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Cross Training for Yoga

Cross Training for Yoga

The health benefits of yoga are vast, numerous and well documented. In addition to the mind/body connection that our practice builds, yoga can incorporate a variety of different fitness elements. Depending on the style that you are drawn to, it can be strength, mobility, flexibility, balance, and even more. However, no matter how hard we try, yoga won’t cover everything. For those of us that look solely to our practice for fitness, it is important to acknowledge its limitations.

It was many years into my love affair with yoga that this realization finally hit. But when I fully embraced the need to cross-train for other elements of fitness, it freed up my practice. Yoga no longer had to be everything to me. I could get my cardio, endurance, and strength elsewhere, thus opening up more possibility on the mat to go deeper with what yoga is actually good at.

When looking for ways to mix it up off the mat, everyone’s needs are different. Cross-training for yoga should incorporate a variety of complementary exercises and activities into your fitness routine to enhance your overall physical well-being. By engaging in activities such as hiking, swimming, weightlifting, and more, you can develop strength, cardiovascular health, and endurance, which will also directly benefit your yoga practice.

Hiking is an excellent cross-training activity for yoga enthusiasts. It offers the opportunity to connect with nature while simultaneously improving cardiovascular fitness and lower body strength. The varied terrain and inclines encountered during hikes engage the muscles in your legs, hips, and core, helping to build strength and stability. Additionally, hiking can enhance your endurance and stamina, which can be beneficial during longer yoga sessions or challenging poses.

Swimming is a low-impact, full-body exercise that provides a unique form of fitness. It offers a gentle yet effective way to improve cardiovascular health, increase lung capacity, and enhance overall body strength, mostly by pulling, which is something our yoga practice lacks. Swimming engages all major muscle groups, including the arms, legs, core, and back, while providing resistance through the water. This resistance helps to build strength and muscle tone without putting excessive stress on your joints.

Weightlifting, when done with proper form and technique, can be a beneficial addition to a yoga practitioner’s cross-training regimen. When most people begin their yoga journey, the body weight resistance is enough to build strength. But over time, as we get stronger on the mat, body weight just isn’t enough to be challenging. Resistance training exercises targeting major muscle groups, such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses, can help build overall body strength and improve muscle tone. It can also help prevent muscle imbalances and promote better posture, which are vital for maintaining proper alignment during yoga practice. Remember to start with lighter weights and gradually progress to heavier loads to avoid injury and ensure proper technique.

These are just a few of the ways that one can augment the physical benefits of their yoga practice. Of course there are so many more. In addition to those we’ve already discussed, some of my favorites are walking, cycling, pilates, running, and slacklining. Slacklining is a balancing activity that involves walking or performing various poses on a narrow, flexible webbing suspended between two anchor points. It can greatly enhance your balance and proprioception, which is your body’s awareness of its position in space. Improved proprioception can enhance your ability to hold yoga poses with better alignment and stability. Additionally, slacklining helps develop core strength, leg strength, and overall body control, which are essential for maintaining balance and stability in yoga postures.

When incorporating these activities into your cross-training routine for yoga, it’s important to strike a balance and listen to your body. Allow sufficient time for rest and recovery, as well as mindful stretching and relaxation. Be mindful of any limitations or injuries and modify the activities as needed to ensure safety and prevent overexertion. Consult with a fitness professional or yoga instructor if you have any concerns or questions about integrating these activities into your routine.

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