Gym rats seem to be tuned into a certain psychic frequency which only transmits one message: Lift, Lift, Lift … Stretching is kept to a bare minimum, and the mention of yoga in some gyms is probably anathema. This is because people associate yoga with Eastern Spirituality, and worry that they have to learn all about Kundalini, and meditate. Yoga can be used purely to promote physical and mental wellbeing. For non-gym-goers it is a great way to stay lean, but for gym-goers coupled with their usual routine it is a gold mine.
Now we all know that stretching is essential, even if we do not pay it much mind. It promotes flexibility, reduces strain and injury, and promotes quicker recovery times. However, most of us are racing for benches after a few minutes of stretching because stretching does not seem to add an inch of bulk to those biceps or pecs.
In comes Yoga with a solution. While it does not claim to add bulk, it does add endurance and strength, with all the other benefits of stretching plus more.
1. Awareness of Your Body
Yoga is about getting touch with your body, feeling the position of your toes on the mat and your body as it flows from downward dog into plank then to upward dog. You develop a very keen sense of control over your muscles and their movements. Which translates beautifully when you are lifting, and you do not want to activate the wrong muscle group causing injury, or when you push your body a little more.
Weight lifting is greatly dependent on the flexibility and muscle mobility to prevent the occurrence of injuries. Yoga turns your body into a well-oiled machine, capable of maintaining form and efficient with each lift. This is because yoga demands control, and as you develop this control movement becomes less of a march and more of a fluid dance.
3. Active During Recovery
During recovery days we feel like we are in withdrawal, dying to jump back into the gym and start pumping iron, but we know how catastrophic that would be. So we stare at our muscles and try to mentally will them into faster recovery. With yoga, you can stretch during this recovery periods enhancing your flexibility, increasing your strength and according to some experts reducing your recovery time.
We love to do explosive lifts, but after a while we cannot seem to go beyond a certain level, our bodies just will not maintain that level of activity. Yoga will help you build the endurance to push further and further. This is because it engages slow-twitch muscles, greatly increasing your endurance.
5. Pacing That pesky Breathing
While working out we try to pay attention to our breaths, but when you are trying to push your rep limit, breathing suddenly seems trivial, until you cramp and you have to drop the barbells. Breathing is so essential to yoga, it is almost a movement in itself. This awareness of breathing that yoga promotes will greatly enhance your gym routine and prevent cramps.
6. Improved Lifting
There it is, I know you were all waiting for this one. Yoga is about accessing the body, and it allows you to discover muscles you did not even know existed. All those Asanas promote a deeper awareness and control over our bodies. For a weight lifter that means that when you reach the limit of the basic muscle groups you can dig in there and find those dormant muscles engaging them for greater lifts.
Now at the end of the day working out is not all we are, there is a small part occupied by everything else, and sometimes that part of your life gets haphazard and incomprehensible. Yoga creates equilibrium by not only giving us an awareness of our bodies, but our minds. Through yoga we are suddenly aware of what is unnecessary and cluttering our personal lives.
Physically it promotes balance and stability, keeping you grounded as you do lunges or punch the bag.
After a long day working out, or dong whatever else you were doing, going through yoga poses is relaxing. It takes your mind off things by pushing you to focus solely on your movements and your breathing. As you control this small aspect of your life, everything else becomes less daunting.
It is also brilliant after a long day of being psyched at the gym, it mellows you down. So that it is simultaneously great for physical and mental recovery.
So there you have it. If you have not yet started, go to the nearest yoga center or enroll in a gym that offers yoga classes such as Gold’s Gym, Fitness First or Anytime Fitness. Yoga is good for your mind, body and soul.