Yoga as your exercise side dish
Just because you prefer to lift weights, run, do Crossfit, boot camp or circuit classes, doesn’t mean that yoga isn’t for you.
In fact, according to personal trainer Ben Lucas, yoga is popular for a good reason. As a former NRL player and ultra-marathon runner, Lucas used to think that yoga was just a “hippy”, spiritual practice for super-flexible women. Though after trying a class, he soon discovered that downward dog and sun salutations could be the key to improving his main fitness practice.
Lucas learnt that yoga is a form of movement that can prevent injury, improve our fitness and mobility and make us better, stronger athletes and he wants you to consider making yoga your fitness side dish.
Improves our athletic performance
A number of years ago I decided to set myself a challenge of running 35 marathons and ultras in 5 years. In order to achieve this goal I had to run for kilometres almost every day, which inevitably led to sore joints and tight muscles. A friend suggested that I start doing yoga to balance out the running and run-specific strength training that I was doing. I gave it a go. My recovery improved and so did my performance. It was during this time that I also met Kate Kendall and Flow Athletic was born!
Yoga helps you build your strength as you tend to hold poses for quite a while (depending on the class) giving your body the opportunity to release.
It is also great for balance, flexibility, mobility and mental endurance. All of which are needed if you were to be participating in any endurance event or having to lift a very heavy weight.
There are lots of professional athletes that consider yoga to be a very important part of their training schedule. If it is good enough for them, it is good enough for you!
Improved range of movement and mobility
There’s no denying that many people, particularly those who are desk bound, suffer from injuries due to stiffness and poor range of motion. This is because in both cases our muscles and connective tissue become tight and restrictive, which can result in limb and joint pain.
While strength training is important for everyone, if you don’t balance it out, you do risk struggling with the above.
By practicing yoga on a regular basis, you can improve your flexibility and reduce the risk.
According to a study by the American Council on Exercise, it was found that regular practice of Hatha yoga significantly improved the subjects’ flexibility, muscular strength, endurance and balance. After eight weeks, the group improved their flexibility by 13% to 35%.
Relieves stress and improves brain power
According to the APS stress and wellbeing survey, 35% of Australians report having significant levels of distress in their lives with 26% reporting above normal levels of anxiety symptoms. These results recorded in 2015 were significantly higher than the previous results recorded in 2011.
There is no doubt that Australians suffer from stress more than ever because we are always ‘switched on’. As yoga emphasizes breathing and the mind/ body connection, it yields strong emotional benefits. In fact people who practice yoga report that they sleep better and feel less stressed.
Furthermore, in a study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 30 female students were tested after a simple 20 minute Hatha yoga session. The results showed that the students’ speed and accuracy on tests involving working memory improved significantly after the class.
The findings suggested that participants were able to process information more quickly and accurately and they could hold onto information more effectively after performing yoga over aerobic exercise.
This may be because the breathing exercises helped to reduce anxiety and stress as well as enhancing self-awareness.
Ben Lucas is the owner of Sydney’s premier luxe fitness and yoga studio Flow Athletic. He has been in the industry for 12 years and was formerly an NRL player for the Sharks. Ben is also an ultra- endurance runner, completing 35 ultra endurance events in just 5 years.
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