I tend to keep my exercise and my yoga separate. I know that this raises eyebrows for many, as most folks think that yoga is exercise. I don't agree with that thinking (I speak from personal experience here -- I used to use yoga as my sole method of exercise), so I like to mix in some high intensity interval training into my weekly routine.
When folks come to me and they want to lose weight, I often do something that makes many yoga teachers gasp -- I recommend they do high intensity interval training (which can be done in anywhere from 15-25 minutes) two to three times per week in addition to their yoga practice. I know, I know -- shocking, eh? Why wouldn't I just recommend that they lock themselves in a room heated to 100+ degrees and sweat it out during a 90-minute yoga session? Or why wouldn't I put a student through his/her paces by recommending a vigorous practice with some cardio-friendly Kundalini moves thrown in for a little extra calorie burning?
I guess you could say I'm a bit of a purist who believes yoga is yoga and exercise is exercise. Never the twain shall meet? Possibly. If I were putting on my common sense hat, I would say this -- a short daily yoga practice combined with 3 high intensity interval training sessions per week ends up in the less is more category. It takes less time than a daily 60-90 minute yoga practice and it's more effective in terms of fat burning, cardio conditioning, and hormone balance. Not only does this work for me personally, but it works for my clients, as many of them claim that they are too busy to squeeze in a daily 60-minute practice. Let's face it -- if a practice takes too long, a client won't do it. And if a client won't do the practice, he/she won't get results.
Still, I don't recommend it simply for ease of use (although this often leads to a high adoption rate in regards to my time-pressed clients) -- I recommend it because I do it myself and I've found it to be effective (not to mention fun and not all that time-consuming). I won't go on and on about high intensity interval training, but I will recommend these two sources for a bit of interesting info on the subject: Suck This 'Magic Hormone' into Your Body and Transform Your Health - Takes Just 20 Minutes and The Major Exercise Mistake I Made for Over 30 Years...
The other day I came across an interesting little fitness video challenge (it starts around the 1 minute mark):
Maybe I've been drinking too much of that Vanilla Spice Perfect Energy Yogi Tea (Sipping this stuff turns me into the Road Runner on steroids. It's the yogi's version of Red Bull, me thinks.), but I was intrigued enough by the 4-minute challenge to do it. Suffice to say, I felt the burn. And it got me thinking about a challenge of a different type. An unchallenge, if you will.
What if you set a timer for 5 minutes and did as many Sun Salutations as you could in that time? As I mentioned before, I'm not a fan of yoga as exercise -- that means this isn't about cramming in as many Sun Salutations into the 5-minute space as you can or moving as fast as you can, as hard as you can. It's like the anti-interval training. It's simply 5 minutes of Sun Salutations done at your own pace. There's no need to count how many you do during the 5-minute interval because it's not a contest and you're not trying to beat your personal best. You're only taking 5 minutes to focus on your breath and movement (which should be coordinated throughout -- expansive moves in an inhale and contractions on the exhale).
How's that for a challenge? Now, I can't whip you up a smoothie at the end of the 5 minutes like they did on the above video (although I wish I could because I think that it's pretty darned cool to reward yourself with something healthy after 5 minutes of yoga and damn, those smoothies looked yummy), but I can bet that you'll feel pretty darned good if you keep up this yoga brand of low intensity non interval non training. Rather than do it to lose weight or to brag to your friends or to get some t-shirt that says that you made it through the challenge, do it for you.
And for those of you ambitious folks who are looking for a little extra -- add 5 minutes of pranayama to your day as well. Keep it simple -- sit in a comfortable upright position and inhale through the nose for 3 counts and exhale through the nose for 5 counts. Keep it up for 5 minutes.
I challenge you to a yoga unchallenge -- 5 minutes of yoga a day (blending up your own green smoothie is optional) or 10-minutes (5 of yoga and 5 of pranayama) for you overachievers. Ready...set...GO (or maybe I should say GLOW?!)!