I would like to take a moment to talk about my two loves, yoga and strength training. Yoga and strength training go together like peanut butter and jelly, like bacon and eggs, like the sun and moon. You get it, they complement each other perfectly!
I love lifting heavy; I can’t get enough of it. It’s incredibly empowering as a woman to feel strong, to be able to squat more than your body weight and to be able to bust out a few pull ups and dips. I love the high of a weight lifting session and I know that some of you reading this are nodding your head in agreement. Most athletes are no stranger to the constant aches, stiffness and limited range of motion associated with living an active life. Over time being active puts a great deal of stress onto your body. Eventually shortening muscle fibers and connective tissue creating tightness and adding stress to joints and reducing joint range of motion. Taking time to mobilize and stretch can greatly reduce the aches and stiffness that comes along with being active. How many of you practice yoga? If you are reading this and thinking I’m not flexible enough for yoga hogwash. That’s exactly why you should go to yoga!
As a yoga instructor and fitness coach I know firsthand how valuable a solid yoga practice can be for your mind and body. If you happen to be a gym junkie who loves beating your quads and glutes into submission, this article is for you.
Flowing through poses in yoga while barefoot and without mirrors requires a great deal of control and focus. This control forces you to use and develop the oftentimes weak stabilizing muscles in the feet, legs and trunk. Because of the focus and control needed in yoga, you develop a profound sense of proprioception –a sense of position and self within movement. Proprioception helps tremendously when executing compound lifts like deadlifts and push-ups. The focus you develop during yoga will help you be more present and focused during your lifts.
Range of Motion
No matter how many times you tell yourself you need to stretch more, getting in a few more reps before rushing out the gym door sounds much more appealing doesn’t it? Thoughts and ideas of stretching and mobilizing go out the window when you are able to snag an open squat rack before someone else does.
Any great foundation of strength training starts with having good mobility and flexibility. There are many types of yoga, some focus more of flexibility than others. To increase range of motion try finding a yoga style like Yin Yoga that help increase the length of muscles fibers and connective tissue.
Controlling the Ego
Most active people are keenly aware of competition. We compete with our previous lifts, times and sometimes each other. While competition has its time and place and it’s great to be inspired, ultimately none of it matters, we are just fanning the fires of our ego. Knowing your limit and pushing past it is a delicate balance. Yoga is a constant reminder that it doesn’t matter what you wear, what the pose looks like, or how quick you are, it’s about uniting your body, mind and breath. Yoga teaches you to listen to your body, to know when you are pushing too hard and when to back off. Yoga teaches you to develop contentment with where you are, because that’s exactly where you need to be. This is a unique and helpful tool to have when lifting weights, this will keep you centered, mindful and help prevent injury. It also helps you accept your progressions and to avoid comparing yourself to the person next to you.
Bodyweight Strength Training
Lifting heavy and pumping iron is great but there is something very humbling about bodyweight training. Yoga puts your body into positions you wouldn’t normally get into at the gym. Being able to control your breath, stabilize your core and balance your entire body on your hands like in handstand or crow takes a great deal of control that you cannot achieve with equipment. The skill and strength transfer from the yoga mat to the gym room is unlike any other. Putting your body through precarious movements and holds using just your body only builds a greater understanding of the movements performed in the gym. Yoga also moves through basic movements like pushups, lunging and planks. Being able to master your own body weight is a great skill to have.
Rest and Recovery
Hitting the yoga mat on a rest day can be a great low impact way to keep the body moving on your rest days. Yoga can also help your body detox on rest days. Yoga is designed to compress, lengthen, wring out, push and pull various parts of your body, this sends a signal to your brain to turn on the “detox” mode in your body. In addition to detoxifying your body, a great benefit of yoga is a detox of your mind. Yoga and meditation can help you control your stress levels and feel more relaxed between gym sessions.
As an active person, if you can find a way to incorporate a regular yoga practice you can prevent loss of range of motion, become a calmer happier person in all aspects of your life including the weight room.