One does not often encounter weightlifters who brag about breathing techniques, nor yogis capable of killing it in the gym. So, are these two disciplines some strange bedfellows at best or something more? Well, just as yoga is not only for those on a spiritual quest, weightlifting is not exclusively reserved for towering gym beasts. Under the veil of ignorance and assumptions, these two have much to learn from one another.
A fine balance
When you look at yoga instructors, you may be baffled by their muscular, strong appearance. Well, they are no strangers to lifting weights “on the side”, and recognize the opulent benefits of both mind and body transformation. Yet, bear in mind that one does not have to take on heavy machinery in the gym to obtain a sculpted body. Various yoga poses take you on the demanding path of physical trials. This ancient technique does not rely on the effectiveness of progressive overload, but instead embraces a more balanced approach to training.
On the other hand, pumping iron works your muscles, but not all of them. Namely, the intense and explosive mid-ranges fail to recruit antagonist muscles, thus inhibiting your flexibility and speed. These fibers become tight under perpetual contracting pressure, and tend to resist the agonist muscles, ones you are supposed to stimulate. So, if you do not want your fiber armies competing, know that yoga spurs better communication between the brain and muscles.
1. Yoga aids muscle recovery
Due to their musculature, weight lifters cannot get close to the sublime flexibility of a yogi, but with better responsiveness to nerve signals, they are able to perform more fluid movements and steer clear of injuries. These perils are the result of muscle imbalances, as well as bad posture and minor injuries that are not easy to detect. Damage control and a recovery program should be aimed at mobility and flexibility and that is when yoga steps in to save the day.
Although inflammation is a harbinger of muscle growth, the state of constant inflammation is skating on thin ice— it mutes the signals from your training. The brain is hardwired in such a way that it reacts to intense exercise by dialing down the intensity of muscle contraptions, preventing you from making the most out of lifting weights. Yoga, on the contrary tunes down the noise and helps weight lifters mitigate muscle soreness.
2. It improves your mobility and overall performance
So, stretching is far from a time waster, which gets in the way of “real” training. Even as much as a few minutes of yoga before and after weight lifting exercises add up over time, and bring measurable results— those who have tried out this regimen report a gradual increase in the weight they lift. This is not surprising, since muscle growth is a process which takes place after the workout. In this phase of rehabilitation, yoga comes as a true blessing, allowing you to relax both body and mind.
It is a shame how many weight lifters make the mistake of staying in their comfort zone for too long. It is only extreme ranges of motion that enable one to unlock the full potential of bodily strength. The biggest problem is that weightlifting makes your brain forget how to handle these situations. For example, the triangle, extended angle, downward dog, low pyramid, warrior 1, pigeon, and shoelace pose aid in extending your range, flexibility, and opening a new door to muscle growth.
Therefore, feel free to put a yoga mat, shakers and sportswear in a gym bag, and pay no heed to the strange looks people are giving you. There is no need to dwell on a one-dimensional fitness plane, when the realm of physical grandeur starches as far as the horizon. That inner tranquility and balance are something that can help anyone on the draining fitness journey. And ultimately, yoga serves as a perfect pre and post-workout routine, and a tremendous performance-enhancer.
3. The benefits aren't just physical
Above all else, a yoga routine gives birth to positive change in life, and it spills over to the physical and mental department. It evens out the way your brain communicates with the muscle bunch, and lets the mental HQ send all the right signals to them. As such, yoga prepares people for even the hardest physical undertakings, infuses them with renewed vigor, comfort and ease during daily routines. The marriage seems to be winning on both fronts, the one of sheer physical greatness, and the other of cognitive prowess.
About the Author
This article was written by Samantha Olivier. Connect with her on Twitter @sam_olivier_.