9 Reasons to Get Your Namaste On
ROMAN’S NOTE: In my last post, I talked about the importance of doing what you suck at. Embracing the suck is a necessary way to achieve growth and success–but, in terms of your body, can also be necessary to maintain your health and fitness.
The example I used for myself was yoga. Now, anyone who knows me–especially in the fitness context–can tell you that yoga is something that I have historically been bad at. It’s not even that I’m not flexible (although my upper body is locked up pretty badly), it’s just that yoga requires me to do a lot of other things I’m not really great at. Patience, stability, static strength–not things I have in spades.
Many people immediately responded and said they were starting yoga as well, and could understand why I wanted to work on this; it’s not hard to see the myriad of benefits one can get from yoga.
On the other hand, though, a lot of people were perplexed. The common question is, “why yoga? Of all the things you’re bad at, why is YOGA your top priority?”
This is a very logical question–why didn’t I choose something else? For example, in my post, I talked a lot about basketball, and never having enjoyed it because I’m not physically suited for it–so why not start there?
I’m sure there are a lot of things I suck at that I could have embraced, but the fact is that none of them will give me the same payoff as yoga will. Getting better at basketball might make me a bit more popular with some friends at pickup games, but outside of the potential bump to my endurance, I wouldn’t physically benefit from B-ball in any significant way.
That’s where yoga is special: building proficiency has carryover to nearly every aspect of your physicality. In fact, I believe that yoga can make everything you do in the gym (and most things out of it) more effective.
The number one benefit, in my view, is injury prevention. Very simply, I don’t want to get hurt again. There is absolutely nothing worse than training hard and working your butt off only to see all your hard-earned progress go down the drain because of a needless injury.
And trust me, I know how frustrating it can be. It happened with my knees when I was 24 (meniscus tear), my shoulder when I was 26 (rotator cuff tweak), and my elbow when I was 27 (tendonitis).
I got over all of them, but they could have been avoided.
Which is why I decided to get started with yoga, despite the fact that I was terrible at it. And in addition to getting better at it, I feel better, I look better, and I’m even performing better.
All of that said, injury prevention is just one of several reasons yoga is awesome. And I’d like to give you a litany of them. But, here’s the thing. I’m a big, dumb animal. And I’m not always smart enough to realize things on my own—especially when it comes to embracing things I’m bad at. So, I need to give credit to Ms. Neghar Fonooni.
In addition to being very patient when giving me insight into why I should practice, Neghar is also extremely convincing. So convincing, in fact, that I think she’ll have a lot more luck telling you why you should do yoga than I will.
With that in mind, she’s given me permission to publish her list covering exactly that. And so, I leave you in her capable hands.
I promise this isn’t going to be one of those annoying posts that regurgitates generic reasons why yoga is good for you. I mean, obviously it’s good for you-so are broccoli and fish oil. But we don’t always do things that are good for us, do we? Sometimes it’s because the things that are good for us just…well…they suck. But other times, perhaps we have reasons why that “good thing” doesn’t pertain to us.
For a long time I neglected my yoga practice in favor of lifting. I made all the excuses in the world, including the cliched “I don’t have time” hogwash, and I rationalized that lifting was better than yoga anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal. The further I got from my practice, the more off-center I became. As an entrepreneur spinning multiple plates, I fell deeper into disarray and began to feel terribly encumbered. It took me a long while to realize that there was a giant hole where my yoga practice used to be, and an even longer while to find an instructor and a studio that would properly fill that void.
Now that I’ve resumed my place on the mat, I realize just how valuable yoga can be for gym enthusiasts, and how often it is overlooked. I also found that practicing yoga now, as an advanced lifter, has far more benefits than I had even been aware of 12 years ago when I took my first yoga class. So, if you happen to be a gym-junkie who loves to deadlift, hip thrust and kettlebell swing your glutes into submission, this list is for YOU.
Yoga is an effective and low impact way to move on your non-lifting days without compromising recovery. Many yoga experts will even go as far to say that hot yoga in particular can stimulate your metabolism and help release toxins from the body. Either way, you will always feel better leaving yoga than when you came in.
Flowing through poses while barefoot and mirror-less requires a great deal of control. Yoga requires you to listen to your body, tapping into your trunk, your feet, your legs-you name it-to enter and sustain postures without visual aid. This increases kinesthetic (or body) awareness and can help when moving through compound lifts at the gym such as squats and pushups. Because yoga carries such an internal focus, it can encourage you to practice more intuition during your lifts.
And I don’t mean stability, although you’ll certainly get your fair share of that from yoga. I’m referring to the balance of activity that yoga provides an avid gym goer. Lifting sessions are typically aggressive and weighted, while yoga is intrinsic and uses the body as leverage. This can create a balance between Herculean and Buddha-like activities, which in turn, encourages balance within your life.
No matter how many times someone tells us that we need to spend more time stretching our muscles or mobilizing our joints, we would just rather lift, wouldn’t we? I mean, who has time to do all that flexibility work when we have to make sure we snag that open power rack before someone else! But, improving your mobility and flexibility will increase your movement efficiency-benefiting your lifts exponentially. Yoga is a fun way to get bendy that won’t take up valuable gym time.
I cannot tell you how many times I have helped someone out of shoulder pain by teaching them to breathe from their diaphragm or coached a client into a stronger overhead press just by cueing them to BREATHE. Yoga places significant emphasis on the breath, which will keep you aware of your breathing during your training sessions.
Understanding when to hold back and when to push through is a delicate dance. You can sometimes set down the weight and think, “I could’ve done more.” Inversely, you might be wishing you hadn’t pushed through that last ugly rep. Yoga teaches you how to feel free within your body, accomplishing challenging poses while fostering ease of movement. You can’t force the poses if you intend to do them correctly, but you are encouraged to look within yourself for what you might be capable of. It’s a beautiful balance of just right that can aid you in your lifting endeavors.
It wasn’t until I started practicing handstands last year that I discovered my strength training had some critical holes in it. Being able to move heavy iron relative to your bodyweight is awesome, but then discovering that you have little ability to leverage that bodyweight? Well, that was a revelation. Yoga improves bodyweight strength, and puts you in positions that you might not otherwise put yourself in at the gym.
Most of us who lift regularly have an inherent competitive nature. We compete with our previous lifts, with others at the gym, or even in an organized environment such as powerlifting or olympic lifting competitions. This is part of what makes us so ambitious and something that should certainly be fueled. However, even when this competition is friendly, it’s still competition and can sometimes blind us. Yoga is a noncompetitive environment that can bring you back to your center when your hunger for big lifts gets ravenous. You’ll have to learn to accept your progressions and avoid comparing yourself to the person on the mat next to you.
You might not typically think of yoga as something that can make you stronger, but it sneaks up on you like that. Yoga poses can translate to lifting strength by waking up muscles you don’t often use, encouraging cooperative multi-joint movements and giving you wicked upper body strength. I can deadlift over twice my bodyweight and perform multiple sets of 10 pull-ups-but crow pose humbles me. This branch of strength can only serve to make your lifts bigger.
Even after reading these convincing reasons to practice yoga, you might still be skeptical. If someone you trust thinks it can help you, chances are that you will too. Besides, if Roman can do it, you can do it, too.
Well then. If you aren’t convinced that Yoga is good for you after reading that, then frankly, I’m not sure if we can still remain friends. Thank you to Neghar for that awesome post.
If you’re convinced and ready to start doing some awesome broga (or, you know, regular yoga), then you should absolutely check out Neghar’s Wildfire yoga. You don’t need to spend 60-90 minutes in a yoga class to experience its benefits. These 10-minute yoga flows are great for active recovery and will even help you get better at training with weights.