With an intense and adrenaline-fueled “go-getter” mindset, many gym-goers may be surprised to know that the secret to improving their workout routine just might be to simply… slow down. That’s right, slow down, and breathe.
Many people may view practicing yoga and working out in the gym as two separate pursuits however this article will explain how the two can be used hand-in-hand in order to improve overall strength and stamina in the gym.
1. Practicing Yoga Requires You to Focus on Your Breath
The focus of breath is the foundation of yoga and is the first thing that a beginner yogi is taught. This isn’t some Hindu mumbo-jumbo, but actually an essential technique to use in order to remain centered.
In yoga, and often times in the gym, we are faced with physical challenges. During these challenges, our muscles may tense up and our stress levels may rise as we strive to complete these physical tasks. Whether it be holding a difficult yoga posture, finishing a heavy set, or simply getting through that last minute on the treadmill, being able to come back to your breath and be more present are useful tools that can be used in enhancing overall endurance.
2. Practicing Yoga Can Improve Your Form
Research has proven that yoga exercises improve posture and overall back health through certain stretches and muscle building techniques. This will improve holistic strength, alignment, and overall strength and flexibility. With the habit of maintaining good posture, the form is highly likely to improve during your workout. When a proper form is achieved during a workout, injuries are prevented and the intended muscle groups that you’re working are better targeted.
Yoga also promotes balance, which is helpful in order to properly carry out certain gym exercises. For example, the Bulgarian Split Squat requires a person to balance on one foot in front of them while the other foot is placed on a bench behind them. This puts all of the person’s body weight on the leading foot, therefore bringing an emphasis to all of the muscles in the leading leg, as well as bringing engagement to the core in order to hold balance. However, with poor balance skills, one might not be able to complete this exercise effectively.
Yoga is known to improve both balance and flexibility through many postures. When first learning to improve balance, one might find the help of props such as foam blocks to be useful. Foam blocks can be used to “bring the floor to you”. For example, there are many yoga poses that require you to place your hands on the floor. When using a yoga block to assist your practice, you can place a block on the ground in front of you and use it to bring the floor closer to you. This avoids the struggle of being off-balance while building the flexibility it takes to reach the ground.
3. Practicing Yoga Helps to Build Extra Strength
Never underestimate the power of bodyweight! One good Vinyasa Power class could easily leave you sweaty and sore the next day as yoga is known to build strength through compound movements. Practicing yoga can cover the three mechanisms of muscle growth: progressive overload, metabolic stress, and mechanical damage.
Progressive overload simply includes lifting more weight in order to build more muscle. This is common in weightlifting however, many people oftentimes begin lifting more weight than their body can handle, thus resulting in bad form. Yoga, however, covers progressive overload through the use of body weight.
Every yoga pose can be modified; however, each pose requires much muscle strength through different variations. When you are able to build a good foundation of strength through the bodyweight exercises that yoga provides, you are more easily able to successfully lift more weights in the gym.
Additionally, metabolic stress is (simply put) the “burn” that you feel in your muscles when you reach an intense point of your exercise. This “burn” can often be felt as you work to finish a heavy set. The amount of metabolic stress that you produce during a yoga class will depend on the type of yoga class you choose to take. For example, you would probably produce more metabolic stress during a more vigorous Vinyasa Flow class as opposed to a more gentle Yin class.
Muscle mechanical damage takes place when microscopic tears form in the muscle fibers, which is what causes muscles to increase in size as they heal. Yoga poses such as the Chair Pose, Warrior II Pose, and Chaturanga can be used to build extra strength.
4. Practicing Yoga Helps to Build Overall Endurance
As stated earlier, the use of coming back to your breath in both a yoga class and at the gym can improve overall endurance. However, this is not the only way yoga can improve one’s stamina. For example, yoga can easily be used as a quick cardio session. Many people make the mistake of solely associating cardio with running; however, cardio is actually an aerobic exercise that concentrates on activities that will increase heart rate, which will train the heart, which will cause it to grow stronger.
The intensity of a cardio workout you may experience through yoga will depend on the intensity of the type of yoga that you practice. Through the compound movements and frequent breathing techniques that yoga teaches, heart rate can increase enough for cardio to take place, thus building endurance.
5. Practicing Yoga Helps to Protect from Injury
Not only does yoga promote good posture, which promotes good form, but yoga also promotes healthy joint function. All of which promote protection from potential injury. Yoga doesn’t sound so bad after all, does it?
Yoga is known to prevent many injuries such as hip pain, hamstring pulls, knee injuries, shoulder pain, and many more. Through the use of stretching and practicing flexibility, the practice of yoga keeps joints lubricated, which can prevent potential injuries in the gym. With that being said, one might find it a bit useful to practice a little yoga before a rigorous workout. Practicing yoga can serve as so much more than a mental and spiritual practice and can in fact help to improve one’s entire workout routine!
This practice just might be that little addition that is needed in order to upgrade your workout routine. So before rushing to complete your next intense workout, it may be helpful to set aside a couple of minutes to just slow down, and breathe.
If you would like to learn more about Yoga, continue reading our other article about The Different Types of Yoga And How They Help Achieve A Healthier Mind