Yoga and Fitness.

When people think of strength training and body building exercises, they often think of massive, over-bulky muscles which are often movement restricting, over-contracted and tight!

The opposite of Yoga, right?

But what if you incorporate a cross-training method which includes your asana practise with your strength training?

About four years ago, I was in hospital learning to walk again after my third hip dislocation left me immobilised and completely dependent upon others for my every basic need. I needed help in everything – from showering and toileting, to cooking and cleaning, to baby-crawling from my bed to my couch each day.

The month I spent in hospital was the greatest learning experience of my life!

I went through introductory rehabilitation training in physio-therapy, hydro-therapy, tai chi, mindfulness techniques, occupational therapies and psychological tools such as ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and cognitive therapies to help keep me positively focussed in such a challenging physical situation.

When I came home out of hospital I completely revamped my life – and my physical training!

I had always been athletic. I played volleyball, netball, tennis, jogged daily and strength trained consistently since I was 16 years old. I pushed myself to the edge daily – and I immobilised myself.

Yet when I returned home from hospital I found Yoga – and with it, I re-mobilised myself!

So how does Asana practise go with Strength Training?

Building strength safely, whilst creating a balanced, well-functioning physique, was so important to me after my injuries left me weak. I found also, the healing of my soft tissues and muscles in the injured areas naturally healed very tight – so although strength training helped them recover, it only added to this issue of muscular over-contraction.

This is where yoga has shined for me!

By incorporating yoga asanas into my strength training routines, along with evolving my yoga practise on its own as well, I have managed to get back on my feet and overcome all of the medical specialists predictions of my level of expected recovery – to the point where I now hike a 6 kilometre mountainside walking trail through the rainforest almost every day!

When I returned home from hospital, I could walk just 200 metres at a time!

So how did I include asanas within my strength training program?

1. Sun Salutations are fantastic warm ups/cool downs for the whole body!

Using a combination of light cardio, sun salutations and muscle specific stretching to target the muscles about to be trained, gives an overall balanced warming up/cooling down, and readiness of the whole body to safely perform it’s tasks. It also provides a wonderful postural balancing for your back and core – which is essential to safely perform within any workout!

2. Stretching in between sets.

Usually in strength training we go through a number of sets of repetitions for each exercise. For example we might go through 3 rounds of 15-20 reps of seated calf raises, taking a short rest in between each set.

This is where a downward facing dog works wonderfully!

Using the rest time to incorporate muscle specific asanas (downward facing dog is fabulous for targeting calf extension), keeps the body warm, keeps the mind focussed and mindful, the breath flowing, and muscles lithe!

3. Cross-training with Yoga.

Switching each day, between a full asana practise; a hike; and strength training, has given me a more balanced, mobile and properly-functioning physique – with muscles and soft tissue that are not only strong, but flexible, stable and supportive within every movement.

4. Learning from Yoga – the importance of union.

A wonderful teaching in yoga is the lesson of union – between breath, mind, body and spirit.

Each day’s practise is different as your body is changeable and unique in its abilities in every moment. Union allows us to flow with our body as it is – as opposed to pushing to lift more reps and/or higher weights each day, as we are sometimes taught we must do to make ‘gains’ in muscular development, when strength training.

Utilising union within both cardio and strength training has allowed me to work with my body exactly as it has been in each day, in each movement – and in each moment…

Where pushing myself left me broken, immobilised, and hospitalised – learning union allowed me to walk, hike through the rainforest, safely train in the sport which I love – and live an active life!

Yoga and Fitness.

julisvisions

Cairns, Australia

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How I used to yoga to forge my pathway back to mobility, fitness, and a happy, healthy and very active life!

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