Many people seek out yoga as a complement to other types of exercise, such as weight lifting and playing sports. For avid gym-goers, yoga and weightlifting work particularly well as an exercise regimen. After stressing your muscles with strength training, yoga can help to soothe sore muscles.
Yoga and Weightlifting Benefits
Both yoga and strength training have many benefits to offer. Strength training combats age-related muscle loss, strengthens bones, contributes to joint flexibility, reduces arthritis symptoms, burns calories and improves balance, according to the American Cancer Society.
Yoga also boosts your health in many ways. Yoga Alliance notes that a regular yoga practice provides stress relief, alleviates chronic pain, improves breathing and flexibility, helps to control weight, provides cardiovascular conditioning and more.
When you combine yoga and weightlifting throughout the week, you create a sustainable, balanced routine, according to Mayo Clinic. Yoga tones your muscles, builds muscle endurance and promotes muscle flexibility. It also helps with performing basic activities of daily living, such as reaching up to grab a glass off a shelf or getting out of a chair.
In addition, yoga improves the range of motion in your joints and encourages good posture. By incorporating yoga into your routine, you'll be less likely to get injured as you lift weights. The American Council on Exercise notes that proper range of motion around the joints ensures you're able to perform heavy exercises safely and effectively.
Read more: Yoga & Lean Muscle Mass
Create a Routine
It may be helpful to create a weight training and yoga schedule that allows you to incorporate both types of exercise into your routine. If you like, you can perform yoga and strength training on the same days.
In fact, adding a few yoga stretches after a weightlifting session can help you avoid or lessen delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS occurs after a taxing workout whereby the muscles are working to repair themselves and grow.
To alleviate soreness and recover more quickly, try engaging in yoga, Pilates, foam rolling or massage as part of your weight training and yoga schedule. Here are a few poses that will help stretch your muscles:
- Downward facing dog — Start in a tabletop position with your shoulders stacked over hands and hips over knees. Curl your toes under, and exhale as you push your hips up and back to create an upside-down V shape with your body. Bend your knees slightly as you press your heels toward the ground, or begin to straighten your knees for a deeper hamstring stretch.
- Low lunge — From downward facing dog, step your right foot in between your hands. Drop down to your back knee and lift your chest up, keeping your right knee stacked over your right ankle. Hold for a few breaths as you stretch your hip flexor, and then repeat on the left side.
- Supine figure four — Lie down on your back, bend your knees and walk your feet back toward your glutes. Cross your right ankle over your left thigh and gently press your right inner thigh forward to stretch your right outer hip. Repeat on the left side after a few breaths.
- Cobra pose — Lie down on your stomach and zip up your legs together with the tops of your feet flat on the ground. Bend your elbows so they're stacked over your wrists close to your ribcage. Inhale and lift your chest off the ground as you slightly straighten your arms, using your low back to hold the pose for a few breaths. From this belly-down position, you can also clasp your hands behind your low back and pull your fists toward your heels to stretch your shoulders.
Do Yoga on Its Own
While yoga and strength training complement each other well, it's also beneficial to dedicate time solely for a yoga practice. Yoga offers much more than a way to stretch your muscles after a workout.
For many practitioners, it's a means to greater inner peace, emotional health and even better sleep. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health points to several studies indicating that yoga helps to improve resilience or general mental well-being.
Furthermore, a May 2018 study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that regular yoga practice was associated with good eating habits, such as eating more fruits and vegetables and less fast food and sugar-sweetened beverages. Survey participants indicated yoga and the yoga community itself motivates them to eat healthfully, practice mindfulness, avoid emotional eating and even crave healthy food.
In addition, according to the participants, yoga motivates them to do other types of physical activities — so, perhaps, yoga may even inspire you to pick up those dumbbells at the gym. The study concluded that yoga should be investigated as a method of weight management and promoting a healthy lifestyle among young adults.
Read more: 13 Reasons to Start Practicing Yoga
Additional Tips to Maximize Workouts
It's not necessary to do a full yoga class plus a weightlifting session each time you work out. You may prefer to alternate days between weightlifting and yoga, especially if you do a more vigorous style of yoga such as power or Iyengar. Although these yoga styles do not provide the same load on your muscles as heavy lifting, they are physically challenging.
In addition, depending on the studio, the room may be heated to promote greater muscle flexibility, as with Bikram or certain types of hot yoga. It could be a set sequence, or it could be a varied class based on what the teacher decides to teach.
Other styles, such as gentle or restorative yoga, are slower-paced and more focused on stretching, meditation or breathing. You can check with any particular studio to find out what type of yoga is offered.
If you add on a stretching-based yoga session to weightlifting, you may enjoy combining the two workouts in one day. Keep in mind, the American Heart Association recommends including at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week as well, such as brisk walking or biking slower than 10 mph.
Read more: How to Get Started With Yoga
However, the best course of action when it comes to your weight training and yoga schedule is to work toward balance. There can be such a thing as overdoing it on your training, and it's important to take a rest day when needed to avoid overtaxing your body.
- American Cancer Society: "5 Benefits of Strength Training"
- Yoga Alliance: "Benefits of Yoga"
- Mayo Clinic: "Fitness Training: "Elements of a Well-Rounded Routine"
- American Council on Exercise: "Yoga for Weightlifters: 7 Poses for Increased Range of Motion"
- American Council on Exercise: "Four Ways to Help Your Body Recover From a Big Lift Day"
- Yoga Journal: "Cobra Pose"
- Yoga Journal: "The King of Hip Openers: Pigeon Pose"
- Yoga Journal: "Low Lunge"
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity: "Yoga's Potential for Promoting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Behaviors Among Young Adults: A Mixed-Methods Study"
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Yoga: What You Need to Know"
- American Council on Exercise: "What Style of Yoga Is Right for You?"
- American Heart Association: "American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids"
- All Spirit Fitness: Q&A