Yoga and Strength Training: The Perfect Dynamic Duo
written by Yoga4Good Founder Tori Morrison
I've been doing yoga since I was 21, (I'm 32 now) and have tried pretty much every style. From rigorous Ashtanga Yoga to gentle, and supportive Restorative Yoga, I've dabbled in many different types of yoga throughout my years. My favorite (like many San Diegan women here) was (and is at times still) hot yoga, a take on Bikram yoga that's like a fast-paced Vinyasa-style class, only you sweat more.
I know you hot yoga-goers got excited when you read that, didn't you? YogaSix's hot flow anyone?
Yoga + Injuries: Yoga Butt
As my practice advanced, I noticed I started to get injured over time. After becoming a certified Vinyasa yoga instructor in 2015, I sustained my first injury shortly after. I got yoga butt.
You might be thinking "ooo sexy," but yoga butt is not cute. Yoga butt is where you overstretch your hamstring muscles, which can happen a lot in yoga since the practice doesn't typically focus on strengthening these muscles. It hurt. I could barely bend over without being in severe pain and doing yoga was another thing. I couldn't practice, or when I did, I couldn't do any forward folds.
That's when I decided to look into the why behind this. Why is it so easy to get injured doing yoga?
The answer to that has to do with over-stretching your joints.
The truth is over-stretching your joints, muscles, and tendons without strengthening them as well isn't good for your body and can lead to yoga injuries. Fortunately, combining strength training WITH yoga can help keep these injuries at bay and improve your yoga practice overall.
Today, we go over why we love the yoga and strength training combination and what you need to know if you're an avid yogi or gym-goer.
How Does Strength Training Complement Yoga?
According to those at Harvard T.H. Chan's School of Public Health, strength training has long-term health benefits. Professor Min Lee explains that "such exercises improve glucose metabolism, enhance the maintenance of a healthy body weight, and improve cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure."
Okay, we get it, we should strength train - enough medical speak.
Now, for how strength training complements yoga. If you frequent yoga classes and/or teach yoga, you will probably understand this next part.
Have you ever been to a class and noticed some (or all) of the yoga students falling into their joints?! Yikes, this is actually my worst nightmare and something I notice in almost every single yoga class I go to. If there's one thing we want to tell all yogis, it would be this:
Yogis, Be Careful with Your Joints!
This is especially true for those yogis that are super flexible (guilty). We have the tendency to overstretch our joints since we don't feel much in our muscles. This overstretches our ligaments and can lead to all kinds of injuries, like arthritis, joint pain, and more! EEK!
How do you stop this from happening? You learn how to turn your muscles on and activate them in a yoga pose. And you build strength, so you're not just flexible but also strong in various poses.
How Strength Training Helps with Your Yoga Practice
The truth is if you're doing yoga right, it's HARD and you may shake from all the muscle activation required. How does strength training help you with your yoga practice then you ask? Here are some ways:
- Teaches you how to activate and isolate your muscles.
- Builds body awareness (so you're less likely to hang out in your joints during a yoga class).
- Helps improve muscle imbalances.
- Gives you better control in more advanced yoga postures.
- Helps you prepare for arm balances, inversions, and standing balancing poses.
How to Learn How to Strength Train
Learning how to strength train is easier now than ever before with tons of resources available online. I suggest trying out a personal training session with a trainer you know, trust, or have heard good things about to get started. That way you have a professional's help when it comes to figuring out how to work gym equipment, how to properly perform each exercise, and how to keep an eye out for misalignments in the body.
I did this and worked on improving an anterior pelvic tilt that lead to hip pain and hip impingement.
Strength Training Defined
Strength training involves doing physical exercises (typically with weights or some other form of resistance) to improve your strength and endurance levels. Here are some examples of my favorite strength training exercises:
- Bulgarian split squats (this is a booty gainer y'all)
- Hip thrusts
- Dumbbell bench press
- Bent over rows
Strength Training and Yoga Benefits for Women
As I'm a woman, I'm going to go into the strength training and yoga benefits I've witnessed. I've been doing yoga for over 10 years and strength training consistently for over 3 years. There's no better combination to improve strength, flexibility, mobility, and proprioception in my opinion.
Also, this combination of exercises has given me a curvy butt (my 2022 goal), strong, muscular legs, a toned stomach, strong arms, a muscular back, and the flexibility to do any activity I want. I highly recommend combining strength training with yoga. Do this and watch your body transform!
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