1 - IMPROVES YOUR FLEXIBILITY
Stick with a consistent practice, even if that is once per week and you will over time notice the poses which seem impossible to begin with become more accessible. You do not need to be flexible to start. Your body will become more free and mobile the more you practice. For those who train in the gym then this might mean improving your air squat or perhaps your set up in a Deadlift. Lengthening your muscles won't just mean you will feel looser and less restricted, it will also result in hitting PR’s in the gym as well as becoming more functional. Win-win!
2- BUILDS MUSCLE STRENGTH
Contrary to belief, Yoga is not lying down for an hour focusing on mindfulness. Yes, of course, that's one of the best bits when we get to Savasana (relaxation) at the end of the practice. If you have been to one on my classes before, you already know the dynamic flows will build a great deal of strength in your body and mind.
If you have been combining Yoga and the gym you will already know that perhaps you can plank for longer and your press ups are also stronger than when you started.
Learning to balance and master your body weight is fun but extremely beneficial too. We develop a strong core, body awareness and balance our flexibility with our strength. This has such a great cross over to the gym and a lot of the skills you learn at GT Fitness, such as standing on your head in headstand or building strong mobile shoulders so that strict ring muscle up is more accessible.
3- IMPROVES MOBILITY
How Many times have you woken up in the morning, felt stiff, sore and the simplest of daily functions feel almost impossible. Yoga helps us improve our overall range of motion by moving in less linear patterns and keeping our spine young, flexible & healthy.
Think for a second... How much time do you spend looking after your feet and ankles? How much do they do for you?.... the answer is a lot more than you probably do for them. The result of not looking after them? They get tighter and your movement worsens. Did you want that pistol squat one day? Did you want stronger ankles for running? Did you want to safeguard them for when you get older?
We carry ourselves around all day in poor footwear that plays havoc on our Achilles or we sit slouched in a chair all day with rounded shoulders and get stuck in poor movement patterns. The older we get they worsen and then we suddenly can't sit down or stand up off the sofa without assistance.
Yoga can add years to your life that you currently take away daily by limiting movement in poor patterns or positions. This will translate into everything you do in the gym too.
Moving from one position to another, let's use the burpee as an example. Do you struggle to get to the ground because your hamstrings feel like they might snap so instead you either jump your feet out super wide or cave your knees in? Do you struggle to move through the full range of motion in the push-up portion of the burpee and then jumping your feet back in feels almost impossible without really rounding your back. This could be a combination of lacking in flexibility, strength and mobility. Yoga greatly improves your overall mobility by really working into the corners of the body that your general training regime doesn’t come close to. This means better movement, safer movement and overall greater results. That might be achieving your first pistol squat or being able to put another 20kg on your deadlift.
4 - IMPROVES YOUR BALANCE
Yoga will greatly improve your proprioception ( the ability to feel what your body is doing and where it is in space) and balance. This is so important for daily life, perhaps thats having fewer falls and just generally being more aware of how your body feels on a daily basis. For those of us in the gym it also means better awareness through some of the more dynamic lifts, better control of your body through the gymnastics movements, and the ability to control external objects as well as your own body safely. Having poor proprioception & balance can mean bad posture, bad movement patterns and as a result over time - injury. What is even better is so many of the poses that build better proprioception and balance are fun to do, for example, ‘Tree pose’ which challenges the core, opens the hips and strengthens the standing leg all whilst improving your balance and focus.
5 - AWARENESS
As you practice Yoga you will begin to become aware of where you hold tension in your body on and off the mat. This might be something as simple as you always sit hunching your shoulders or maybe you clench your teeth a lot. Perhaps you never noticed yourself doing it because you are always so busy or lead a stressful life.
Perhaps you just forget to breathe. That hour that you get away from your busy schedule for yourself could be all you need to build awareness in body and mind which improves your day to day life. By moving more through what we call a practice You will learn Where you have restrictions in movement. I can't think of better education than to learn about yourself by actually feeling rather than being told or reading what you should feel. Yoga helps you to identify these things and then over a consistent practice you will see how working on these areas affects your everyday life for the better. Maybe it's a stressful situation at work and you start noticing these poor or uncomfortable postural habits as a result. Maybe you become more aware that you are holding your breath or clenching your teeth. By changing these habits we will see a great positive shift mentally too.
In terms of the gym, you will start to notice you become more connected to breathing whilst moving dynamically and you build a better understanding of your movement in space. Perhaps you are upside down and need to move your right leg but need the coordination and awareness to do so. You will find over time you are better able to control your body and external objects due to building this awareness in yourself in your practice.
6 - SLEEP
Yoga opens up the body and increases your blood flow which in turn will really help your body to repair from the daily stresses, strains, or gym sessions. Although our Yoga classes can be powerful and challenging, there is always enough time to relax with a guided meditation (Savasana) at the end of a class. If that's not enough then we round the week off perfectly with a restorative Yoga class which provides downtime for the nervous system. With a focus on pranayama (breath) and meditation, you will find over time your sleeping patterns improve as you learn to relax properly. If you are a frequent gym goer then what’s even better is the aspect of recovery that your body will get from these classes. Training hard in the gym puts a lot of stress and strain on the joints, tendons, ligaments and connective tissues. 5 minutes stretching after a class just doesn’t quite cut it. If we spent a bit more time listening to our bodies and giving them what they need rather than battering them week on week we would actually notice our overall performance and movement will improve due to the 6 points I have made in this article. Sometimes Less is more.
Where to begin?
Your first class is going to be challenging. Your first time trying anything is. We move with our breath while we coordinate ourselves through a range of postures (asanas) and at some point you are most likely going to forget to do one of those things wobble about on your mat. You might find yourself looking at me blank-faced or perhaps confused as to why you are facing the opposite way to the rest of the class on the wrong leg. Everyone has been there. When you come back the second or third time however, things will begin to click into place and that first session will be a fond but distant memory.
Begin by finding a class you enjoy. Let's be realistic, there isn’t a one size fits all and different people like different Yoga styles. There are a lot of them but at GT Fitness we offer Power Yoga and Restorative Yoga as well as Broga. Try them all and see what you enjoy but make sure it is a class you can see yourself committing to.
Practicing Yoga, just like training once per week is not going to change your life instantly. It takes patience and consistency to really reap the rewards. I have now practiced for 11 years and I still have those days where my hamstrings scream at me and touching my toes feels challenging. It takes a consistent practice to really see improvements in anything we do. Practicing Yoga 2-3 times per week is going to have a much bigger impact mentally and physically. This does not mean you must attend 2 - 3 classes at the gym, but committing to a home practice outside of classes would be greatly beneficial. This might be 10 - 20 minutes of Yoga when you get up each morning. Most importantly, you are never too old to start.
Build your practice gradually...
It is better adding your Yoga practice in over time so it becomes a part of your life gradually and effectively. Be realistic so that you know you can commit to your practice. Yoga becomes a way of life and is so much more than a workout on your mat. It is a work in too.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article and if you are looking to take up a Yoga practice or feel it is something you need in your life I am always happy to guide you in the direction of a class or talk Yoga and the benefits such as I have written above.
Namaste with Love,
“Be Patient. Everything comes to you in the right moment.” - Buddha.
To book for first yoga class at GT Fitness please click here.