4 Ways Yoga Is a Beneficial Cross-Training Activity

| Fitness

Christa Norgren
Richmond Oval Personal Trainer; E-RYT 200 YACEP, CFES-GF, PT & Yoga; Master Trainer, YogaFit

Exercise execution – A yoga practice is typically performed with slow steady movements. If we apply the science and physics of exercise to yoga, (the foundations of YogaFit training), we have to move well to be safe and effective. It is here we become aware of movement patterns and correct defaults and this allows us to move with the best anatomical execution.  When we move with correct alignment, we train the muscles to slide along the anatomical lines intended. We also begin to notice inhibited muscles or weak areas; for example, plank to crocodile (close-grip push up). We can then apply these same principles to our strength training or corrective exercise regimen.

Breath practice – In yoga, this is referred to as Pranayama or controlled breathing. While there are many different Pranayama techniques, a 3-part, full diaphragmatic breath is the best place to start. Here’s how you do it. On a single inhale, expand the belly, then the ribs, then the chest. On a single exhale, release the chest, then the ribs and then the belly.  Called Ujjayi breathing, this breath is done through the nose with a slight constriction in the back of the throat. This is what causes the “haaaa” or “saaaa” sound on the inhale. Controlled breathing helps to reduce stress and stress-related illnesses and it maximizes lung capacity. It also helps us tap into the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digestion), and this allows the body not only to heal but also effectively adapt to training which is essential to achieve strength gains, lose weight and increase lean muscle mass, power and speed. Try taking 3-5 mins for pranayama at the beginning and end of your workout. Over time you’ll notice synchronicity with your breath and movement. Through regular practice, deeper breathing will feel more natural and will improve your mind-body awareness which will aid in performance and skill development.

Balance – When we feel balanced in our lives, we feel successful and this can help us feel more effective in our workouts. Yoga promotes balance of spirit, mind and body through standing balance Asanas. Tree pose, eagle pose and dancer are examples of Asanas that develop strength and coordination in our feet, legs and torso. These Asanas improve our stability when performing unilateral movements, (movements that work one side of the body at a time), as well as assist in regulating the heart rate and blood pressure before progressing to more intense stretches on the floor.

In addition to the physical benefits, yoga allows us to be aware of our thoughts and encourages self-reflection. For some, this opens the door to a very spiritual experience and it begins the practice of mastering the mind. By integrating these practices into our daily routine, we move closer towards balancing the spirit, mind and body.

Meditation – Meditation has been practiced for centuries. This is due to its profound benefits that interface with all aspects of life, including exercise. Why is it so effective? Over time, regular mediation can:

  • alter brain function thereby improving your ability to focus and concentrate
  • enhance the ability to be less reactive and more conscious of your actions
  • diminish stress, fears and negative thinking patterns
  • promote better sleep habits
  • heighten your immune system and bolster your capacity to perform with precision.

Meditation is often depicted as long, quiet periods of sitting. While this is a form of meditation, don’t buy-in to the belief that this is the only way to experience it. Mediation can be performed in a number of ways: through short, quiet moments or meta-meditations, it is experienced when we are completely immersed in a task, or we can experience it through stillness or motion. If you are interested in starting a quiet practice, try and let go of the idea that thought should not occur. Instead, watch your thoughts like you would watch a movie. While the movie plays, follow your breath. Do this for 2-3 minutes a day, gradually increase to 5 minutes and then progressively add 1 minute as you are able.

Meditation has a lot of similarities with exercise. It requires us to be diligent with our practice and forces us to find contentment in seeing progress over time. Be patient and stay committed. As you move towards better mind-body awareness, you will find yourself better equipped to meet and achieve our training goals.