My brilliant yoga instructor (www.Yogastream.net for more info) teaches “lift switches,” “jump-ups,” and optional push ups in each series for about 4 to five rounds. Breathe. Here is a quick video sampling of how vigorous you can take it. It’s not perfect and the mach 10 flow may not be your beat but you get the gist. So have a heart (wink, wink) and please enjoy the flow. It’s shot in 8mm and video-enhanced by the  super crafty Carly King for your viewing pleasure.

(P.S. I recommend video taping your yoga workout no matter what level you are. Watching yourself in a pose has a lot more impact on your alignment than having an instructor “tweak” you. After much scrutinizing, I know what I’ll be working on.) 

Sun Salutations–Mach 10 flow


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