Pairing the calm art of yoga with bodybuilding-style intensity techniques might seem counterproductive. Yet when it comes to supersetting — doing two exercises back-to-back with no rest in between — the benefits are synergistic and intense, says Jessica James, a yoga instructor based in Malibu, Calif., star of the We Heart Yoga DVD series and an instructor to celebs like Jessica Alba and Kate Beckinsale.
Supersets in yoga might seem a little unconventional, but I use them all the time,” James admits. “If I have a client who feels they’ve hit a plateau, I introduce supersets into their practice and they immediately see and feel the difference. Supersets are also great if we’re short on time and still want the intensity of a full practice.”
The three supersets James shares here can be combined into one full-body workout or broken up and incorporated seamlessly into an existing program. “Try them three times a week at first until you build that extra strength you’re looking for,” she says. “After that, do them once a week or anytime you feel you need that extra boost.”
“Pulse” Chair Pose: Start in Chair pose, standing with your feet together in the middle of your yoga mat — drop your hips while bending your knees to about 40 degrees so they poke out ahead of your toes. Raise your arms overhead, your hands open and palms touching each other. Now, bend deeply at the knees and lower your hips as if you were about to sit in a chair. Maintaining a rhythmic breathing pattern, “pulse” up and down for 20 reps.
Frog Kriya: Begin in Chair pose, then breathe in and bend at the hips into a forward bend. (If you can’t reach the floor with your hands, use a block.) When you touch the floor (or block) in a fully bent-over position, exhale deeply, then inhale and squat all the way down until your heels lift and your knees open to the sides. Look up to the sky, then straighten your legs back to the forward bend position, exhaling all the way.
Plank Push-Up: Assume Plank (top of a push-up) position, your shoulders aligned over your wrists, your core engaged and leg muscles tight. Inhale, then exhale as you bend your elbows to lower yourself halfway to the floor. From here, inhale as you press back to full elbow extension.
Dolphin Plank Dip: From Downward Dog pose (feet and hands on floor, butt up so your body forms an inverted “V”), place your forearms on the floor and clasp your hands together so that your arms form a triangle with your elbows shoulder-width apart. This is Dolphin pose. Inhale deeply and let your heels sink toward the floor. Exhale and unbend your hips to move your head forward so that it’s over your hands and your shoulders are over your elbows. (You might need to adjust your arm placement a bit.) This is Forearm Plank pose, which helps build strong arms. Take a deep breath and press yourself back to Dolphin pose.
Side-to-Side Plank: Assume Plank pose and place your right hand under your right shoulder and roll onto your right foot. Inhale, lift your left hand to the sky and open your body fully to the left side while maintaining your balance. Exhale, come back to Plank pose and then repeat with the left side. Once to both sides equals one rep.
Swimming Locust: Lie on your stomach and inhale while lifting your legs and chest off the floor, reaching forward with both arms. Keep your legs lifted and flexed, then exhale as you reach your right arm forward and your left arm back like you’re swimming. Repeat the process on the other side, breathing in to fill your body with oxygen and then exhaling as you reach your left arm forward and your right arm back. Once to both sides is one complete rep.