You know that deep yogi stretches are great to loosen muscles after strength training. But did you know that strength training is equally as good for you yoga practice?
We often believe that the thing standing between us and the most impressive of yoga postures is our limited flexibility. And while not being able to touch your toes in a halfway pose can often be a result of tight hamstrings, there’s more to your practice than just having extra stretchy limbs.
In fact, the problem often comes down to lacking the strength to hold the pose. That’s why strength training is so important for yogis.
That might sound counterintuitive, given that we associate strength training with building bigger and, often, tighter muscles. But the vision of the huge bodybuilder who can’t touch his toes is misinformed – getting strong can actually power up your practice.
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The benefits of strength training on your yoga practice
“Strength training and yoga really complement each other,” says Emma Obayuvana, trainer from the Strong Women Training Club and mobility expert. “In fact, strength training plugs the holes that yoga creates.”
These holes are the increased flexibility that often comes without stability. Found yourself wobbling around in a triangle pose? By focusing on building a strong core – the foundation of a stable body – you’ll probably be able to hold for longer.
But flexibility without strength can be potentially dangerous. “Too much flexibility without the joint and tissue strength to stabilise that can be at risk of things like strains, tears and ligament damage, or at the extreme, even joint dislocation,” says Emma.
For that reason, we need to be strong to make our yoga safe. Scoffing at the idea of ever being over flexible? That doesn’t mean ignoring strength training. Having muscles that are active and engaged helps prevent injury in all of us. For example, strong glutes that can stabilise the pelvis and spine make backbends safer.
Strength training also just makes us more aware of how to switch on and use our muscles in the safest way. Learning the fundamentals of how to engage your muscles for the safest practice – like how to use your glutes and core – is great news for the best flow.
Then there’s the simple fact that you need to be damn strong to hold your body in deep yoga poses. In fact, many poses in yoga are similar to that of strength training: malasana is a deep squat, ashta chandrasana is a lunge, phalakasana is a plank.
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“To work through chaturanga – moving from downward dog through a press up, into an upwards dog and back again, you need a strong back, shoulders and chest. You can build that with chest presses, shoulder presses and pull ups in the gym. To be able to stand in warrior pose, you need quads of steel – haven’t you felt that burn before?” asks Emma.
“As well as these individual muscles, we need explosive power to get in and out of the flows, while you also need muscular endurance to be able to hold a pose for a long time,” she adds.
So think again if you believe you’re either into weights or into yoga. And if you’re sold on the idea of building full-body strength to make your practice even better, then sign up to the Strong Women Training Club to join our Strength Training For Yogis course – with one new video dropping each week focused on building the strength your body needs to finally nail all the tricky poses.
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