How to Get the Most Out of a Yoga Workout

Yoga is an ancient mind-body exercise that combines strength and stretching poses with deep breathing exercises. It’s also a good cardiovascular workout, and regular yoga can improve balance and strength.

The key to a yoga workout is consistency. Five half-hour sessions a week will help you reap the physical and emotional benefits of yoga.


Strength training focuses on increasing the load, or amount of weight lifted, over time as muscles adapt. That’s why it’s important to use a mix of exercises, such as weight lifting, that targets different muscle groups.

While yoga can help strengthen many of the same muscle groups as strength training, it may not challenge them in the same way. This is especially true if you do high-intensity power yoga or other styles that incorporate longer hold times and lots of moving parts, like a fast-paced vinyasa class.

Still, incorporating regular yoga classes into your workouts can add some serious muscle-building benefits to your routine. And if you want to amp up your yoga sessions, experts suggest adding simple tweaks, like pulsing your arms in warrior 2, to boost their intensity. It’s also important to note that if you do yoga as your only form of strength training, you won’t get the same perks as those who lift weights or engage in other forms of more vigorous movement.


Flexibility training is a great addition to any workout and is gaining in popularity as a way to help improve physical function, reduce stress and pain. It also focuses on unifying the mind, body and spirit.

Yoga is a dynamic activity where the muscles are continuously moving. The stretches are not static like in stretching, but rather you move into the stretch and hold it for a few seconds before moving onto the next pose.

Having greater flexibility is important because it helps reduce back, neck and shoulder pain by helping you to maintain healthy postures. You will find that as you continue to practice yoga, the more flexible you will become. But don’t rush yourself — listen to your body and only go as far as you feel comfortable. If it hurts, release the pose immediately. Slowly increase your time holding the poses over time to see how you improve.


Cardiovascular exercise boosts the body’s supply of oxygen, burns calories and strengthens the heart and lungs. It also lowers blood pressure, improves blood lipids and insulin sensitivity, and reduces stress levels.

Getting sufficient cardiovascular exercise involves balancing intensity, duration and frequency. Medical professionals recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. That could be 30 minutes of cardio exercise five times a week, or shorter bursts of cardiovascular activity several times a day.

A vigorous yoga class may be enough to qualify as cardio for an exerciser who’s formerly been sedentary, Swanson says. However, it’s important to listen to your body and avoid workouts that exceed your comfort zone.

Combining yoga with strength training and cardiovascular exercise offers a holistic approach to wellness. The endorphins of cardio exercise counteract stress, the empowerment of resistance training builds confidence and the mindfulness of yoga cultivates serenity. A balanced fitness regimen resonates beyond the physical realm, enriching the whole spectrum of well-being.

Stress Relief

While yoga as a workout offers some stress relief, it’s more effective when you practice a more calming style of yoga that emphasizes relaxation and meditation. Regardless, all forms of yoga can improve mood by reducing cortisol levels and increasing the production of feel-good brain chemicals.

Stress is a part of life, but managing it requires a variety of tools and techniques. If you struggle with stress, consider working with a licensed counselor. BetterHelp matches you with therapists who have experience in anxiety, depression, and other conditions that can be exacerbated by stress.

Stress accumulated over time can also impact your immune system, making you more vulnerable to illnesses. The meditative and muscle-stretching aspects of yoga can help reduce the inflammatory response that’s caused by stress, while helping you build strength and resilience to stressful situations. Research shows that regular exercise can also reduce stress, so make sure to incorporate yoga into your fitness routine.