Strength training can be of enormous benefit to anyone pursuing a fitness regime, but unfortunately most meatheads in the gym are not working on any sort of pre or post-workout mobility/flexibility session.
Don’t get me wrong, I love going to the gym and getting my pump on, but I also practice mobility training in the form of Yoga. Yoga tones and strengthens your body uniformly, unlike strength training regimens that can lead to over development of particular muscle groups.
Yoga exercises, meditation, and postures also improve your balance, strength, and overall flexibility, making you more capable of pursuing a balanced fitness regimen. Here are 5 benefits of including yoga into your strength training.
Yoga Benefit #1: Decompression
With all that weight on the bar, your joints and tissue are under a lot of pressure. Soft tissues serve as a buffer, so your harder tissues like bones can stay rigid and support without crunching against each other. After the malleable soft tissues are under this pressure, they will not fully return to their supple, neutral state unless an equally decompressive movement pulls the tension out.
In order to keep your connective and supportive tissues healthy, decompression is essential. Tension in these areas restricts crucial blood flow, reducing the rate of healing and nutrient delivery. We want our soft tissues to remain just that, soft. The pressure of strength training introduces retained forces in some part within your soft tissues. An equal but opposing force will release that tension.
One of my favorite decompressive stretches is the Forward Fold. In this stretch, your entire spine releases towards the ground, allowing the tissue in between each vertebra to relax and release the tensions introduced with strength training. Try to let the muscles of your upper body relax, and let gravity do its work on your spine!
Yoga Benefit #2: Change of Scenery
The repetitive nature of strength training can lead to some boredom with the practice. Yoga is normally practiced in a group-training environment that is completely different from your normal lifting routine. This change in setting can keep your routine fresh!
Normally, an instructor will lead a class through a planned routine, so no need to think ahead as to what you’ll be doing with this hour of fitness. Your instructor will have a sequence of postures designed to access and release the natural tensions that develop in all human bodies. Yoga teachers will be mindful of all levels in the practice, offering variations for beginners and advanced practitioners alongside one another in the same class.
Yoga Benefit #3: Alignment Practice
There are no barbells lifted in a Yoga class. All you need is your body. Sometimes we can get so involved in our heavy weights that any bodyweight movements seem like a waste of time and energy. However, the postures visited in a typical yoga class all work on fundamental alignment and engagement that is essential to strength training.
The engagements practiced without any weight lead to more awareness of your structure and efficiency and can easily be translated directly to your weighted exercises. Postures like Downward Dog teach spinal extension in a hinging hip movement pattern, directly transferrable to strength training movements such as deadlifts.
An hour of Yoga is an intense conversation between your brain and body. Like any good relationship, communication is key if things are going to work out. After this dedicated exploration of your movement capabilities, you will be able to create the shape and movements with your body with enhanced accuracy, resulting in better lifting form and results.
Yoga Benefit #4: Brain Day
We’ve got a separate day for all the parts of the body when it comes to strength training. Seemingly absent from that list is brain day. We don’t get the term meatheads from having buff brains. Instead, it is our lack of focus on mental and emotional development that makes folks think we’re just a big hunk of meat with two eyes. We’ve all got a soft side, whether you want to admit it or not!
One focus of Yoga is self-love and acceptance for this human body that you get to parade around planet earth in for an entire lifespan. This probably is not a normal part of your routine, but the benefits of expressing gratitude and love for your amazing human body surpasses any #GAINZ in your bicep dimensions.
Yoga can rewire your thinking patterns to see the good in this world just a little bit more. Next time you’re staring down a bar loaded up on a squat rack for your last set, you’ll feel a bit more love than anger, and I’ll let you guess which of those emotions is more powerful.
Yoga Benefit #5: Cleansing
When done right, strength training has some residual damage in your muscular system that repairs over the passing days after the session. Removing the resulting damaged tissue takes time, but this process is sped up with a faster flow of fluids through your body.
Think of yourself as a river. Water goes in through your mouth, and exits from urination and sweating. The more water you drink, then pee or sweat out, the faster your flow. A rushing river will carry the debris left from a strength training session much quicker than a stagnant pool of water.
Typically, Yoga classes are in a heated environment that encourages profuse sweating. The heated environment helps with mobilizing soft tissues, allowing you to get deeper into the poses. It also makes you sweat buckets! Seriously, you’ll be left in a pool of sweat from just an hour of Yoga, so be sure to bring a towel!