Initially strength training and yoga seem as different as day and night. Yoga is flow, spirit, relaxation, and flexibility. Strength training is power, force, effort, and pure fitness. Never the two should meet. Until you realize exactly what these differing disciplines have in common – and it’s more than you might think. Here are the six benefits you can experience by mixing the two.
1. Balance strength and flexibility
Naturally bendy yogis may find that because plenty of postures are easy to reach, they’re not building muscle strength as effectively as they could. Strength training is ideal for anyone looking to improve muscle strength, slim down, and burn calories – and it also helps your flexibility. Strength without flexibility is not particularly healthy, but flexibility without strength is out of balance.
2. Wardoff muscle loss
Muscle mass begins to decline at the age of 40. While yoga is an excellent way to maintain strength, whatever your age, you may need a little extra help from weight training. Strength training two or three times a week builds muscle mass and bone density in a way you may not achieve through yoga alone, particularly as you get older.
3. Improve the slow-twitch and the fast-twitch
When it comes to muscle strength and power, twitchiness is key. When you practice yoga and hold poses for a considerable length of time, you are activating your slow-twitch muscle fibers. This action helps build endurance. Through strength training (in particular, fast or explosive lifts), you work those fast-twitch fibers that help you develop speed, reaction time, and power. Maintaining a balance between working these two types of fiber helps you live a healthier, more active life.
4. Develop control and focus
When you carry out an effective strength trainingprogram (and not simply pick up a couple of light weights and move them around for a few minutes), you need to develop focus, emotional control, and desire. You know that lifting heavier and heavier weights is going to challenge you, but you teach yourself to do it anyway and to work through the discomfort. Transfer this iron-clad mindset to yoga for those days when you want to work on gravity-defying poses.
5. Develop body awareness and avoid injury
Good quality strength and weight training is not just about building power and force; it is about building body awareness too. You learn how far you can push your body, and where you need to take a step back. If you’re super-flexible, you risk getting injured during yoga as you may push yourself too far without realizing when your body is saying no. Building awareness of the movements around joints helps preserve a healthy, injury-free yoga practice.
6. Improve muscle shape and slim down
Slim yogis may want better defined muscles, while people who tend to put on weight easily look for a way to boost metabolism – strength training helps with both. Yoga on its own brings both these benefits, of course, but who isn’t looking for a little extra boost?
Before you grab the dumbbells after your next yoga class, think about how to best combine these two valuable mind/body disciplines. You should carry out strength training exercises that work the whole body uniformly, avoiding muscle imbalance. Gradually build the other discipline into your routine to see how it works for you.
Keep in mind that strength training using improper techniques can shorten and stiffen muscles, which no yogi wants to experience. A fitness trainer or yoga instructor with experience in cross-training will be able to help you develop a routine that brings out the best in your yoga practice.
So let’s go – if you’re a yogi, give strength training a try. And if the only exercise you’ve ever done is muscle building, add a little yoga on the side for well-rounded emotional, spiritual and physical benefits.