Stretch to Strengthen: The Power of Yoga as Strength Training

Let's face it, for some, yoga has a reputation, albeit undeserved. Often, those new to fitness relegate yoga to the realm of airy mysticism and crowded studios where people are folded into pretzels, but yoga and its benefits actually have much to offer those who are looking to build muscle through and improve their overall health through strength training. Here's what you need to know about Yoga as a resistance workout.

Necessities

Maybe one of the best things about incorporating yoga practices into your workout plan is that it requires almost no additional equipment. To get started, all you really need is a relatively open space, a mat, workout appropriate clothes, and water. The simplicity of yoga is indeed one of its best attributes, making it easy to incorporate a yoga session before or after a strength workout.

All Yoga Is Not Created Equal

Contrary to popular belief, yoga does not refer to a specific series or set of stretch based exercises and movements. Rather, yoga can be considered a type of workout that is just as varied as both strength or cardio focused training. Each type of yoga practice has its own benefits, drawbacks, and, of course, intended uses. Among many others, some of the more popular schools of yoga include Hatha, a basic breathing focused method and Power, a quicker and more athletic and strength focused method. No matter the method, all yoga involves a high degree of body awareness and mindfulness that provide benefits of stretching and relaxation, two aspects that make it an especially appealing complement to a taxing strength workout.

Resistance

Considering its reputation as an exercise full of sighs, you may be wondering how, exactly, stretching through yoga can actually contribute to muscle building. While it is true that those who are further along in strength training may find it difficult to build muscle from yoga, the bodyweight resistance offered by many yoga poses is not to be discounted. For those new to fitness or those just exploring strength training for the first time, yoga, especially power-focused yoga, can offer an impactful workout that targets arms, core, and legs.

For those with more strength training experience, these same poses can offer helpful flexibility training. Also, the type of muscle fibers targeted by yoga make it a perfect pairing with more traditional strength workouts. Many strength workouts target fast twitch muscle fibers through quick movements and repetitions while yoga’s focus on tranquility involves slow twitch muscle fibers that engage while you are holding poses.

The Whole You

Apart from its power to build and tone muscle, yoga provides holistic benefits that are too great to be ignored. For all the hype, yoga really has been shown to have tangible benefits for one’s mental health. Meditative practices like yoga (a moving meditation) have been shown to reduce aggression, stress levels, and trigger a natural release of dopamine in the brain. It is important to remember that true fitness involves mental wellness alongside cardiovascular health and muscular strength. Yoga, either in a group gym setting or at home, can help raise your level of mental sustainability.

It's time to try something new. Whether you have never tried yoga before or have already experienced its tangible restorative power, incorporating it into your planned strength workouts can have lasting effects for both body and mind. *One quick note - while this article is about a more powerful/athletic based yoga practice, yoga comes in all variations. If you are looking for something less strenuous and way more relaxing, check out a restorative or yin class.*


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