How to Turn Your Yoga Practice Into a HIIT Session

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During the winter, fitness buffs may be tempted to swap icy jogging trails for a warm yoga studio. But while hatha yoga confers plenty of physical and emotional benefits—and can make its practitioners work up a sweat—does its mix of asanas (yoga poses) and pranayama (breathing) get your heart pounding the same way a cardio session can? The New York Times reports that it can—if you pick up the pace. Yoga practitioners can turn their workout into a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session by upping the speed, according to new research published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine.

One 2016 review found that slowly performing sun salutations—a continuous, flowing sequence of yoga poses—only exerts as much energy as walking three miles per hour. To see whether increasing the pace a few notches leads to a more aerobically rigorous practice, researchers from the University of Miami monitored 22 adult men and women practicing yoga.

The volunteers (who had prior yoga experience) did as many sun salutations in an eight-minute period as they could; these practitioners held and flowed between poses for either three seconds or 12 seconds. Researchers found that the faster yoga sessions burned more calories and required more effort—and that transitioning from pose to pose was the part of the workout that required the most energy.

Joseph Signorile, the study's senior author, told the Times that doing the sun salutations at a ramped-up pace (in the experiment's case, three times as fast) turned the yoga session into a HIIT session. Moving from pose to pose is akin to sprinting, he explained, while the poses themselves serve as a recovery period. (For the uninitiated, HIIT refers to a workout that alternates between intense bursts of activity with recovery periods. Studies suggest that people who opt for HIIT may be able to gain the benefits of a longer, moderately intense workout, while spending less time exercising.)

Want to transform your next yoga session into a heart-pounding practice? If you’re doing it alone, try flowing from pose to pose faster than normal—but if you’re into guided classes, opt for “power yoga," a rigorous, yoga-based fitness workout.

[h/t The New York Times]