A 15-minute Yoga Workout That Delivers on Cardio, Strength, and Mental Health - Men's Health Magazine Australia

A 15-minute Yoga Workout That Delivers on Cardio, Strength, and Mental Health

Plus, you can do it anywhere. - by Michael Zorz, Coach at the Australian Institute of Fitness

As many of us go back into lockdown, our stress and anxiety levels may be increasing, as may the amount of time we spend sitting down – at desks and on the couch. For most people, this is compounded by lack of access to gym equipment, decreased lifting, less incidental calorie burn, and more bodily stiffness and tightness as we remain in a sedentary state.

With this in mind, I have pulled together a 15-minute express yoga workout that delivers on cardio, strength and mental health. Do it at home or at the park – you’ll thank yourself!

1. Cat/Cow Stretch: 12 x reps

Cat/Cow is perfect to start off your practice. By matching the tempo of the movement with your breath, you will start to calm your mind and move towards a positive headspace. 

Breathe out each time you arch your back and press like an angry cat. Breathe in each time you bring your collarbone forward, dipping your back low like a cow. Do this for 6-7 breaths. You will begin to warm up and mobilise the back, prepping your body to move.

2. Tiger Curls: 12 x reps

This is a progression on the Cat/Cow and a stronger and more dynamic movement. From a high push up, reach one leg up and back as you breathe in, and then curl that same leg into the chest on the breath out. Do this five times on each side. 

This is a killer move for boosting core and shoulder strength, as it requires a lot of balance and awareness of your body and breathing. To get the most out of the movement, really try to slow it down and bring your weight as far forward as possible when you breathe out. Be careful, however, not to overextend your spine.

Tiger curls will deliver an awesome stretch to your chest and the entire front of your body (great for desk dwellers working from home), as well as stimulating your adrenals and kidney functioning. 

3. Simple Twist: 10 x reps

This is sometimes called the ‘world’s greatest stretch’, and after trying a few rounds you will understand why! Try to move whilst breathing, reaching your ‘inside’ elbow down as you exhale, before reaching that same arm to the sky as you breathe in. 

This move will work to mobilise your hips and your thoracic spine. It will also require you to slow down your breathing, bringing relaxation to your body and mind. 

4. Stork + Warrior 3: 5 x reps 

Here, we are combining two poses to increase your heart rate, work the standing leg harder and improve leg balance and strength. 

For Stork pose, stand on your right leg and interlace your hands behind your back (if your shoulders allow you to). If you can’t reach your hands, just try to grip opposite wrists or hold on to your shirt. Your hands are going to stay here for the next few shapes. 

Still on your right leg, reach back your bent leg into a Warrior 3 pose. This is one rep, and we will go from Stork to Warrior 3 five times in total. As you get better, try moving with your breath, inhaling as you stand up into Stork.

This combination of moves is not only great for bolstering leg strength; it will also enhance hamstring flexibility and cardio health. 

5. Humble Warrior: 1 x rep, hold for at least 1 minute

Performed immediately after your final Warrior 3 pose, land your back foot, and start to reach your shoulder inside of your front knee. Let your back foot land on a 45 degree angle to allow a deeper hip stretch. If your front leg starts to burn and your heart rate increases – that’s the goal!

This pose will give you loads of bang-for-buck in terms of leg strength, hip mobility, shoulder mobility and cardiovascular health.

6. Standing Splits: 1 x rep on each leg, hold for at least 1 minute

Release your hands from Humble Warrior and lift the back leg as high as you can to the sky. Don’t worry if you can’t get your leg very high at first – it takes time to build hamstring flexibility. 

If you can reach your hands down to the ground, you might try kicking up into a handstand, but make sure you are clear of any tables or chairs! 

Next: do this all again on the other leg!

In addition to boosting hamstring flexibility, Standing Splits will strengthen your shoulders, thighs, knees and ankles, as well as stretching out the back side of your body and groin.

7. Cross Legged Seat/Sukhasana: 1 x rep on each side, hold for at least 1 minute.

Sitting down, cross your right leg in front of your left leg and reach your hands forwards. You will start to feel your hips stretching out, as well as your lower back. If you tuck your chin, you might also start to feel the upper traps release. Make sure you balance this out halfway, crossing your left leg in front of the right.

Breathe easy and aim for at least a minute per side.

8. Supine Spinal Twist: 1 x rep on each side, hold for at least 1 minute.

On your back, pull one knee into your chest before pulling it across your body into a twist. Only twist as far as you can keep both shoulders on the ground, imagining your upper back is the anchor for the stretch.

Michael is an Australian institute of Fitness Coach who has been working as a personal trainer for the past seven years, but has practiced yoga since he was a teenager. In 2017, he did his yoga teacher training so that he could teach others to incorporate yoga into their strength and wellbeing journeys. 

More From