I first discovered yoga as a way of stretching off after long runs and weight training sessions. I started to realise just how beneficial it was to practice alongside my training. This sparked my interest around why yoga was such a compliment to my training, so I began to deepen my practice and study the anatomy of yoga. I loved it so much that a few years later I enrolled in a 200 hour Ashtanga Vinyasa training course.
Over the years I have learned a few important lessons and I wanted to share the four reasons why I think yoga and fitness training are the perfect pair. Whether you are an olympic lifter, cardio lover or a weekend walker, hopefully you will find something useful!
1. Breath awareness
The synchronisation of movement and breath within yoga has helped me become more aware of my breath, both on and off the yoga mat.
When we do long distance running and cardio workouts (eg. high intensity interval training), the rate of and depth of our breath increases. This makes it hard to continue moving and sometimes we end up hitting the wall. Having that added awareness means I am able to focus and take control of my breath, which makes it easier to carry on and keep moving!
Breath awareness is also key when it comes to weight lifting; having the correct breath technique can help us lift heavier!
2. Flexibility and mobility
Yoga is a fabulous way of increasing and maintaining mobility and flexibility, and this is something I have found particularly useful when training.
Hamstring mobility is key when picking anything heavy off the floor, for example, deadlifts. If we have tight hamstrings it’s easy to compensate by loading up the lower back, which can cause lower back pain. Hip and ankle mobility is something that we need to be able to squat deeper and heavier, and finally thoracic spine mobility is so beneficial for pushing heavy things overhead, handstanding, and believe it or not, running (as we rotate our upper body from left to right as we run).
3. Functional strength gains
I like to incorporate a combination of strength training alongside my yoga practice, but yoga is a really great way of building strength. Most of the dynamic classes like Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow contain a wonderful combination of isometric, eccentric and concentric contractions (and this is why post-yoga ache is a thing!).
We work with isometric contractions when we hold poses, for example holding Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2) and Phalakasana (high plank). The concentric and eccentric contractions happen when we lengthen the muscles (eccentric) and contract the muscles (concentric) whilst under tension, for example, when we move from one asana to the next.
This way of building strength has proved to be very beneficial for me, especially when lifting weights. Yoga has been a fabulous way of developing core strength, and I find that I have better posture, more control over my body and find it easier to lift heavier weights, with less risk of injury!
Not only physical recovery, but mentally too. Yoga has proved to me that it is okay to slow things down and let your body rest. Cross-training, running and cycling are high intensity and very demanding of the body. Yoga has been a great way for me to stretch off any tight muscles, and get a well deserved rest!
About the Author: Lorna Fraser has been teaching for Heather Yoga for about two months and already so many students are sending us such lovely feedback about her classes with requests to see her more on our timetable. You can practice with Lorna every Thursday at 5.15pm and this week she is also covering Feel Good Flow on Friday 17th July at 5.15pm. To practice with Lorna please click here.
In my yoga classes you will find yoga poses and asanas weaved in with functional movements from my experience in weight training. We will work on our strength, mobility, flexibility and balance and my aim is for you to leave the class feeling energised, challenged and relaxed.