Why I’m Separating Cardio and Yoga

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Ten minutes into the cardio yoga video I hit pause. My form had quickly disintegrated. Past injuries tugged at my left hamstring and my right wrist. It was time to admit my limits.

As I turned off the video I questioned whether moving quickly through sun salutations was healthy for anyone. Was flying through a sun salutation at an accelerated rate changing the body, or simply raising the heart rate?

When I first began yoga I was a student of Iyengar yoga. Poses were held for lengths of time, methodically, with lots of rest in between for instruction and guidance.

After I moved, with no Iyengar studio nearby, I began to incorporate sun salutations and quicker poses into my practice. I enjoyed the rush that cardio gave my body.

So which was better? I realized my practice did not need a qualification. What mattered was my intention. Did I want to get my heart rate racing? Did my body have the strength to sustain moving in and out of yoga poses quickly without creating imbalances in my body that would lead to injury? Or did I want to focus more on my alignment?

B.K.S. Iyengar wrote in Light on Yoga, “The right method of doing asanas brings lightness and an exhilarating feeling in the body as well as in the mind and a feeling of oneness of body, mind, and soul.”

I realized that for me, in my forties, practicing repetitive transitions such as chaturanga to upward dog then downward dog, was a recipe for injury that no amount of mindfulness could prevent. I decided to incorporate more high intensity interval training (HIIT) into my exercise regime to maintain an aspect of cardio to my exercise. While my yoga practice focused on alignment, strength, and flexibility. A regular pranayama practice could take the place of the HIIT, but without an experienced teacher nearby, this was my next best option.

So far my forty-something body is thanking me for the decision.

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