Should yoga be added to HIIT workouts?

May 26, 2023 0 Comments

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Are you busy. With long hours of work, family demands and social commitments, it can be difficult to squeeze in a workout. Perhaps that’s why high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has become the choice for those looking for a quick and effective workout. HIIT involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by periods of rest or low activity.

The benefits of adding yoga to your HIIT routine

HIIT is designed to “move at near maximal effort for a short period of time, straining your muscles to the point of fatigue,” explains Tyler Millican, a fitness trainer at HIIT studio Renegade Fit in San Diego. To take advantage of its benefits, Millikan advises making sure your body is able to handle the demands of HIIT, which requires endurance and mobility.

That’s why yoga—mastering control of your body through different movement patterns—combines so well with HIIT, Millican says. Experts have found that incorporating yoga into a HIIT workout can not only help you stay flexible, but also boost your athletic performance.

Yoga can also help increase flexibility, improve balance, and reduce the risk of injury, says Ajay Chapa, MD, a board-certified radiologist who specializes in musculoskeletal imaging. “One of the most common injuries I see as a result of HIIT training is overuse injuries like tendinitis and stress fractures,” Chapa says. He recommends incorporating yoga into a HIIT program to help balance and restore the body’s natural range of motion, which can ultimately reduce the risk of such injuries.

Nicole Turnbow, MD and managing director of Body in Motion, agrees. In fact, Turnbow believes that adding yoga to HIIT workouts is a non-negotiable. “If time permits, you should incorporate yoga before and after your HIIT workout; think of yoga as a warm-up and cool-down.”

In addition, yoga has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, promote mindfulness, and improve overall well-being. Turnbow recommends yoga after exercise because of the beneficial activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Are there any risks to adding yoga to a HIIT regimen? Turnbow says no. “The only risk is not incorporating enough pre- and post-workout yoga,” she says.

With a little help from our experts, we’ve taken their favorite yoga poses that complement HIIT and shared them in this yoga sequence. When including yoga in your training, be sure to move with attention and be aware of your breathing. Remember that it is preferable to do yoga before or after your workout, but if you have to choose, practice these poses after your workout.

A yoga sequence for your HIIT workout

A woman demonstrates the largest stretch mark in the world
(Photo: Bhadri Kubendran)

1. Twisting Lateral Lunge (aka “The World’s Greatest Stretch”)

Did you know that this favorite stretch is actually a variation of a yoga pose called the Revolved Lunge? This pose engages all major muscle groups and rotates the torso to release the thoracic spine while stretching the left hip flexors and quadriceps. It can be used as a pre-workout warm-up or as a post-workout recovery exercise. It’s a great way to relieve tension in your hips and lower back.

While standing, step your left foot forward and bend your front knee into a low lunge. If possible, keep the back knee off the ground and straight. Lean forward and place your right hand on the ground or on a block under your shoulder. Extend your left arm up and turn your torso toward your left knee. You can also place your right elbow on the outside of your left thigh and press your palms together in front of your heart. Stay here for 3-5 breaths and switch sides.

A woman demonstrates the
(Photo: Bhadri Kubendran)

2. Cat-Cow

This stretch is one of Turnbow’s favorite ways to warm up the mid-back, especially if it’s an area of ​​stress. The Cat-Cow stretch involves moving the spine through flexion and extension to stretch and relieve tension in the extensor muscles that run along the spine, as well as your deeper muscles, such as the transversus abdominis.

Start in a table position and alternate arching your back to lower your belly (cow pose) on the inhale and rounding your spine (cat pose) on the exhale in a rhythmic motion.

A woman demonstrates downward dog pose
(Photo: Bhadri Kubendran)

3. Downward-looking dog

This pose stretches your hamstrings, calves, and spine and can help improve overall flexibility. By stretching your calves before a HIIT session, you can ensure that your muscles are prepared for the physical stress of the exercise and reduce the risk of injury. Practicing Downward Facing Dog at the end of your workout can relax your hard-working legs and help them recover faster.

Lift your toes and lift your hips up and back, straightening your arms and legs to form an inverted ‘V’. Press your hands and feet firmly into the ground and lengthen your spine to stretch even deeper. Extend the sides of the torso as much as possible to increase the stretch in the shoulder and hip joints. Stay here for 5 breaths. Repeat up to 3 times.

A woman demonstrates a high lunge
(Photo: Bhadri Kubendran)

4. High lunge

The lunge is one of Millikan’s popular yoga poses. This helps strengthen your small, joint-stabilizing muscles, which are often overlooked even in well-programmed HIIT routines. “These muscles stabilize your joints in optimal position and set the stage for increasing intensity in your HIIT,” says Millican.

From Downward Facing Dog, bring your right foot between your hands and bring your knee over your ankle. Raise your body and stretch your arms to the sky, slightly lowering your hips. This pose provides a good stretch for the back (left) leg. You may notice your front ankle shifting forward and backward to help you balance, increasing ankle strength and stability. Stay here for 3-5 breaths. Lower your hands back to the floor and go through Downward Facing Dog to repeat on the other side.

A woman demonstrates a side lunge
(Photo: Bhadri Kubendran)

5. Skandasana (side lunge)

Skandasana is one of those beloved yet underrated yoga poses. Turnbow recommends adding it to your practice because it improves hip mobility, which is often limited in people who do a lot of high-impact exercise. Additionally, Skandasana can help stretch and strengthen the inner thigh and thigh muscles, which are often underutilized during HIIT workouts. If you have particularly tight thighs, practice a variation of this intense pose.

From a low squat position, center your body weight over your right foot and extend your left leg out to the side. You can keep your leg flat on the mat or turn your left knee and foot up and lock your left heel. Place your hands in a prayer position near your heart or on the ground for balance. If desired, place blocks under the arms for additional balance support. Stay here for a few breaths before repeating on the other side.

A woman demonstrates a cobra pose
(Photo: Bhadri Kubendran)

6. Beyond the cobra

Millikan also recommends the cobra pose because it focuses on posture, breathing and as a way to overcome fatigue. This pose helps to strengthen the spine and open the muscles of the chest, shoulders and abdomen. It also stretches the upper part of the feet, ankles and lower legs.

Begin lying on your stomach with your hands at your chest and your feet hip-width apart. Press your palms together and begin to straighten your arms, lifting your chest into Cobra Pose. Pull your shoulders back and lift your sternum, stretching the top of your head to the sky. Engage your quads and press hard into the top of your foot. Stay here for 3 breaths, then gently come down. Repeat up to 5 times.

(Photo: Bhadri Kubendran)

7. Pose of the pigeon

Turnbow recommends pigeon pose, especially post-workout, to reduce tension in the hips and lower back, which are common areas of tension after HIIT workouts.

Start in a plank position, then bend your right knee and bring it forward behind your right wrist. Turn the right knee outward and bring the right ankle to the left wrist. Extend your left leg straight out behind you with the top of your foot on the ground. Keep your hips straight. Stay upright or drop onto your forearms and breathe deeply. Stay here for 5 breaths, then repeat on the other side.

A woman demonstrates a child's pose
(Photo: Bhadri Kubendran)

8. Child’s pose

“I’m a big fan of Child’s Pose,” Chapa says. Comfort Pose stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles, as well as the spine, shoulders, and neck.

From a kneeling position, bring your big toes together to touch and spread your knees as far as is comfortable. Lower your hips to your heels. Place your arms along your body or extend them as far as is comfortable in front of you. Rest your forehead on the ground or a folded towel and relax into the pose, taking slow, deep breaths. Soften your neck, shoulders and hips and stay here for a few breaths or as long as you feel comfortable.

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