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Yoga for Strength Training

A new trend in yoga land are yoga classes that utilize free weights (up to five pounds) paired with repetitious exercises — exercises inspired by traditional yoga asana. You are in a yoga studio, on a yoga mat, but when do these types of hybrid classes separate themselves away from traditional yoga to the point where it can’t really be considered "yoga" anymore?

Free weights and repetition sounds like the gym and it sounds like Pilates. Both of which we love, but definitely doesn’t seem like "yoga". Hybrid free-weight/yoga classes like "Yoga with Weights: The Baptiste Method" claim that the use of weights as a prop actually helps facilitate a better yoga practice. "The weights stabilize your body and encourage you to feel the action of the yoga practice itself," their website claims. Is yoga for weight or strength training actually yoga or something completely separate?

My conclusion is that it doesn’t really matter: if it helps you build strength and become a better athlete, I say call it whatever you want! Athletes have known of the body-strengthening, endurance-building benefits of yoga for years but only recently has it gone public. Yoga has become such a popular factor in training purposes, that professional basketball, baseball, and football players (as well as runners and other sport fans) have recently been integrating faster styles of yoga into their training regimens. This year’s Super Bowl winners, the Seattle Seahawks, publically announced that yoga and meditation were both an integral part to their pre-season training.

If you are a runner, tennis player, crossfit fanatic, or any other type of athlete, you must understand that yoga can help you improve performance and take your fitness to a whole new level. Here are a few ways how:

  • A sweaty yoga class (vinyasa, power yoga, hot yoga, and ashtanga) will not only burn a ton of calories, it is like combining a treadmill, elliptical, an hour of weight lifting and a relaxing sauna session all in one streamlined fitness class.
  • Many athletes, myself included, have a difficult time concentrating. Yoga improves concentration, which is especially important if you participate in team sports. Your mind is sharper and your body reacts quicker during the game.
  • Endurance. Yoga classes are rarely shorter than 60 minutes; most are 60 or 90 minutes. When you are working your entire body for that long repeatedly, your body becomes accustomed to a longer exertion time. After a few months of yoga, you will find yourself easily able to run, work, and exercise easier and for longer durations.
  • Yoga will help you build core stability and balance. This will help keep you on your feet on the soccer field — dribbling past the opposing team; or, if you are a bodybuilder, you will access and develop core muscles that typically get skipped over during regular weight training.
  • What machine at the gym will help you develop full range of motion and flexibility like a healthy dose of yoga? Nothing. Slow-paced classes allow you to devote one full hour on a part of strength training that is commonly overlooked or skipped over: stretching. Hot yoga and Bikram help you stretch extra deep, because the heat enables deeper stretching. If you focus on stretching and being able to move the body in all possible directions with effectiveness, you will be able to do push-ups, deep squats, etc. safely and more accurately. Plus, you will have more time to concentrate on cardio and weightlifting.

For peak performance, integrate yoga into your typical gym routine. Are you an athlete turned part-time yogi? What sparked your interest and what have you gotten out of yoga practice?

By: Amber Jennings (G+)

Bonnie Bojanna Date 4/16/2014
Thank you so much, You are right. I strength train every time I hit the gym after cardio (pretty much every day). I tried a yoga class after reading this and you are right! I am sore in places I had never been sore before. More muscles were accessed and it worked! Now I'm going to replace one day in the gym with one of those sweaty, cardio types of yoga. Any suggestions? I don't want to do Bikram yet.
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