Friday, May 4, 2012

A yogi going to the gym and lifting weight? NO WAY!?

I was super siked when I got this months Yoga Journal magazine and saw an entire article talking about the importance that strength training can have in your yoga practice.  They had some great info from yoga instructor Amy Ippoliti who talked about how adding cross-training into her life and even hiring a personal trainer (gasp.) helped heal her of some injuries and aided in her yoga practice.  She always thought that yoga was the cure-all for everything she now is a firm believer in being open to other modalities when it serves her.

I have come to really see the benefits of both strength training and yoga together in balance.  To quote Amy "I'm always looking for integrated flexibility.  I think that flexibility without strength is out of balance, and strength without flexibility is, too."

I have seen many people who are naturally flexible with very little muscular strength, and we tend to look at these people as "naturals" in the yoga world, however they are the ones who are more prone to injury because they are at the point of being hypermobile.  They need to find strength and awareness of their body.  They are the ones who tend to sink into their joints and over time can cause injury and pain.  I have known people personally who were hypermobile and pushed their limits and actually needed to take a break from yoga and were forced to get cortisone shots in their hips to deal with the pain of over stretching.  I have also known women who were too afraid of lifting weights and only wanted to do yoga and when forced to lift anything over maybe 10 pounds they would injure themselves.  Now this is not very helpful in everyday life.  We need to have strength to prevent injury and not be incapable of everyday tasks that may require lifting, pulling, pushing, carrying etc.

On the other hand, you can be too focused on strength training and become immobile.  I have seen this too.  No hip mobility will limit your depth in a squat.  Tight hamstrings may throw off your posture for a deadlift.  Tight shoulders will limit your overhead mobility in a press.  You can also be prone to injury if you are constantly strength training and never letting your muscles stretch.  Things get tight, start to pull and can cause pain :(

If you are a hardcore yogi who is scared to death of the gym or lifting weights focus on brining the body awareness you have from your yoga practice into your strength training.  Use you breath, inhales and exhales as you lift.  As you gain strength notice you become more powerful in your chaturangas, find more stamina in your standing poses, gain strength in your core and legs to help maintain intelligent alignment, become stronger in your lift off and enjoy those arm balances.

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