Benefits of combining yoga and weight training

Benefits of combining yoga and weight training

When we think of fitness, weights and endurance usually come to mind. Individuals who attend yoga classes are most of the time thought of as spiritual, zen minded people. In reality, the array of practices allows yoga to be as intense and tough as weight training, the same way working on our muscles can be done at different stages to either acquire a larger volume of muscles or define and tone.

With that in mind, if we enjoy both yoga and weight training, is it possible to combine both? If so, how to structure a weekly routine with both disciplines without harming our bodies?

The right type of yoga

Most of us are familiar with the different types of movements of a free weight session but trying to differentiate the intentions of each yoga types can be overwhelming. If we want to incorporate yoga in our weekly routine it might be worth testing them out before committing to one. Some yoga studios have offers which are convenient to spend a week trying different classes.

Power yoga and Vinyasa are more vigorous and dynamic then Hatha for instance, which is restorative. The key is to understand the effect of the practice on muscle activation and nervous system demand.

Ideally, we want to combine weight training with a lighter yoga session in order to give a chance to our muscles to recover and our nervous system to decompress.

Body parts in weight training

Once we understand how the different versions of yoga interact with our muscles then we can appropriately plan the weight training part. We want to hit all the body and not just focus on one part to prevent imbalances which are cause chronic injuries.

Weight training doesn’t necessarily means using free weights at the gym. It can take the form of boot camp, CrossFit, boxing, TRX etc. In these cases, we don’t have to worry about drawing up a programme for ourselves and we can be certain that all body parts are covered.

Muscle recovery

Muscles must naturally tear and recover to grow. There are no other ways, which means that during this lapse of time, low activity is required. In order to counter balance the previous workout during which we excessively pulled and pushed, we need to keep blood flow circulation active, feed our bodies with appropriate nutrients and make sure we get plenty of quality sleep.

This is the reason why choosing the right type of yoga after strength training is vital. We don’t want to overwork muscles but we don’t want to stand still either. Movement is paramount when it comes to establish a healthy fitness routine. We don’t cease activity once we are out of the gym, we keep on maintaining good posture and constant motion throughout the day.

Nervous system recovery

A simple definition of the autonomic nervous system is “regulates certain body processes, such as blood pressure and the rate of breathing. This system works automatically (autonomously), without a person’s conscious effort.” The autonomic nervous system has two main divisions: sympathetic and parasympathetic.

During an intense workout, the sympathetic system excites the body for a “fight mode” state whereas the parasympathetic system inhibits, when we digest for example. We want to balance these two systems to enhance our performances throughout the day, and not only at the gym. If we are constantly on alert, we take the risk to eventually burn out both physically and emotionally in the long run.

For this reason, we tend not to plan too demanding training sessions back to back but rather alternate between “heavy” and “light” types of exercises.

Yoga and weight training in a week

Scheduling workouts throughout the week depends not only on how busy we are during the day. Alternating heavy, light trainings and recovery also plays a part. We might do the “heavy” training in blocks for instance Mondays and Tuesdays immediately followed by two days of light recovery yoga and so on until the remaining of the week. We can also alternate, one day weight, the other day yoga with one full rest day in the middle of the week.

Another option is to incorporate two workouts per day. For instance, Monday-Tuesday, weight training in the morning and yoga in the afternoon, followed by a complete rest day on Wednesday and another one on Sunday.

If there are no rules as to schedule weekly workouts, a guideline which is crucial is to adapt. If our bodies are fine but we feel like we have become irritated, particularly more emotional than when we were before starting out this new lifestyle then maybe we need to switch things up. One solution might work for someone else, but not necessarily for us. We are unique and adaptation is the master rule when it comes to a healthy lifestyle!

Tamara Akcay

Tamara is a journalist based in London. She is a specialist in fitness, writing specifically on the topic of CrossFit.

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