Yogi and personal trainer Jenna Josefoski has written about how yoga can be a great cross-trainer – now called any physical activity that is not like a mainstream workout.
I’m both a fan of fitness (I even love burpees, honestly!) and anything yoga related. And I’m constantly amazed at how rarely people try to combine the two. In my opinion, these areas complement each other perfectly.
When I invite my gym colleagues to my yoga class, very few people say yes. They all find good explanations why not:
“Yes, I understand that yoga is beneficial, but I stupidly don’t have the time. And iron gives the best results in the shortest amount of time.”
“I just don’t like it… it’s very boring in my opinion.”
“I can’t get the right pose because I lack flexibility. By the time I’m struggling to curl up properly, everyone’s already moving on to the next asana.”
And my favorite (because it’s the most honest): “I don’t want to hold these poses for “as long as possible” and “listen to my breath” … In exercises with weights or sprints you can really put yourself out there, feel that you’re not in the gym for nothing. And with yoga there’s no such feeling.
But yoga doesn’t have this feeling. People are different, they prefer different sports. On the other hand, I know how yoga can help with iron training, if you add it as a cross-trainer. It was yoga that helped me complete my first ‘pistol squat’ (one legged squat) and start walking on my hands. And also to take ballet classes with students who were 15 years younger than me.
There’s such a variety of currents in yoga that anyone can find the right one for themselves. Shy to walk into class because you can’t curl up into a pretzel? No problem, find a good teacher and he’ll tell you what works for you.
Most of all, of course, I wish you would love yoga too and get into it like I did, but for now I encourage you to just try and find a little time for it in your training programme. Even if you can’t enjoy every moment of every asana, yoga will still help you progress in the gym. How? Here are the 9 benefits of yoga.
1. Develops flexibility and mobility
Although some use these terms as synonyms, they are different: flexibility has to do with muscle stretching and mobility has to do with joint mobility. And yoga develops both of these qualities, allowing you to move freely through a full range of motion.
Translate into bodacious terms: you’ll be able to squat, stretch and squeeze more technically and reduce your risk of injury as well.
2. Adds strength.
Most of us when it comes to strength training immediately think of boulders and fitness equipment. However, in many yogic asanas (especially when held for long periods of time), you develop static strength, which helps stabilise your joints.
If in the past your workout consisted only of rhythmic lifting of weights, yoga will provide a new, unaccustomed load that will visibly strengthen the stabiliser muscles (which helps progress in strength exercises).
3. Perfect for a day of rest
I’m not the only one who gets bored on a fitness-free day, am I? I just can’t tolerate idleness. But you can’t work out at the gym every day, so one of the best ways to fill up your “empty” weekdays is yoga. It’s perfect for a light workout when you want to do something, but you don’t want to overdo it. Another bonus: some asanas are especially nice for post-workout crepaty.
4. Reduces the risk of injury and burnout from overtraining
Have you ever had a tough fitness routine getting you closer to your body shape and then suddenly cut short by a lack of energy? Sudden colds, new or reappearance of old injuries, worsening sleep, unusual fatigue?
Regular yoga can be just the thing to help you recover better, extinguishing the effects of exercise stress. Even if you adore running, is it a good idea to run all day seven days a week?
5. Teaches breathing techniques
Breathing yoga techniques (pranayama) can be used to keep you warm on a cold day or cool off in the heat. More importantly, they help one cope with stress and calm down under difficult circumstances. And in sport, they help you concentrate, get physically and mentally ready before a competition.
Breathing is crucial to any strength training exercise, learn how to use it to lift more.
6. Helps you control your body
Yes, a yoga class may suggest to hold an asana “as long as possible” and “listen to your breath”… but it’s worth it! So you develop the ability to control your own body, which transfers positively to other types of physical activity. For example, when your coach makes a comment on your strength training technique, you will correct the mistake quicker and easier. And this, of course, will not hurt your progress at the gym. You are also less likely to trip over a dumbbell left by a decent person in the middle of the gym.
7. Changes the way you feel about the world
I call it “extracurricular yoga”. Its philosophy teaches things like concentration, mindfulness, contentment and non-violence. On a physical level, it leads to a more effective workout in the fitness room, and outside the gym increases stress tolerance and stamina, and adds positivity and vitality.
8. Teaches you to choose the best for you
Trainers of different sports can be extremely categorical and make everyone do the same thing, but what if it does not suit you personally? From my experience, a good yoga teacher would advise to listen to oneself more and choose those variants of asanas which are best for you personally.
Once you learn how to choose the best for you in yoga class, you can transfer this skill to other areas of your life as well.
9. And it can even be enjoyable!
Of course, in some classes there is a serious silence, with everyone concentrating on holding difficult poses. But there are quite a few instructors (myself included) who prefer a lighter, more fun approach! I lighten up the atmosphere with jokes, make interesting playlists and even have “breaks” to take my mind off yoga, in the middle of the class.
When you do serious business with a playful attitude, you’ll both get much further and have more fun in the process.
Hopefully at least one of these nine reasons will encourage you to try yoga. You don’t have to sign up for a course right away, start learning asanas at home by watching instructional videos on the internet. Trust me, yoga can really help you achieve your fitness goals.