Yoga benefits are numerous and well-known, so it’s no wonder that this type of physical and mental exercise has increased in popularity all over the world. There are many people who have dedicated their whole free time reserved for a workout only to yoga. And no doubt they have experienced many benefits when it comes to strength, balance and stability, as well as calmness of their minds.
However, the questions need to be asked: Is any form of exercise truly and completely beneficial if it’s been done exclusively? Should we consider mixing two types of exercise in order to be sure our bodies are balanced and free of injuries?
How yoga could affect your body if done exclusively
Many yoga teachers who have dedicated most of their professional lives to solely practicing yoga are now dealing with injuries that can be traced back to yoga. These injuries mostly include tears and fractures, as well as joint injuries, which are probably a direct result of overuse throughout the years. Other health conditions that could develop are osteoporosis and arthritis.
What has been noticed is that those yoga practitioners who seem “natural” at this type of exercise due to their high flexibility are the ones who get most easily injured. The reason behind this is that they don’t develop enough strength around their joints so they are more prone to push themselves too hard into a certain pose and cause an injury.
The fact is that doing the same type of exercise over the course of years will ultimately lead to hitting a plateau. Yoga, however beneficial, still represents one form of exercise, activating muscles in one specific way. It’s necessary to introduce new challenges to your body so that you maintain your strength and muscle mass while you’re getting older. That’s why many fitness experts recommend making a mix of yoga with other forms of exercise like weight training, cardio and Pilates.
Why adding weight training to your exercise routine is important
People who do yoga are quite or very bendy, which also means they need strength in order to avoid injuries and to find a balance between flexibility and strength. If you add lifting weights to your regular workout three times a week, it will increase your bone and muscle density to a greater extent than yoga solely.
Working with weights will take you to another level; you won’t only be as strong as your own weight. When you progressively increase the weight load, it will also help you do certain yoga poses better than you would do them if you would only practice those poses. For example, adding overhead presses with dumbbells to your workout routine will improve your handstand pose.
Also, if you devote some time over the week to full-body compound, lifting weights fast is the only way to activate fast-twitch muscle fibers, which result in greater power and speed.
Lastly, strength training helps with building self-confidence, especially with skinny people. As Dr Farhadieh stated, each one of us can be the best version of ourselves, and self-confidence is what will be built during that process when your strength training helps you build muscles you don’t have.
Cardio exercises for improved heart rate
It’s highly important to strengthen your lungs and increase your heart rate through cardio exercise. Even though Vinyasa Flow and Power yoga do that, it is still no near the traditional cardio workout. You would have to move very quickly to receive aerobic benefits, which increases the risks of injuries because ligaments and tendons can’t stretch as joints can. So, cycling and jogging are far more effective and safe when it comes to increasing your heart rate and strengthening lungs.
Non-impact activities for your core
In time, you will notice that you need to be more careful if you don’t want to injure your joints or tear your muscles. That’s why nonimpact activities like swimming are beneficial to your core and joints – there is almost no risk of injury. Pilates is another way to incorporate non-impact exercises to your workout routine. The secret is in its isolated movements which put the strain on the core far more than yoga poses. The thing with many yoga poses is that yoga practitioners can make the pose easier for themselves by moving from the lower back instead of the core, which is usually weaker. With Pilates, you are forced to use your core more, which will ultimately lead to stronger yoga poses, too.
How to combine yoga and strength exercises
If you decide to combine the two, it’s best to focus on one of the two for a couple of months to establish a firm routine and foundation before adding the other. Exercises like squats, dead lifts, and also dips and pull-ups are all important to combine with yoga because they will prevent your body from developing a muscle imbalance that can happen if you only focus on yoga poses.
It’s also important to be ready to experiment with the two. Nobody is the same, so your job is to identify what ratio of the two best suits your needs and your fitness. Listen to your body, monitor its reactions and time it needs to recover so that you understand what the right amount of both for you is. Also, if you decide to combine the two, it’s better to stick to authentic styles of yoga, such as Iyengar or Ashtanga Yoga. The reason behind this is that they will for sure provide you with both the mental and physical benefits that you need. Otherwise, you’ll just be combining two types of physical exercises with no real effects on your mental health.
Nothing that’s good for us won’t be so beneficial if we focus solely on that. The same applies to yoga – no matter how good it is for your overall health, the benefits will be far greater if you use other types of physical exercises to work on your weak spots.