My favourite forms of exercise, in terms of classes or gym based, are probably yoga and weight training, anything from barbell skills to modified strongman. I love the balance the two together give me – the best of both worlds.
There are a lot of transferable skills developed within yoga and actually a lot of benefits to doing yoga to complement strength training, here are some of my favourites:
1) Yoga helps you to maintain good posture, encourages you to create space and lengthen which helps to counterbalance the common “side effects” of weight training (especially if some muscle groups are trained more than others, developing imbalances). Not only that but building an awareness of your body and its positioning through yoga can help you to identify these imbalances and begin to rectify them. Using the core to initiate movements and maintaining a neutral position of the spine is transferable to many movements and vital to help prevent injury.
Side note: I would also suggest using a mirror or video to help see the imbalances too, especially when you’re just getting started.
2) Yoga helps to focus the mind, which is something quite often lacking during strength training. Focusing on the movements we are performing helps our brain to identify what needs to be done and do it more successfully, especially when we think of them in terms of our environment – for example, thinking about pushing through the floor in a squat. Not only that but being present in the moment, or mindful, has many benefits when it comes to our mental health and wellbeing.
3) One of the main points that is emphasised in yoga is breathing – cultivating this will help to build awareness and effectiveness of breathing across the board which is vital for high performance in other areas, including weight training.
4) If you’re used to being limited in your strength (or gymnastic) training because of poor range of motion then yoga may well be able to help you out there too – many of the poses help to open the body, particularly in the hips and shoulders – which will help those squats, handstands, anything overhead…
5) In order to optimise a strength programme, it’s important to have lower intensity training sessions and most importantly REST – for both your body and mind. Yoga helps provide some down time, allowing your body to relax and come back with more power in future sessions. It also helps to promote circulation and blood supply to the muscles, aiding in recovery.
6) Yoga helps balance – both on your feet, and your hands! Challenging your balance in turn helps proprioception and your brains awareness of where the body is, along with working the muscles and the mind.
7) It’s always good to keep your body guessing and trying new movements, if you haven’t yet tried yoga think of it as a challenge – for many who are new to it, it can be a surprisingly intense challenge!! There are often a lot of people (mainly men, I must say) who sweat more in a yoga class, than in the gym…