The long list of yoga benefits is quite familiar to those who practice regularly. Lower stress levels and an increased sense of well being are high on the list. Practicing yoga regularly also enhances flexibility, tones the muscles, and brings improved balance and coordination. The immune system is enhanced, as is a sense of harmony in the body, mind and spirit.
Certain poses assist with building both core strength and general muscular strength. Posture and balance are also improved as core strength increases. However, many yogis and yoginis report benefits from using a cross-training approach with their practice.
That’s where weight training comes in. Weight training can help to take your yoga experience and results to new places. The following are some of the top benefits of weight training for those who already practice yoga:
Better Yoga Form. Weight training bolsters the structure and framework of the body. This makes even the most difficult asanas easier to perform correctly so that you can enjoy maximum benefit.
Lowered Risk of Injury. Increased joint and muscle strength means the body is stronger generally and less prone to pulls, sprains and strains.
A Healthier Physique. Studies have shown that strength training is more helpful for toning the muscles and burning fat than just about any other exercise type. Weight training allows you to get that toned “yoga body” faster, and maintain it more easily.
Fights the Aging Process. Lack of exercise affects people as they age, with muscle and bone density levels starting to decline by age 40. While yoga has some toning benefits, weight training supports both healthy bones and retaining muscle mass.
Yoga and Weight Training are Complementary. Weight training and yoga benefit one another, resulting in exponential health benefits for practitioners. The balance and inner peace of yoga can make weight trainers more self-aware and focused in the gym, and this enhances both the weight training session and its results.
Vinyasa breathing principles can also enhance weight lifting, as you inhale during exertion and exhale mindfully while releasing a rep. By doing both yoga and weight training, an optimal balance of strength and flexibility can be achieved.
The following is a sample weight training program that can help to enhance your yoga practice:
Lunges for Standing Poses
Build lower body strength for those standing poses with leg lunges. Hold a set of light to moderate dumbbells or kettle bells and extend one leg forward. Lunge downward then upward, ensuring that the knee does not track past the foot. Repeat for 10 to 15 reps, then train the other leg. Do a total of 3 to 4 sets per leg.
Arms and Upper Body: Shoulder Presses
Sitting in an upright bench with back support, press a set of free weight dumbbells upward in an arc until they touch, feeling the effects in your shoulders, then lower them; repeat for 10 to 15 reps, and do a total of 3 to 4 sets. Start with lighter weights and higher reps to really feel the burn.
A Stronger Back with Leaning Rows
With one free weight in your right hand, lean on a bench with your left hand and knee. Row the weight in your right hand back and up slowly, bending at the elbow, then slowly forward. Repeat 10 to 12 times, then work the other arm. Do a total of 3 to 4 sets per arm.
Planks for Core and Arm Strength
You can augment your weight training practice by using your own body weight. Get into the plank position and hold your body up until you feel the burn; then lower yourself slowly to the floor. Repeat 3 to 4 times. Planks are an excellent exercise for bridging the gap between weight training and yoga.
The combination of weight training and yoga is an extremely potent one. Balancing the ease, gentleness and inner peace of yoga with a core of structural and muscular strength brings a state of holistic health. If you’d like to take your well being, physical fitness and yoga practice to the next level, consider doing weight training two to three days per week.