When I started to exercise seriously (as in to get fitter and healthier, not just overdo the cardio to become skinny) I didn’t give yoga much thought. I considered myself hardcore, I wanted to sweat and push myself, and I didn’t think that Yoga could help me to reach my “beastly” and loafty goals. It looked too slow-paced. As I began to look into the Yoga studio at my gym during a class, I did become intrigued and wondered if this type of exercise would be right for me. I’m glad I decided to give Yoga a try. My first class was with Tenille Chen-Williams, a master instructor in Kundalini Yoga. I found the class both challenging, and relaxing as she ended the session with chanting that created a vibration from our voices or blissful affirmations.
Yoga has helped me in so many ways, in strength, balance, breathing, agility, resilience and yes, with calmness and relaxation too. You see, all these factors will only help with your other types of cross training activities. It all fits together for optimum and complete fitness.
Yoga is challenging, and it takes times to build flexibility and strength to master the poses. I still have a lot to learn in my practice, but the benefits so far have been amazing.
1. Yoga helps me with my breathing. Kundalini Yoga focuses on proper breathing techniques and breathing from the diaphram to find strength. This ties in perfectly with weight training, where you need to exhale on the positive (push or pull) and inhale on the negative (back to starting point.) Proper breathing from the diaphram has also helped me with my running and other high impact cardio activities.
2. It has helped me build a strong core and lower back. I can now hold a 2 minute 15 second plank by focusing on some vital tips from Yoga. You cannot do push-ups, pull-ups or any other push/ pulll weight training move effectively with a weak midsection and lower back. Swinging your back in bicep curls, overhead presses or any other weight training move will only set you up for injury. The core is like the body’s foundation. Without a strong foundation, I discovered through Yoga, the body will eventually crumble from poor form and posture.
3. Yoga has also helped me become stronger overall. Holding poses with the arms upward and strong without sagging in the Warrior 2 or using my shoulder muscles in Downward Dog has helped immensely various upper body exercises as well as squats and lunges. Holding poses until your muscles shake builds resilience.
4. Yoga has helped me stretch those tight, sore muscles. Nothing feels better than a happy baby pose, runner’s lunge or cat stretch relieve tightness and help me to lift another day.
5. Practice has helped me strengthen my child-sized wrists. Since doing full arm planks, downward dogs my wrists have become much stronger and resilient. This is so very helpful with lifting heavy and keeping a nutural wrist position.
Yoga can be intense as you make it. Trust me, if you hold boat post, warrior 3 for an extended period or do fifty Kundalini frog squats, you are going to get a hard workout and your body will feel the intensity. Like any form of exercise it takes practice and consistency.
Do you practice a form of Yoga? How has it helped in your training/lifestyle?