Everywhere you go now you will hear of people doing yoga. But what exactly is it? And does someone who trains regularly already need to consider adding yoga into their exercise regime?
Yoga is an ancient Indian practice, combining breathing techniques, physical postures (asanas), and meditation. There are many different forms of yoga and which you choose will depend on what you want to get out of it.
Hatha and Yin yoga utilise slow movement and controlled breathing, holding postures for 5-10 minutes, and create a much more introspective and meditative state for the yogi. Personally I enjoy these slow forms of yoga as holding the poses for a long time allows you to really relax into the stretches. On the faster-paced side, Rocket and Ashtanga Vinyasa will really get your heart rate up and give your muscles a tough workout. In Rocket yoga, posts are often held for just 2-3 breaths! This means you’re literally moving almost all the time!
Yoga has benefits which extend beyond the yoga mat and are fantastic for everyone, particularly those who are lifting weights or training regularly.
Strength training (and the often accompanying Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness - DOMS) can drastically reduce range of movement due to people not performing exercises with a full range of motion and the chasing of bigger (hypertrophied) muscles. Many people notice that their flexibility decreases if they are undertaking heavy strength training without sufficient stretching and mobility work, but performed properly yoga speeds up recovery due to enhanced blood flow to the areas being stretched and also improves balance and coordination as many of the poses themselves take practice getting into!
Yoga provides a concentrated stretch of the whole body, reducing muscle tension and stimulating blood flow. Regular yoga practice can help to restore posture and range of movement to tight muscle bound individuals. As we age, our range of motion decreases purely because we don’t put our bodies into certain positions and as such, over time, we find that we actually can’t attain those positions any more. Another advantage of yoga is the strength gained from performing isometric contractions needed to hold poses, think handstands or arm balances. Those who train for strength will find yoga a great compliment to their training, as many of the poses place a huge demand on the core muscles. It is essentially calisthenics training, learning to lift, manoeuvre and control your own body.
Finally, a huge part of yoga is focused not on the body but on the mind and one’s mental well-being. ‘Pratyahara’ or withdrawal of the senses is the 5th of the 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga which simply means ‘to remove the distractions and focus on one thing’. This focused attention can be used by strength training individuals to increase their potential and personal records. By focusing on the task ahead, eliminating distractions and visualising the movement, the lifter is able to put their full attention into an exercise and achieve the goal.
This idea of mental focus and fortitude leads on to the practice of ‘dhyana’ or meditation which is an extended state of focus. Meditation is known to help reduce stress, improve breathing, promote weight loss and improve mindfulness. Those who struggle to sleep or find themselves distracted in the mid-afternoon could benefit from dedicated meditation practice. By taking time to clear the mind, an individual will have a clearer, more relaxed view of their world and will be better able to deal with the stressors they encounter.
Yoga is a well-rounded practice which helps to restore the balance of the body. Due to its many forms, everyone will find a style of yoga that benefits them. When trying a yoga class, remember to be open minded to the experience and just go with the flow. Every style of class and every teacher are different, so try various styles until you find something that works for you!
Yoga is a fantastic compliment to strength training and I highly recommend it to my clients, friends and family. I have seen first-hand the positive benefits it can bring people, including those that argued and maintained that yoga would do nothing positive for them!
We are proud to announce that we are offering our first ever Yoga Workshop called 'Improve Your Yoga!' on the 1st April 2016. It is strictly limited to just 10 people and slots are selling fast!
How about you? Are you an aspiring yogi? What styles are your favourite? What do you feel yoga offers YOU?