Many students ask me if practicing yoga is enough to get in and stay in shape. Just like everything, it depends. I personally cannot maintain my yoga practice without strength training. If I don’t strength train, I tend to become injured from my yoga practice. This may not be the case for each person, but cross training has many benefits for all.
Practicing yoga tends to include a lot of repetitive movement. This can lead to repetitive movement injuries as well as muscle imbalances. If we do the same practice over and over we may be building strength, but we are also probably neglecting some muscles. For instance, we tend to stretch our hamstrings a lot in yoga, but often neglect to stretch the quads. We also tend to use our pushing muscles in yoga in poses like plank and downward facing dog, but what about the pulling muscles? Since we use the pushing muscles so much more that the pulling muscles in yoga, we often create muscle imbalances in the shoulders. The good news is that these imbalances can be corrected with well planned stretching and strength training.
Part of a well rounded fitness plan is cardiovascular work. For the most part, yoga just doesn’t get the heart rate high enough long enough to be an effective cardio workout. Of course, I am sure there are some classes that are the exception to this, but in general, yoga is not considered a cardiovascular workout.
Actually, yoga is not a workout at all! Yoga is a spiritual practice with some of the same benefits of an exercise program. Don’t confuse the two. Yes, we move our body in yoga but not to lose weight or gain muscle. We move our body to increase Prana (life force) or to create a particular energetic effect. It is awesome to keep yoga and exercise separate. When you honor the reality that yoga is a spiritual practice, you can let go of your desire to workout, your need to be on the go all of the time, and your competitiveness for the time you are practicing. You end up calming the body and mind and finding stillness that typically isn’t found while pumping iron, and become part of a community of like minded people.
The cross training yogi gets the best of both worlds. The spiritual practice that brings peace and balance, and the exercise routine that builds strength, increases flexibility, and reduces the chance of injury. If you are interested in cross training to compliment your yoga practice, contact a Certified Personal Trainer who is also a Registered Yoga Teacher. They will have the expertise to help you meet your goals.