We are excited to have a guest author post on our blog today! Sarah Stevenson, a.k.a., The Tini yogini, is a certified Yoga Instructor in Southern California. She has a degree in Behavioral Psychology and teaches not only yoga classes but also life affirming workshops. She also writes for Beachbody, which provides effective and popular workout videos, including the Insanity Workout, a high intensity interval training program for total body conditioning.
She wrote an awesome article on the benefits of Yoga. Check it out below!
“Why Yoga is Not Just For Your Mom”
As a yoga practitioner, I’ve trained fitness enthusiast of all stripes over the years. One client, in particular, I remember as being an especially tough sell. He was a weightlifter who came to me to learn how to naturally lower his blood pressure without medication at the suggestion of his mother. Admittedly, not a great start for a post titled “Why Yoga Is Not Just For Your Mom,” but stick with me and you’ll learn that yoga offers a plethora of benefits including stress reduction, flexibility, and strength & endurance building.
First, I explained to my weightlifter friend how yoga could lower his blood pressure. High blood pressure can be caused by intense stress or strain. Determination is key when building a beautiful muscular body. But intense determination can also lead to debilitating stress. Yoga teaches the client to replace stressful thoughts with the pointed focus of deep breathing. Weightlifters taking yoga are taught how to inhale properly by filling their lungs to capacity, and exhale correctly by completely emptying out their lungs. The deep breath that you are constantly reminded to practice during a yoga class can also be easily integrated into everyday life.
Let’s try it right now. Simply take a nice deep fresh breath in and then take a nice cleansing breath out…Now can you imagine training the mind to focus intently on a breathing style similar to this for an hour and a half? Not only will you be able to think more clearly, it will benefit your stress level in a life changing way. Taking control of the way your body looks is a key part of weightlifting. Now you get to take control of your mind as well, thanks to yoga.
Now that I had my friend thinking, I decided to push things further. I reminded him how weightlifting shortens your muscle tissue and makes them sore, which decreases your flexibility and thus your mobility. His body was absolutely beautiful but he didn’t exactly glide around town like Fred Astaire. When the muscle tissue is shortened from heavy weight training the bodybuilder will eventually lose more and more flexibility. As the old saying goes, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken.” The muscles become incredibly forgiving once you integrate a consistent yoga practice into it. That’ll translate into great range of motion in your reps.
He seemed convinced, but I was rolling now. To increase reps, you need endurance. Guess what builds endurance? In yoga you may be asked to hold a pose for up to 5 minutes at a time. This teaches your muscles to contract for longer periods of time and thus improves your level of endurance. If you don’t believe me, try holding Utkatasana (chair pose) for three minutes and see what that does for your quads.
And then there’s the matter of all the muscles only a practice like this can build. Yoga requires that the body as a whole works to form a pose, in a union of the body, mind and soul. This means you must come to each pose with the idea that your whole body will work in unison. When all the muscles are engaged, you’re building core strength and stabilizer muscle strength.
Having a strong core is vital to weight training. It can offer you stability and girth. Almost every pose in yoga requires the core to be activated. If your stomach isn’t a little sore midway through a yoga class then you simply aren’t doing the poses properly. Building a strong core will improve two critical weightlifting components: balance and alignment.
As for stabilizers, weight training requires two types of muscles. You have big muscles that have the job of lifting and moving, and are known as mover muscles. Then you have muscles that keep the movers in a proper place. These are stabilizers and they are the ones that keep you from getting injured. The way to build your stabilizers is through isometric exercise, or by engaging a pose and holding it for several minutes. Remember that chair pose we talked about.
Yoga offers so many priceless benefits for people who usually focus on strength training and, in the end my friend saw the light. In truth, he was a person drawn toward health, like most weightlifters, so it was pretty simple to integrate a consistent yoga practice into his routine. It didn’t take long to see the difference. His performance increased and, I’ll tell ya, he looked a lot hotter than the other guys at his gym whose tight, bulky muscles made them clomp around like Frankenstein. So if you’re on the fence about adding yoga to your fitness routine, maybe this is one of those times you should listen to your mother.