If you’re a bodybuilder, or competitive weightlifter, chances are yoga is not part of your overall fitness routine. After all, yogis are known for long, lean muscles — which is the opposite of what bodybuilders work so hard to create. But contrary to popular belief, incorporating yoga into your weight lifting routine won’t detract from your gains, and it will compliment your efforts in the gym.
Intense weight lifting can put enormous stress on your joints, increasing your risk for injury and inflammation. By increasing your flexibility, lowering inflammation, and improving mobility in your joints, you can counteract any negative effects for better health. Yoga can also prevent you from developing arthritis that could potentially be caused by years of repetitive movement, and reduce any stiffness you might feel after a heavy day at the gym.
Along with improving your range of motion and overall flexibility, yoga can also help improve your posture. From a competition perspective, this can imprtove your performance and potentially level up your chances of doing well.
Yoga can help add to your bodybuilding efforts by toning and strengthening smaller muscle groups that may get neglected through classic weight lifting routines. Yoga postures isolate those minor muscle groups, giving your whole body the workout you never knew you needed. A regular yoga practice can also improve your balance — which will make you more stable and less prone to injury.
Before you get started with your own yoga practice, there are a few things you should consider. There are many styles of yoga to choose from, and if you’re just starting out it’s important to start slow at a beginner level. When your body is already a fine-tuned machine, that may be hard to hear. But yoga involves holding postures with very specific alignment — practicing incorrectly can actually cause injury.
Start by working with a certified yoga instructor. At MyYogaTeacher, you can enroll in online courses from the comfort of your very own home. You can also sign up for private lessons where your instructor can design your course to cater to your unique needs.
While practicing yoga, it’s also important to pay attention to how your body feels. This should come easy to most bodybuilders, who already have a high degree of body awareness. If a yoga pose causes pain or discomfort, take a break from the posture or use a modification like a yoga block, strap, bolster, or blanket. Developing increased flexibility takes time, and it’s wise to take it easy and slow.
You can get started with your yoga practice by incorporating the following 10 poses into your weekly workout schedule. Try performing these yoga stretches after your weight lifting routine, or on rest days in-between.
This classic primary pose is essential to any yoga routine, and there’s a reason why — it efficiently stretches your torso, hamstrings, calves, and lower back, while strengthening your shoulders.
With your hands and knees on the floor, push your hips upward until you are balancing on your hands and feet, and your body resembles an inverted “v” shape. Reach your heels toward the floor, stretching your hamstrings and activating your thighs. Keep your head between your arms, lengthening your side-body as you stretch. Stay here for several breaths.
There’s a chance you’ve already been practicing this pose before performing squats, since it opens up your hips and stretches your glutes.
From Downward Dog, you can transition into Low Lunge by bringing your left foot forward and bending your left leg at the knee. With your right leg behind you, gently kneel on your right knee. Inhale as you reach your arms up over your head, parallel with your ears. Expand your chest, lengthen your spine, keep your chin level and your gaze focused forward in front of you. Repeat on the other side.
This pose also stretches your lower back, hamstrings, and calves — and it’s a great posture for lowering your blood pressure and encouraging your body to relax.
Stand at the front of your mat, feet hip distance apart. Exhale and bend forward from the waist, with your knees slightly bent and touching your hands to the floor in front of your feet. Inhale and exhale, allowing your torso to extend without rounding your back. Lengthen and soften your neck, and let the muscles of your thighs and lower back open and release any built-up tension. Hold the pose for 1-2 minutes.
While this yoga move may seem incredibly simple, it’s a staple for increasing flexibility in and around your spine, torso, neck, and lower back.
Start in a tabletop position with your hands and knees on the floor. Inhale and look up, lifting your chin and gently arching your spine. As you exhale, drop your chin and look down toward your naval as you curl your spine forward. Continue this movement 5-10 times.
After an intense ab workout, Cobra pose is your best friend. This subtle backbend stretches the abdominal muscles to reduce stiffness, soreness, and decrease your body’s inflammatory response.
Start by laying down on the floor on your stomach with your legs straight and your arms folded under your head. Place your palms on the mat parallel to your chest. Slightly lift your head off the mat, keeping your head and back aligned, and press your thighs together. Now, steadily pull your elbows towards your rib cage keeping your hands underneath your shoulders. With a deep inhale, press your hands into the mat, curl your shoulders backward, and lift your upper body off the mat, arching your back. Hold this position for a few breaths and then rest.
You can continue to stretch the muscles in your chest, neck, hips, and spine with Bridge pose. This posture also calms the body while stimulating your digestive organs for a more regulated metabolism.
Start by lying on your back with your knees bent. On your next exhale, tuck your chin and lift your hips, being careful not to allow your knees to splay outward. Interlace your fingers on the floor underneath you and lift your hips higher, while staying in the pose for 5-10 breaths.
This is another pose you may already be familiar with. Plank pose builds strength in your core and lower back, and works to improve your balance and stability.
Lie face down on your mat, and using your palms to push up from the floor, lift your body until you are balanced on your palms and the toes of your feet. In this pose, your body should be positioned in a straight line, with your gaze directed at the floor in front of you. Hold for a few breaths, or for 30-60 seconds if you are feeling strong in this pose.
Sciatica pain is quite common among bodybuilders, since the sciatica nerve can easily become stressed when lifting heavy weights. Locust pose alleviates sciatica pain, increases strength, and stretches your abdominal muscles simultaneously.
Lie face down on your mat, resting your forehead on your forearms and your legs stretched straight out behind you. With an inhale, extend your arms to your sides and lift your lower legs off the mat, keeping your upper legs (thighs and core) flat on the mat. Engage your glutes and press both of your legs together while holding them up. Hold this pose for 5-6 breaths.
For increased core strength, balance, and overall stability, there are few better poses to perform on a regular basis than Boat pose. Use this posture to compliment your ab workout.
Start by sitting on your yoga mat with your legs stretched out in front of you and your arms at your sides. Lean back slightly so that your weight is evenly balanced on your sitting bones. Inhale, engage your core, and as you exhale lift both your legs to a 45 degree angle, and extend your arms straight out alongside your legs. If this pose feels too difficult, try bending your knees and bringing your hands behind your knees for support. Keep your spine long and your core engaged as you hold this pose for 30-45 seconds.
If you’re asking what could be gained by simply lying down flat on your back and remaining still for several minutes, the answer might surprise you. Corpse pose is one of the most important postures in yoga, since it gives your body an opportunity to integrate all of your stretching and strengthening work. It also calms the mind and body, reduces stress responses, lowers your blood pressure, and reduces inflammation.
Sit on your yoga mat and lower your body to the floor, relaxing your legs and letting your arms rest on the floor at your sides, palms up. Keep your eyes closed and focus on your breathing. Relax the muscles in your face and neck, and visualize every part of your body letting go of all tension. Hold this pose for 5-7 minutes.
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