I've always had a fast metabolism.
The kind that's always kept me skinny no matter what. And it’s not the lean kind of skinny; it’s the lose-muscle-and-get-stick-like-arms kind of skinny. As a guy, I hated this build and hated it even more when people told me what a blessing my metabolism was.
This meant that the day I discovered strength training, it became my best friend. But growing up in India, I was also introduced to yoga early and always enjoyed practicing it.
Initially, I thought that the two wouldn’t go together and always ended up choosing one over the other. Over the past year, I've realized that not only do they go together, but they also complement each other perfectly. Below are five benefits I have experienced by combining the two:
1. Strength and flexibility
Although yoga is great at building natural strength, for someone looking to put muscle on, strength training is the way to go. In my case, it has only improved my yoga poses. Similarly, for those who put on weight easily and are looking to slim down, yoga is one of the best ways to tone your muscles and develop flexibility.
2. Explosiveness and endurance
If you do full-body compound lifts at the gym, and lift weights explosively like you're supposed to, you activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers. This helps you develop power and speed. In yoga, by doing the movements slowly and holding poses for a while, you activate slow-twitch muscle fibers, which builds endurance. It's useful to maintain a balance between both these types of muscle fibers, and doing a hybrid training routine enables this.
3. Controlled aggression and relaxation
One of the things about a good strength-training program that makes use of progressive loading is that you need to get psyched up before each workout. This is because you're lifting heavier weights each time, which helps develop controlled aggression. In yoga, when done right, even if you're doing challenging poses which causes you to sweat, you feel completely relaxed at the end. This helps get rid of unwanted stress.
4. Workout of the mind, body and soul
I've tried lots of sports and physical activities, but none of them can match the way I feel calm and peaceful after a yoga workout. The primary reason I do yoga and not just any other exercise is because of the way it nourishes the mind and helps you listen to that quiet voice inside your head, aka your soul. Yoga has also helped me stay awake throughout the day without coffee, increased my self-confidence and helped get rid of my back pain.
5. Better muscle shape
One of the things about strength training is that it builds more visually pleasing muscles, especially for skinnier people like myself. One could also argue that back in the day, when yoga was developed, people had to lift and walk more in their day-to-day lives than the typical modern person, which helped them get some of its benefits indirectly. Strength training also provides a metabolism boost, which helps with weight loss, increases bone density and helps maintain joint flexibility.
How You Can Get Started
There are some things to keep in mind before you can dive in and get started.
First of all, if you're new to both yoga and strength training, then I would recommend that you spend a couple of months on one and establish a solid foundation before incorporating the other into your routine.
Second, I strongly recommend you do full-body compound movements (squats, dead lifts, etc.) and body weight exercises (pullups, dips, etc.) at the gym. The reason I recommend this is because these exercises, along with yoga, develop your physique uniformly without causing muscle imbalances. Muscle imbalance is one of the main causes of injuries.
Third, when it comes to yoga, I recommend that you do an authentic style of yoga, such as Iyengar or Ashtanga Yoga. Although I can`t judge Hot Yoga because I`ve never tried it, the reason I recommend this is because you want to make sure that you get the emotional and psychological benefits of yoga rather than just a physical workout.
Last, experiment with how you combine the two. Each person has a different body type, goal, recovery time, time constraints, etc. What worked for me may not work for you. And maybe a combination of the two isn`t for you after all. Gradually implement the other into your routine and see how your body reacts to it.
So what are you waiting for? Incorporate both these amazing exercises into your routine and get the best of both worlds!