With the rapidly increasing popularity of yoga, we've seen countless new yoga styles and classes enter the market.
However, not all yoga classes are made equal. There are various types of yoga, ranging from slower-paced ones such as yin and hatha yoga to faster-paced types such as vinyasa where yoga poses are done in a smooth, flowing and often dynamic sequence.
And then there's high-intensity interval training (HIIT) yoga, a form of yoga that combines traditional yoga poses and heart-pumping exercises. Think squat jumps, mountain climbers and burpees.
It might be tempting to see HIIT yoga as a form of high-intensity workout that gives a quick cardio fix, but there are some things you should know and consider before adding HIIT yoga to your workout plan.
What is HIIT yoga? Should you be doing it?
What exactly is HIIT yoga?
As its name suggests, HIIT yoga combines HIIT with yoga.
When we mention HIIT, circuit workouts consisting of exercises such as squat jumps and burpees usually come to mind.
HIIT challenges you and pushes you to your limit, and it should feel like you're giving it your all. However, not all strenuous or explosive exercises are considered HIIT.
For a workout to be considered HIIT, you'll need to reach a heart rate zone of 80 to 90 per cent of your maximum heart rate. Heart rate matters in HIIT because it can tell you whether you're working hard enough.
So even if jumping exercises feel tiring, they may not be done at an intensity high enough to qualify as HIIT. Is HIIT yoga worth doing then?
Pros of HIIT yoga
1. HIIT yoga is new and exciting
As with all new exercise styles, novelty provides a fun way to move. If you're stuck in a fitness rut, changing up your workout routine is a good way to get your head back in the game.
2. HIIT yoga can take you out of your comfort zone
The explosive, heart rate-accelerating exercises in HIIT yoga will challenge you mentally and physically, pushing you to your limits and helping you discover new strength and endurance.
3. HIIT yoga can improve your health
The fast-paced class can also improve your overall cardiovascular and muscular health by increasing your lung capacity and building muscle.
That said, you should watch out for these things…
Cons of HIIT yoga
1. Not all yoga teachers have personal trainer certifications
Just like how personal trainers aren't certified to teach yoga, yoga teachers aren't exactly certified to teach HIIT classes.
While they're educated in alignment and anatomy, high-intensity exercises are very different from bodyweight yoga moves.
2. Merging HIIT moves with yoga poses can be confusing
Combining HIIT with yoga can overcomplicate moves. Rushing from pose to pose may result in a lack of proper engagement, incorrect form, and subsequently injury.
Additionally, doing high-impact jumping exercises without shoes (as is common practice when practising yoga) may not provide you with the necessary support and cushioning for your joints.
3. You may end up overtraining
HIIT is generally recommended to be done once to thrice a week on non-consecutive days, to allow sufficient time for recovery.
But when it comes to modified HIIT classes such as HIIT yoga, it's easy to underestimate the effort required and overtrain, which may lead to fatigue and injury.
The bottom line?
While HIIT yoga has the capacity to build muscular strength and cardiovascular health, there could be an increased risk of improper form and injuries, due to the factors mentioned above.
As with any exercise, you should proceed with caution. Be sure that you are using proper form and stop when you feel any pain or discomfort. When in doubt, skip the move or dial down the effort.
It's also important to do your research and ensure that your teacher is experienced and certified to teach what they're offering.
Carissa Wong is a 200h Certified Yoga Teacher who focuses on alignment, mobility, and strength. She started practising yoga in 2016, and has been teaching since mid-2020.
Currently, she teaches private one-on-one yoga classes (online and in person) and creates personalised stretch and strength plans.
This article was first published in Her World Online.