“You’re a yoga instructor, why do you also lift weights?”
This is common when I share with others that I have a personal trainer and that I lift weights. Most times, it’s delivered with a look and voice of surprise too.
There seems to be an idea that yoga and lifting weights are exclusive to each other; that by being a yogi, we can’t lift weights and conversely, by being a gym bunny, we can’t be yogis.
However, I’ve found that they complement each very well. Below, I provide reasons that I’ve derived from my own experience of mixing up my weekly fitness regime with yoga and weight training.
1. Yoga complements all activities.
Yoga poses builds strength & flexibility in all our muscles, which helps us in many other sporting activities. Yoga also provides the much needed stretch for our muscles, after we’ve done any physical exercises; this keeps our muscles supple and reduces build up of tension in them.
My previous post on Why You Should Yoga provides three broad reasons for this.
2. Lifting weights builds muscle strength, which in turn helps with my core strength.
When I first began doing asanas, I realised that I lacked core strength to hold basic poses:
– In Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog), my hands couldn’t hold my torso up, my legs couldn’t hold my lower body up, and my abs just couldn’t lift my hips and pelvis up.
– In Ardha Navasana (half boat pose), I lacked strength in by abdominals and quadriceps femoris to lift my lower legs so that shins are parallel to the mat while keeping my body balanced on my sit bones.
– In Chaturanga Dandasana (four limbed staff pose), I lacked strength in my biceps and triceps to hold my body parallel off the mat without collapsing totally.
Although regular yoga practice will gradually strengthen the muscles in time, I discovered that regular gym work that targetted my core muscles sped up the strength building process. It’s been quite amazing to see the leap in my muscle strength and engagement with just two weeks of targetted strength training.
3. Yoga provides more body awareness, and vice versa.
Yoga activates muscles that we seldom use, and increases our awareness of these muscles. One good example is our triceps, which we seldom utilise in daily movement. Coming into Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana (forearm plank) or ardha pincha mayurasana (dolphin pose), the triceps are fired up to maintain the pose. It can be seen that tricep strength are important for arm balances and arm press poses.
Gaining awareness of the tricep muscles allows us to be more mindful of our movements when undergoing strength conditioning weight exercises the triceps. Personally, I realise that I immediately know when I am not fully engaging my tricep muscles in targetted workouts such as the overhead tricep extension. It allows me to consciously keep my shoulders down and maintain a neutral back, so that only my tricep muscles are the ones doing all the work.
Bringing it back to the yoga mat, the awareness of doing a proper overhead tricep extension gives me more awareness of how quickly my tricep muscles are engaged when moving into poses that require upper arm support.
Thus, yoga and weights here complement each other.
4. Lifting weights builds muscles, which burns body fat and leans up the body.
This is something that yoga doesn’t proved, no matter how often and how regularly we hit the mat. I’ve discovered that the only way to achieve a sculpted look is with building strength in my muscles. As my muscles become stronger through weight training, the buffer fat melts away to reveal muscle definition and a more sculpted look.
This last point is a personal preference, as I like to have some definition and leanness on my lanky body. Otherwise, I feel as if I look like I can easily be snapped into half by an over enthusiastic hugger.
In summary, I’ve discovered that the more I build strength in the gym, the more I need yoga to stretch out my muscles and fascia, and the more supple these become, the easier it is for me to isolate the muscle groups as I exercise them in the gym.
Ultimately, mixing yoga with weight lifting works well for me. Both provide me with strength and flexibility, and pad up my fitness routine well.
As you already can tell, my approach to fitness is an all-round approach: while there isn’t one-exercise-fits-all, our body will benefit the most from combining both strength and flexibility conditioning together. So that we continue to age well and retain full mobility of our limbs.
All weight training photos taken at The House of Gainz by my personal trainer, Carl Chia.