I remember vividly attending my very first yoga class at the awesome Flow Yoga Studios some 3 years ago under the somewhat naive notion that all the soreness & ailments I was experiencing from lifting weights for 15 years could be cured by what I perceived as this mild & soothing form of exercise. Maybe like many non-yogis, I figured that yoga was for stretching, and the gym was for strength. I figured I'd give this yoga malarky a few weeks, learn a few stretches, bring a little #flexiback and be on my way, simple right?
Within the first 10 minutes of the class I was forced to eat a big slice of humble pie, and accept that the stretching and mobility work I'd neglected in favour of the ever elusive "pump", meant that I was finding this 'yoga malarky' more challenging than just about any workout in the last 15 years.
Combined with the fact that the lady to my right (& in fact many of the people in the room), comfortably decades my senior and completing the "Asanas" or poses with a level of grace that my rigid Robocop-esque frame couldn't even comprehend, I was blown away, and a new passion was born...
That first practice, the many hundreds of practices since then, as well as the principles on which a balanced yoga practice are based, (I read the books & have now trained to be a yoga teacher so I'm fast forwarding here a little 🏃🏼), have caused me to completely re-evaluate how I structure and complete my strength training habits around my now almost daily yoga practice.
The following is a list of some of the habits I've formed, and ways that I think a balanced yoga practice can provide a safe, complementary, and perhaps more effective workout in the gym.
Feel free to give them a try and let me know what you think 👍
- Start. Middle. End. Like any good joke or story, make sure you plan your workouts to include a balanced warm up, main session & cool down. If you feel that the workout may be interrupted or cut short, it's much better to plan a shorter, well balanced routine, than leave at the peak of your session neglecting the need for adequate recovery, correct technique & stretching.
- Change it up. There's nothing wrong with routine, but if you find yourself repeating the same familiar exercises time & time again, your attention span can disappear and a lack of focus can cause decreased muscle contraction and increased likelihood of injury. Always try to seek out, explore and practice new and challenging exercises to keep you on your toes.
- Quality over Quantity. It's not just the exercise itself that makes it a success, it's your dedication to exploring & understanding how that exercise feels in your body. Contracting the right muscles, knowing when to relax, and understanding a breathing pattern that complements the movement are all key to success.
- Back in the room. Are you wondering why your workouts feel less effective than they used to, or maybe you're struggling to see results? Ask yourself some questions, before blaming equipment, the environment, or the people around you. Are you fully attentive to the exercise you are completing, or are external stresses & wandering thoughts shifting your focus? Are you too busy on social media? Be present with the task at hand, understand it, complete it & reap the rewards.
- Breathe & Stop. Use your breath as a guide to explore how each exercise feels in your body & complete the exercise until breathing becomes compromised. Breath can become a point of focus with which to block any negative external or internal barriers to completing the exercise. Rather than struggling with your breath with diminished returns, focus on it, and use it to assess when enough is enough.
- Workout for everyday. In each workout, give consideration to exercises that enable you to meet the demands of your everyday life with greater ease. Standing, sitting & lying for long periods of time are common at work & rest, and so a balanced programme should give consideration to how we will carry out these tasks with ease, and without pain.
In deciding to attend this yoga class for the first time, I expected to gain all the tools necessary to heal my body so that I could return to my "never give up" attitude in the gym & life in general. In reality what I have gained the most is the mental strength & confidence to understand my bodies needs, and learn when to let go, in the gym, and more importantly, in everyday life.
It would seem obvious now that I recommend that if you are struggling to see results in the gym, are tired of feeling the strain of lifting a little too heavy or are have perhaps grown tired of the daily gym grind then you really should give yoga in any of its wonderful forms a try.
If, like me a few years ago, you are a guy who just can't picture themselves in a yoga studio or may be overwhelmed with where to start, I may have just the idea for you. 🤔
So stay tuned!