Flexibly Fit: Why Yoga and Strength Training?

Why Yoga & Strength Training?

It’s like two seemingly opposite worlds colliding: the peaceful calm of yoga and the grit of weight training. One world filled with namaste’s, lean muscles, and meditation, the other with grunts, beefy bodybuilders, and protein shakes. But my experience is that yoga and body building have a lot in common and actually complement each other.

DSC_3591Here’s a little background. I used to be a dancer and have done yoga for years. It’s always kind of been somewhere in my training handbook. There have been times where I’ve done it more regularly than other times, but it’s always been there. After leaving the dance world, I started weight training regularly in my early 20s. I did some cross training, gym classes, but I didn’t competitively body building until my late 20s. Although I don’t know if the competition world is for me, I maintain a pretty high level of physical activity with focus on mainly weight training and yoga with some cardio.

Why I do yoga and weight training:

-Injury Prevention: as you build muscle, and don’t stretch, the muscle has a tendency to get tighter (less flexible). As the muscle becomes tighter it starts to pull at other areas. Let’s take the hamstrings for example. You’re working them out, they’re getting stronger (and tighter), and start to pull the pelvis into a tilt previously unfamiliar for your body. The pelvic tilt changes the curvature of the spine and under heavy weight, you injure your lower back. Just like that, you’re out of commission recovering.

Keeping muscles flexible as they get stronger helps maintain proper form and proper form means less chances of injury.

-The mental challenge: there are several points in a yoga class where you may want IMG_3410to give up, fidget, adjust your top, drop your arm, wipe the sweat, or other movement to distract you from discomfort. It’s not easy. There are also times in weight training when you want to give up, do one less, drop the weight for the last few, take a break, etc. Usually, the mind gives up before the body and learning to push through the doubt, through the “I can’t” is a skill that transfers into the gym and onto the mat. Practicing the mental endurance in yoga makes me stronger in the gym.

-Building muscles and flexibility: believe it or not, muscle flexibility plays a big role in lifting technique. Take a squat for example. Flexibility through your calves keeps the weight in your heels. Flexibility in the hips can help you to get lower. Overall, improving range of motion can help you achieve better form for lifting. Better technique, leads to more gains, less risk of injury and longer lifting career.

-Yoga poses require strength: ask someone who’s working on getting side crow, or even crow pose. Balancing on your hands with your legs perched on your triceps takes a lot of upper body strength. When I’m working on a challenging pose in yoga, I try and incorporate weight training to complement the muscle groups needed. For example, if you’re working on crow pose, increase strength training for the shoulders, forearms and triceps. If the yoga pose includes leg balance, try including single leg deadlifts or pistol squats.

Do you compliment your training with another physical activity that you find beneficial?