I used to be a total gym rat--I lived for my pre-work workouts and breathed the smell of sweat and showers. For two hours every other day, clanking weights, anonymous house music and whirring elliptical machines was my soundtrack.
I'd spend an hour doing cardio, and another hour lifting weights with a trainer.
One of my newly buff friends suggested I try yoga, and her serene face attached to a really hot body only irritated and perplexed me: I thought yoga was for wimps, or at least people who had enough time on their hands to both work out doing other things, and then sit around being freakishly calm, too.
Yet it wasn't until I went with her to a power yoga class, a challenging-enough type of yoga that my body began to melt fat and looked and felt the way I wanted it to for so many years: long, lean, limber. Even my long-term relationship with the treadmill couldn't do it for me. So sadly, we had to break it off.
I dropped 20 pounds, and another 20 when I created my own yoga style specifically to turn the body into a fatburning machine.
I actually have to eat more so I don't get scrawny, only thin. I'm more sculpted, fit and toned than ever before. I can rock a handstand. And yes, I'm now irritatingly calm--most of the time.
The best part? With yoga, I get those effects in much less time--only 3-4 hours a week! That's right. In much less time, you can gain the body-sculpting and yes, cardio health benefits that it can take hours longer of some other exercise forms to get. Nothing against the gym, but I don't want to live there. So if you love yoga, but you want a gym-strength workout you can do anywhere...this one's for you.
10 years--and no weight gain--later, I created my own style of yoga, Core Strength Vinyasa, to pack the most calorie burn and fat-melting punch for the time you spend. In fact, you gain more in one hour with this type of yoga than you can in many yoga classes--and gyms--in the same amount of time, or more!
I'm going to give you your own at-home Total Body Transformation and Weight
Loss yoga sequence for fast and effective calorie-torching in a moment, but first, I want to tell you why the right kind of yoga can actually be one of the best workouts there is!
Because I love to multitask, and not waste my time or yours, My poses consist of layering core strength, cardio training, whole body movement, static endurance holds, breathing and detoxing. This causes a lot of heat to build, as well as new lean muscle, which helps you reshape and rebuild your body, fast. Simply put, you do everything at once instead of spreading it out over hours--when you could be living your life!
There's a myth that yoga isn't a good workout, but that all depends on the style. More gentle types won't do much for your waistline, true, but studies have shown that a vigorous yoga style burns calories to rival most other exercises of the same level. Plus, my style adds in Core Transitions, between every pose, so for every two poses you were doing, you're now doing three!
I don't need studies to tell me what I can observe in the sleek, muscular bodies of my students. Want that hot triceps line for your little black dress, or Michelle Obama's shoulders? We've got 'em.
I've done years of research on the calorie expenditure in my own yoga classes. I have students of all levels and sizes wear heart monitors and calorie counters, and just like research is showing, a vigorous style like this one burns as many calories as running, cardio machines or other exercise classes they'd do for the same amount of time--up to 600 calories an hour for me, a 125 pound woman!
But yoga is even better than just a quid pro quo for some other hour of exercise. Your metabolism raises for only a short time when you do cardio alone, but when you add lean muscle building, your body requires more calories to fuel them all day (and night) long. So for any lasting metabolic change, you need to focus on strengthening along with burning calories through cardio exercise. This yoga is like doing cardio and lifting weights...at the same time.
Killer workout aside, I also like to be present, focused, and meditative while I move. So what I'm offering you is not a hyper style, but one where you will learn to move mindfully, holding your center, even as you go with the flow. This reminds us that even as life's experiences, from drama to joy, whirl around us, we can deal with it all from a place of inner strength.
Another reminder: In order to maximize your benefits, you must work out smart--but also eat right.
The food and portions you choose can make or break any fitness program, no matter how effective. I used to be a nutrition expert for Crunch Fitness Hollywood, and I can tell you that some of the biggest stars actually eat. They eat fresh, healthy food, eat only till they're satisfied, not full, and have 3 meals and 2 snacks a day to keep the metabolism chugging along. If you want more information, I'd check out the 5 Factor Diet by Harvey Pasternak. Just stay away from the Diet Soda that he includes--it's a chemical dump, and that's not cute.
I invite you try this 20-minute Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga sequence as a warm up, see how much heat you build and how your body feels. This is just a taste; I suggest doing 45-60 minutes, 3-5 times a week for the best results. To follow a longer sequence, try my DVDs, or you can do it for free with my Core Sun Salutations and Power Hour yoga series on YouTube!
All you need is a yoga mat, bare feet, and your dedication, to make a major difference in your health--inside and out!
For a full version of this workout, see my Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga: Power Hour and Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga: Total Body Transformation DVDs available at Amazon.com!
Breathe slowly through your nose for the duration of the practice. Aim for 3-5 second breaths, and movement that matches them. And oh...
...have a fierce, fun time!
Inhale, arch your spine. Exhale, Round in, engaging your navel to spine.
Repeat for one minute or more.
Inhale, extend legs away a little, or a lot if it feels OK on your lower back. Exhale, pull your navel and knees into your body. Keep your heart open, low back curve lifted, and grab under your knees or place your hands on the floor behind you for more lower back ease.
Repeat for 15-20 pulses.
DOWN DOG SPLITS
In Dog Pose, keep your hips squared and navel engaged as you lift your right leg up. Press out through the heel as you spin your inner and outer thighs to the sky equally. Ground through your fingertips too, and maintain shoulder blades on the back.
Hold for 1-5 breaths.
From your Dog Splits, Inhale, kick your leg higher. Exhale, sweep your knee not only forward into your chest, but up towards the sky as your shoulders come over wrists. Hips and back round up towards the sky.
Hold Core Plank for 3 breaths, then repeat with Down Dog Splits for 2 more rounds.
On your last Core Plank, use your core lifting to sweep your right foot to right thumb, toes and fingertips in line. Grab your ankle if you have to, to get the foot up there.
STEP TO LUNGE/HIGH LUNGE TRANSITION
From your low lunge, slide your back heel forward over the ball of your foot. Press straight down into the ball to fire up and lift the back thigh. Widen your thighs left and right, and curl your tailbone down into the space.
To come up into the high lunge, use this Core Strength Transition: lift not from your arched back but from a rounded one. Pull in your navel and low ribs, lift up with stacked hips and ribs, and then lift your heart and arms up. This waving transitions activates your core in-between every standing pose so you're doing more!
FISTS OF FIRE
In your High Lunge, inhale, lift your chest and arms. Exhale, pull your fists into your side hips as you engage your navel back and lengthen your tailbone down.
Repeat 5-10 times, then exhale, plant your hands and return to Dog Pose
If you'd like to try my CORE VINYASA in-between sides, try lifting your heels in Dog Pose, draw in your navel, round your back forward, and, keeping the core active, offer your heart forward and shoulders over wrists for a full Plank Pose, only you just took a wave to get there, not a straight line. That's healing for the low back and burns more calories, too.
From Plank, exhale, bend your elbows and lower into Chaturanga with your elbows over wrists, shoulders elbow-height or higher, knees can be up or down, but keep your core wrapped around the front body.
Inhale, curl your spine and heart up to Low, High Cobra or Upward Dog.
Exhale--and very importantly--push your hands and feet into the earth, pull your navel in and round your back through that abdominal wave that protects the lower back from this stressful transition.
IF YOU DON'T CHOOSE TO VINYASA: Just meet me back in Dog Pose.
SHAKTI KICK TO CHAIR
In Dog Pose, walk your feet together and a little forward if you're a beginner. Press the big toe mounds together to activate your inner thighs. Firm your fingertips and bend your knees. Inhale here, and on your exhales, try low or high hops, kicking heels toward your seat, engaging navel to spine, and landing as gracefully as you can back into your bent-kneed Dog.
On your last hop, aim to land forward between your thumbs. Pretend you're hopping over someone lying across the middle of your mat to build core strength and courage.
Once you arrive, inhale, lengthen your spine forward, and exhale, fold over your straighter legs.
Inhale, sweep your arms to the sky and stand in Mountain Pose. Exhale, and swan dive down into a forward bend.
Inhale, look up. Exhale, and step back to Dog Pose. Either move through your Core Vinyasa again, or begin the Dog Splits on your left side.
Repeat the sequence on your left, until you're standing in Mountain Pose again.
Repeat both sides again, as many times as you want for a great workout.
WHEN YOU'RE TOTALLY DONE, REST FOR ONE MINUTE OR MORE IN CHILD'S POSE!