Yoga & Weight Training

Yoga teacher sitting in sukhasana at front of class, eyes closed
Instructor leading a yoga class (Image: Getty Images/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

The core components of yoga involve poses, also called postures and breathing. Weight training involves lifting either free weights, such as dumbbells, weights on a machine or--just like in yoga---your own body weight. You can combine the virtues of both yoga’s flowing postures and weight training’s muscle-sculpting moves. “Do not feel like you need to exclude one or the other,” note the founders of the My Yoga Online website.

Benefits

Yoga and weight training provide somewhat overlapping benefits. Yoga’s health benefits include increased fitness, stress reduction, weight loss and management of chronic conditions, such as pain, anxiety, depression and sleep problems. Weight training, the website notes, results in toned muscles and overall physique improvement, reverses age-related muscle loss, increases bone density, maintains joint flexibility and assists weight management.

Comparisons

The latest government guidelines call for two days of full-body strength training for optimal health and weight maintenance, notes physician and nutrition specialist Dr. Melina Jampolis, writing for CNNHealth.com. If you are following these guidelines but pondering a switch to power yoga, you will be able to replicate the weight-bearing component of weight training in yoga as well, as you move your limbs and hold yoga postures. Yoga also offers a feel-good, stress management component, she notes. Less vigorous yoga classes may not pose a threat to muscle tone gained on the weight machines or free weights, but the best option may be “to include both yoga and strength training in your regular exercise program,” she writes.

Types

You can practice either yoga or weight training, or both, during your fitness week, or even “yoga with weights,” which blends the disciplines. In yoga with weights classes, you will use 1, 3 or 5 lb. weights to stretch the muscles, release tension and engage the muscles in the deep core, according to Jampolis.

Effects

Both yoga and weight training become important to combat muscle loss that begins in your thirties and continues at the rate of about 3 percent per decade, according to Jampolis. Federal physical activities guidelines recommend stretching, balance and stability-related practices, such as yoga, in addition to strength training and cardiovascular exercise, for people 65 years or older.

Time Frame

Engage in weight training with dumbbells for 20 minutes, twice a week, recommends the Centers for Disease Control in their physical activity guidelines. Alternate with yoga practices for 30 minutes, four times a week.

Misconceptions

Some exercisers fear that weight training may lead to rigid, stiff bones and muscles, making the activity counterproductive to yoga and forcing them to choose between one or the other. While in some cases weight training can shorten muscles and generate stiffness, a fitness or personal trainer should be able to guide you into a consistent weight training program that complements yoga; both programs need to be balanced to avoid missing days that lead to rustiness and risks of excessive fatigue from overdoing it, write the founders of the My Yoga Online website.

Expert Opinion

Yoga instructor Lorna Bell, writing in “Yoga Journal,” notes being surprised at first by the “intensely mental side to weight training,” which like yoga requires you to face inner laziness and push yourself to the limit. Both disciplines use visual focal points for concentration and require balance, strength, and adherence to strict form. “So these seemingly contradictory activities, weight training and yoga, complement each other,” she said, noting that she merged them into a routine involving yoga counter-stretches after weight training a muscle group.

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