Fast-Paced Sun Salutations Are My New Favorite Low-Impact Cardio
Slow and smooth Sun Salutations, set to a soundtrack of soft acoustics, is what initially got me interested in what yoga could do for my mental and physical health. I was in college, in the midst of endless midterm papers, and the practice did wonders for my stress levels. I still turn to Sun Salutations when I need a minute to reset, but recently I've been experimenting with picking up my pace during the series of poses.
Fast-paced Sun Salutations raise my heart rate, get me sweating, and properly warm up my body for a tough workout ahead without irritating my joints. According to CorePower Yoga Los Angeles Area Leader Ryan Marks, Sun Salutations set to a faster pace can be considered a form of low-impact cardio, too.
"Cardio is anything that raises your heart and breathing rates, and improves the function of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system," Marks says. "With deep breaths, repetitive and quick movements, and postures that switch the position of your head above your heart, and vice versa, we can accomplish all the above."
On top of igniting your circulatory system, Marks says that fast-paced Sun Salutations can help you stay in the present, as you're connecting your movement with your breath. "By cultivating a deeper breath, moving faster, increasing the amount of times you do them and not stopping between salutations, you can really tap into your cardiovascular system."
Try flowing through faster-paced Sun Salutations for yourself — and get a burst of low-impact cardio. Since Sun Salutations can be viewed as a warmup and a cooldown, Marks suggests beginning at a slower pace and also slowing down toward the end of the set: "think of it like a bell curve," Marks adds.
In the series below, Marks also removed Chatarunga and replaced it with High Plank for a lower-impact option. While breathing deeply, Marks suggests complete 15-21 rounds of Sun Salutations — always taking breaks as you need.
- Inhale as you raise your arms up overhead and gaze at your palms.
- Marks says to then exhale into baby back bend, squeeze your elbows toward your spine, lift your chest, and press your hips gently forward.
Standing Forward Bend
- Dive out, and exhale into Standing Forward Bend.
- As you exhale, engage your abs and fold forward with a straight back. Tuck your chin in toward your chest, relax your shoulders, and extend the crown of the head toward the floor to create a long spine.
- Shift your weight forward onto your toes, straightening the legs as much as possible. Place your hands on the ground, fingertips lining up with the toes.
- Inhale to look up, and lengthen your spine.
- Marks says as your palms come to your shins or thighs, extend the crown of your head toward the front of your mat and pull your tailbone toward the back of your mat.
- Exhale. Then, come into a high plank. Marks says that doing high plank, instead of traditional Chatarunga, is a more low-impact version.
- Your shoulders should be stacked over your wrists.
Downward Facing Dog
- Inhale and then exhale into Downward-Facing Dog.
- Hips lift up toward the ceiling — Marks says you can bend into your knees if your lower back is tight.
- On your next inhale, step the feet forward between your hands.
Standing Forward Bend
- Exhale back into Standing Forward Bend.
- Return to Mountain Pose.
- To move through another round, inhale your arms up and continue through the entire sequence again.