Strength is important to maintaining your health – Strength training has the ability to combat weakness, fragility and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. So, many might just ask the question, why not just weight train then? Simple. Weight training exercises typically isolate and flex one muscle or muscle group at a time. Yoga for strength is what I like to call a “compound fitness regimen”; They are poses that incorporate breathe with movement and focus on stretching and strengthening your muscles while improving balance and flexibility overall. It also helps to greatly increase endurance as you hold poses for a period of time and move slowly through the poses. It can be used as a stand a lone or in conjunction with other fitness regimens to improve overall health and become much stronger and help prevent risks for injury.
In the following article, I am going to touch on some of the most common myths of yoga, the benefits of yoga, key points to yoga and specific poses that are perfect for strength training or implementing into your current strength training routine. Please remember to always consult your physician before starting any new exercise routine and to listen to your body! Discomfort is good – pain is bad.
*Yoga is a religion – The word “Yoga” refers to the whole, a complete system, not merely one part, i.e.,postures, or “Asanas”. According to the ancient sages, the entire purpose of Yoga is spiritual in nature and it does have religious aspects in its deep roots. However, over the recent years the benefits of yoga as a fitness regimen has become very prevalent and it is being used more and more by people of many different religions and walks of life to improve their health. You do not have to recite chants and mantras to use yoga! There are programs where you do not have to follow the religious aspects of yoga. One of my favorites in The
*Yoga is just for balance and flexibility – While yoga is great for improving balance and flexibility, it is also known to greatly improve strength, focus, endurance and posture. I can attest to this myself!
*Yoga is just for women – Doing something called “downward dog” may not sound appealing to most men and women have dominated the yoga enterprise since it has become popular in fitness; However, I am here to tell you that yoga is a great addition to any mans fitness regimen and I promise, you will only appeal to women even more! And you do NOT have to be flexible to perform yoga or reap its benefits. So, what are you waiting for?
*Yoga is just for the young – Exercise is absolutely essential for the body as you age, and if done properly, it can help keep you fit and healthy. Regular exercise can help reduce stiffness, increase strength and improve energy levels and helps reverses the signs of aging. Whether you are healthy or fighting an illness, exercising can make you fit, boost your mood and enhance your memory. While there are a variety of intensity levels, older people need not do very elaborate exercises. The regimen can be as simple as a set of stretching, endurance and balance exercises.
BENEFITS OF YOGA
- Improves flexibility
- Builds muscle strength
- Helps to improve and promote good posture by promoting spinal health
- Strengthens bones and prevents cartilage and joint breakdown
- Promotes healthy spinal fluid exchange for spinal health with twists and bends
- Increases blood flow and ups your heart rate
- Drains lymph nodes and boosts immunity through specific poses
- Help to lower your blood pressure
- Regulates your adrenal glands by helping to lower cortisol levels
- Increases serotonin release – decreasing stress
- Lowers blood sugar and “LDL” (bad cholesterol) while increasing good cholesterol
- Helps you focus by being mindful of the poses and your movements
- Improves balance by activating uncommonly used muscle and muscle fibers
- Improves endurance by holding poses and moving slowly through poses
- Promotes better breathing by focusing on taking deep, controlled breaths
- Improves gut health and helps aid in bowel movements with twisting poses
- Helps to ease pain and stiffness
TOP YOGA TIPS
*Focus on the pose and doing it correctly – this will help properly engage muscles and make the poses much more effective.
*Perform all poses in a slow, controlled movement linked with your breathe – this causes stress relief and focus while improving balance and strength.
*Engage your core at all times – to help protect your back during the poses and increase core strength.
*Breathe – remember to breathe! And to breathe slowly and consciously. One of the things I love most about Yoga is focusing on your breathing while doing the poses – both to make the poses more effective and to better provide your body with the needed oxygen to perform your best.
*Keep your back flat – by reaching your tailbone downward, you make your lower back flat and protect it from injury.
*Be mindful of muscle activation – focus on contracting every muscle.
*Use yoga accessories to enhance your yoga experience and training – things like yoga straps can help you stretch better especially if you lack flexibility; Yoga blocks can make poses easier; Yoga wheels can make poses harder; Yoga Mats provide comfort and grip during your workout.
*Go barefoot! “Improving positional awareness through barefoot training can protect your body by decreasing the chances of developing a lower extremity injury and at the same time improve your muscle strength and athletic performance. Our gifted feet provide a wealth of information about joint positions, muscle tension and most importantly the ground.” (Dr. John Rusin). If you are doing yoga outside of your home, in a public area, I recommend barefoot toe shoes to protect against germs while getting the barefoot benefits.
*Use poses that focus on muscle engagement – “power yoga” or “ashtana” as it’s called have a lot of these poses. A lot of them have modern strength training pose names even; Chair pose is also more commonly known as a static squat hold for example.
YOGA STRENGTH POSES
Well here it is! The moment you’ve been waiting for. These are poses focused on building strength. Feel free to make your own routine! Remember, your body get’s used to a routine after 4-6 weeks – so be sure to switch it up often to get the max benefits from your fitness regimen!
THE TAKE AWAY
Yoga is great for everyone and is a perfect addition to your strength training! One of my favorite DVD series is the Body By Yoga series – specifically the Yoga Strong DVD. This is a great yoga DVD for beginners and advanced yoga practitioners alike with excellent work out flows focused on poses for strength. It has a total body work out, an upper body work out and a lower body work out so if you prefer total body or if you like to split train there is an option for both :). Other great DVDs of his to check out is Yoga Edge (great for athletes) and Yoga Boost (great for beginners and for weight loss). Dean Pohlman is the instructor and I love him because he doesn’t have the chants and mantras and chimes – he focuses on the poses and working you through them effectively to get an awesome work out. He also doesn’t edit his mistakes which is really genuine and organic. And when you buy his dvd, you get access to lots of bonus yoga work outs on his website that range from 10-30 minutes and have focuses like yoga for weight trainers, desk jockey’s and more. Check him out and I hope you reap the benefits of Yoga just as I have.