Should Yoga be a staple in your strength routine?
A typical day at the gym might consist of a few power exercises, general strength training and if you’re really motivated, some metabolic conditioning to wrap things up and leave you gassed. You do this 2-3 times a week or more and your body is going to get stronger, leaner, and tighter, right? Everything might seem to be going exactly as planned… and then your hips tighten up, your lower back starts to hurt and you have a nasty knot just underneath your scapula that a lacrosse ball can’t seem to reach. You can’t get better if you can’t move right?
This is why a gentler form of yoga can be the perfect supplement to a demanding training schedule. I know, I know, succumbing to the flow of movements and meditative music can be a complete 180 to the explosive lifts and head banging tunes you’re probably used to, but the message your body receives in a one-hour class is well worth it.
Yoga should be the opposite of a workout, and in fact should be more like a work-in. It gives you a chance to slow down and restore, rebalance, and rejuvenate your body. Leave the fast-pace Bikram, Vinyasa flow, and Kundalini practices to people who consider yoga their workout. Yoga for the active individual should not be a pose-per-breath practice; but instead be a chance to realign your spine, open your hips, and reconnect with your breath. So often in the strength training community we forget to take 20 minutes to reward our bodies for everything they do for us.
Taking this time to allow your body to essentially press the “reset” button will improve movement capacity, bracing techniques and ultimately, performance! Basically, the benefits of yoga, the way it was meant to be, will allow you to squat deeper than you thought possible pain free! See? Yoga isn’t for sissies. More often than not you’ll come across heavy lifters who frequent gentle yoga classes. Hell, you might even break a sweat from holding a pose long enough (thanks to all those untrained Type II muscle fibers!)
Here are my top three asanas (or poses) for the Three R’s:
1. Restorative: Savasana – Corpse pose
a. Laying flat on your back, eyes closed, connecting with your breath.
2. Rebalance: Parivrtta Anjaneyasana – Twisted high lunge
a. Front knee is bent while the back leg is straight; the hand opposite of the bent knee is flat on the ground while the other hand is in the air opening your shoulders to the sidewall. This pose forces you to align your hips, spine, and shoulders.
3. Rejuvenate: Surya Namaskar A – Sun salutations.
a. A series of ~10 poses, starting in a standing position flowing to the ground then back to standing. Repeat anywhere from 3-20 times. This sequence gets your body warm but is very gentle.
Sometimes life gets crazy and all you want to do at the end of the day walk in to the gym, pick some things up for a while and walk out sweating like a pig. As nice as that image sounds, sometimes your body needs to literally take the load off. It’s crucial for your muscles to stretch and restore so they can grow. And by no means am I telling you to leave the weights alone and only practice yoga, but adding in an hour class once or twice a week (more if you’d like) can dramatically improve your ability to lift heavy and more explosively. If you want to know any more about how to add yoga to your workout hit me up on twitter @afeeter.