Yoga Practice

I Dropped Weights for Yoga… And Came Out Stronger

I have always enjoyed strength training more than any other exercise. I’ll even admit that I dabbled in the dark art of Crossfit for a time. I’ve always included yoga in my weekly routine… but mostly as stress relief or active rest; I’ve never considered it a workout unto itself.

Recently I had to drop my personal trainer for budget reasons, and I joined a yoga studio instead. The idea was I could lift and run on my own and it would be nice to have yoga classes, as I wasn’t comfortable leading my own practice.

I showed up for my first class feeling slightly superior in my lifter ways. “I am a strong, bad-ass chick among a sea of skinny bendy people,” was my mantra.

The class, Power 1, was hot yoga (which I had done before in a more meditative setting) but lowest on the heat scale of the classes they offered. It’s designed to ease you in to the way this studio worked.

Halfway through the class, I was sweating more than I ever had, and I felt like the weakest person in the studio! I had to take child’s pose for several minutes in the middle of a warrior flow. My legs were shaking, my core was not engaging, I couldn’t hold my side planks, and my fingers wouldn’t quite touch my toes in seated forward fold. I figured I must be getting sick.

Two days later, my obliques were still sore but I was back for another round of Power 1. I had to prove to myself that I was stronger than that last class made me feel (and look, because we all feel like we are being judged when we’re failing).

It happened again.

And again.

And again.

I started to realize that yoga may be harder than I thought (some times I’m a little slow). I was too sore to lift on my off days from yoga, so I committed to a routine of running and yoga to see where it took me.

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Two and a half months of yoga and running later later, it was time for my twice-annual Air Force Reserve Physical Fitness Test. The test consists of 3 areas: abdominal circumference (basically how skinny you are… don’t get me started), aerobic fitness (1 minute each of push-ups and sit-ups), and aerobic fitness (a 1.5 mile run). I have been taking this test for 5 years, and my push-ups and sit-ups are generally pretty similar. Push-ups: 30-35 and sit-ups: 35-40.

This test was different. First, my abdominal circumference was a full inch smaller than 6 months prior (I don’t diet so I hadn’t changed my eating habits). Second, my push-up and sit-up numbers had gone up! I did 38 push-ups and 45 sit-ups… that is crazy good, for me.

I firmly believe that yoga is responsible for my increased strength. In the months leading up to my test, I hadn’t done a single push-up or sit-up… just yoga and running. The full body strength required in each practice has unlocked something in my body I have never seen with weight training.

I have moved up to Power 2 (the highest level offered) and, while I still have to take a few breaths in child’s pose each class, I feel stronger and more empowered every time I get on my mat. I don’t even miss lifting… well maybe a little.

How has yoga made you physically, mentally, or emotionally stronger?

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3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Tarin

    January 30, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    I completely agree! I’ve always found strength training easier to fit into my schedule than cardio (who likes cardio anyway, right?). I also joined a yoga studio a few months ago and started to attend regular classes in addition to the yoga and training I was doing at home. I felt so out of shape in my first class it was crazy! While I still do some stregnth training, I’ve focused more on expanding my yoga practice in different areas. Vinyasa for cardio, slow flow for an active rest, and yin for stretching and relaxation. Definitely a game changer for me! I’ve tried to explain this to non-yoga people and they don’t seem to understand or believe me so I tell them to just try it.

  2. Avatar

    Michael

    February 5, 2016 at 11:10 am

    I totally prefer lifting weights and doing squats to any other type of exercise. It makes me feel like a powerhouse. And, like you, I never really consider yoga a “workout”, even though with all the classes I’ve done, I know I’m working.

  3. Avatar

    Jodi Reinke

    March 9, 2020 at 7:54 am

    Thank you for this!! Very inspiring! I want to get in shape but have limited time and I wanted to choose one to focus on: yoga or weights. I walk and hike with my dogs rather than run, but I’m going to give your idea a go and spend a few months just concentrating on yoga and walking/hiking and see where it gets me.

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