Just Add In­ten­sity

In­fuse your yoga prac­tice with en­ergy, sta­bil­ity, and bal­ance by com­bin­ing asana with high-in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing.

Yoga Journal - - CONTENTS - By Tasha Eichense­her Se­quence by Koya Webb

In­fuse your yoga with en­ergy and strength with this sci­ence-backed hy­brid prac­tice.

MEN­TION A YOGA HY­BRID CLASS to a room­ful of yo­gis and you’re bound to get some eye rolling: These days there’s goat yoga, naked yoga, and nu­mer­ous other un­ortho­dox com­bi­na­tions, but the ra­tio­nale be­hind these pair­ings is of­ten un­clear. Yet when it comes to pair­ing high-in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing (HIIT)—jux­ta­pos­ing in­tense bursts of move­ment like squat jumps with short pe­ri­ods of rest—with yoga, the ben­e­fits can be pro­found.

Re­search sug­gests HIIT is linked with in­creas­ing car­dio­vas­cu­lar fit­ness and re­vers­ing the ef­fects of ag­ing. A 2017 Mayo Clinic study found that do­ing just 16 min­utes of high-in­ten­sity in­ter­vals three times a week boosts aer­o­bic ca­pac­ity, mi­to­chon­drial func­tion (cell abil­ity to take in oxy­gen and make en­ergy), and mus­cle mass.

HIIT can also help if weight loss or main­te­nance is a goal; adding it to your run­ning, cy­cling, swim­ming, and fit­ness-fo­cused yoga routines burns ad­di­tional calo­ries, es­pe­cially dur­ing the two-hour re­cov­ery pe­riod af­ter your work­out (up to 15 per­cent more), ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Sports Medicine. For best re­sults, the col­lege rec­om­mends that HIIT work­outs (in­clud­ing rest) last from 20 to 60 min­utes, with high-in­ten­sity el­e­ments each tak­ing five sec­onds to eight min­utes, de­pend­ing upon your en­durance. With HIIT, you have to give it your all, per­form­ing at 80 to 95 per­cent of your max­i­mal heart rate (the num­ber of times your heart can beat a minute with­out overex­ert­ing) dur­ing high-in­ten­sity mo­ments. Aim for re­cov­ery pe­ri­ods at 40 to 50 per­cent of your max­i­mal heart rate.

Fit­ness in­struc­tor and yoga teacher Koya Webb first re­lied on HIIT to build strength and en­durance as a col­lege track and field ath­lete—un­til she was way­laid by a stress frac­ture in her lower back. Suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion, Webb sought help from a health coun­selor, who rec­om­mended that she try yoga to lift her mood. It worked, and it helped to heal her body, too, says Webb. Within a year, she was able to re­turn to the track, even­tu­ally earn­ing a state cham­pi­onship ti­tle and a de­gree in ex­er­cise sci­ence, be­fore de­vel­op­ing a sys­tem of yoga-HIIT.

Webb’s method com­bines the car­dio­vas­cu­lar, strength-train­ing, and en­er­getic ben­e­fits of HIIT with the flex­i­bil­ity and de-stress­ing ben­e­fits of asana. The end re­sult: a pow­er­ful prac­tice that adds more sta­bil­ity, sus­tain­abil­ity, and dy­namism to your asana, says Webb. “If you’re stuck in a rut, HIIT can add a sense of get-up-and-go to your life and yoga prac­tice,” she says. On the flip side, if you’re al­ways on the go and don’t take proper time for re­cov­ery or self-re­flec­tion, adding mind­ful­ness to your work­outs can help you re­lax and re­con­nect, she adds.

Ex­pe­ri­ence yoga-HIIT with Webb on the fol­low­ing pages. “Start by think­ing about some­thing you want more of in your life,” she says. “In­hale and feel that in­ten­tion in your body.” Prac­tice three times per week, fo­cus­ing on your breath and tak­ing 10-sec­ond breaks af­ter each ex­er­cise.

1 UTKATA KONASANA JUMP­ING JACKS Goddess Pose Jump­ing Jacks

A Start in Goddess Pose with your feet turned out 45 de­grees and your knees aligned over your an­kles. Ex­tend your arms straight out while mov­ing your shoul­ders away from your ears. Your wrists should line up with your toes, or an­kles and knees. En­gage your core by pulling your belly into your spine, and sink your hips to knee level. B Jump up, spread­ing your arms and legs out­ward.

C Land with your feet to­gether un­der your hips, bring­ing your hands over­head. Then, jump back to Utkata Konasana—one of the most strength­en­ing and em­pow­er­ing poses in yoga be­cause it opens your hips and uses the largest mus­cles in your body, says Webb. Adding jump­ing jacks to your Utkata Konasana tones your en­tire body and in­spires fierce con­fi­dence. Com­plete 10 times.


A Start in Plank Pose with your shoul­ders over your wrists, your feet hip-dis­tance apart, and your core en­gaged. B Draw your navel in to­ward your spine as you lower down to your fore­arms, first with the left arm (shown) then the right. C Re­turn to Plank Pose by plac­ing your hands where your el­bows were, right first then left, and press up. For each rep­e­ti­tion, al­ter­nate which arm you use first. Plank El­e­va­tors strengthen your bi­ceps, tri­ceps, ab­dom­i­nal mus­cles, ham­strings, and glutes, with an added car­dio ben­e­fit. Com­plete 5 full Plank El­e­va­tors (down and up on both sides) and end in Plank Pose be­fore shift­ing back to Balasana (Child’s Pose). Rest for a few breaths.

3 MALASANA SQUATS Gar­land Pose Squats

A With your feet wider than your hips and toes point­ing out 45 de­grees, lower your tail­bone and squat low to the ground. Place your arms be­tween your thighs and bring your palms to­gether, us­ing your el­bows to press your knees away from your mid­line. B En­gage your core and in­hale as you press through your feet to stand up. Squeeze your booty at the top. Lower back down slowly with con­trol. Malasana squat­ting is one of the most ef­fec­tive ways to tone your en­tire lower body. It works your quadri­ceps, ham­strings, glutes, and calf mus­cles while strength­en­ing your lower back and core. Re­peat 20 times.

4 ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA PUSHUPS Down­ward-Fac­ing Dog Pose Pushups

Start in Down­ward-Fac­ing Dog with your hands and feet shoul­der-width apart. Make sure your fin­gers are spread wide. A Come up high on your toes as you en­gage your core, push your thighs back, and re­lax your shoul­ders away from your ears. B In­hale and bend your el­bows so your fore­arms and bi­ceps are at a 90-de­gree an­gle; then ex­hale as you straighten your arms. Down Dog Pushups strengthen your chest, arms, shoul­ders, and core while stretch­ing your back and ham­strings. Re­peat 10 times.


A Start in An­janeyasana (Low Lunge) with your back knee on the ground un­der your hips, your toes tucked un­der. Align your front knee di­rectly over your front an­kle, with your front shin per­pen­dic­u­lar to the floor. Your knees and feet should be hip-width apart. B En­gage your core and press through your feet to lift your back knee. C Lower back down slowly but don’t let your knee touch the ground. Widen your stance as needed to make sure that your front knee does not move for­ward past your front an­kle. Cres­cent Lunges stretch your legs, groins, and hip flex­ors, while strength­en­ing and ton­ing your thighs, hips, and booty. Re­peat 20 times on each side.


A From seated, come into Paripurna Navasana by en­gag­ing your core and ex­tend­ing your legs up to­ward the ceil­ing. Lengthen your arms along­side your legs. B On an ex­ha­la­tion, with your belly pulled in to­ward your spine, slowly lower your legs and up­per body un­til they hover just above the ground, or un­til you can no longer keep your belly en­gaged. In­hale to come up. This pose strength­ens your ab­dom­i­nal mus­cles, lower and up­per back, and in­ner thighs. Re­peat 10 times.

7 USTRASANA HIP THRUSTS Camel Pose Hip Thrusts

A Start sit­ting in Vi­rasana (Hero Pose) with your knees hip-width apart and your feet to the out­side of your booty. Place your hands on your hips. In­hale and en­gage your quadri­ceps, in­ner thighs, and glutes as you press your hips for­ward and come onto your knees. Keep your abs en­gaged. B Press your shins and the tops of your feet firmly into floor, or come onto your toes for more sta­bil­ity. Keeping your up­per body straight, lean back about 5 inches. Then, on an ex­ha­la­tion, slowly lower your hips back down to­ward your heels, but with­out touch­ing them. Ustrasana Hip Thrusts strengthen your glutes, hips, and, thighs, which takes stress off of your lower back. Re­peat 20 times. When you’re done, spend 5 min­utes in si­lence, sim­ply breath­ing.

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