Yoga is a great form of exercise I always encourage clients to get into. Like anything else though, we must be aware of why we are getting into it in the first place.
Mobility vs Flexibility
Yoga is great for improving flexibility, but mobility not so much. Mobility is the ability to move your body through a full range of motion while being placed under stress. For example, if you can bend over and touch your toes, that’s great flexibility. However, if I add weight to your body when you try to stretch, and you can’t comfortably get into the same position (like in an RDL), then you have the flexibility, but not the mobility. You aren’t OWNING the range of motion.
I do see a lot of benefit with the flexibility. If you are taking a yoga class with a good teacher, they will teach you to actively be engaged with your muscles, and it will do wonders helping you make that mind muscle connection. So much of our lack of mobility comes from the inability to connect to certain muscles and this is why we end up getting injured. If one muscle isn’t firing properly, then that excess load has to disperse elsewhere. What happens then is other muscles made for stabilization are taking on the brunt of the weight and something ends up giving up.
With a good yoga class, the instructor will have you always engaging and firing muscles depending on the movement performed. You then have to hold the position and maintain perfect posture in order to keep it up.
Mentality and Recovery
The other aspect I love about yoga is the mental and recovery aspect. Particularly with avid lifters, we love to find excuses to add MORE intensity to our week. Whether it’s an extra spin class, extra workout, or too much weight. Far less often do we think of ways to add more recovery movement into our day. Yoga fills in that void where you still get your movement for the day, but allow your body to relax and recover. Our performance and muscle growth can only improve as far as our recovery allows it. People think the more working out they do the better but that isn’t true. It’s the time spent NOT training that allows the muscle to grow bigger and stronger.
Also, muscles grow best at a full range of motion. If you are consistently practicing yoga, then you are keeping your muscles active through that full range which will transfer nicely to the gym. A muscle taken through its full range will always grow more than a muscle taken through a shortened range.
The mental break also allows you to take a moment to reflect on being present, and slow down your breath and your mind. Our days are constantly full of stressors and yoga can help bring your body back down to a parasympathetic state.
Overall, yoga can be a great tool for recovery. It will give your mind and muscles a break from the everyday constant stress that's put on it. If taught properly, it can keep you actively engaged with the muscles which will translate well assuming you are working on your mobility in the gym to solidify those new connections. Adding yoga even 1-2 days a week will do wonders for taking our stress down, and making your body feel new again.