Yoga Vs. The Gym

Photo Krystle Marcellus

I spent a few years of my life picking apart each body part in the gym and then downing a protein shake and calling it a day but I still never felt totally connected to my body. I mean what does  this feeling feel like anyway? I also practiced Kung Fu, Tai Chi and Chi Gong  during this stage of my life when I was younger and not really capable of truly grasping the concept of balance. While I was training my teacher would often say in broken English “Too much Yang. You have no balance.” He later explained to me how the bodies energy could not flow properly because the kinetic chain was undoubtedly strong but the links were weak in comparison. Meaning that the tendons and ligaments were not being strengthened properly and were lacking optimal mobility due to a focus on strength exercises that were only focused on body parts rather than total body development from your toes to your head. I was caught up in the the GOTTA GET STRONGER mode.  I eventually took in what he said and started to experiment with my workouts, using the ideas of mobility, strength and flexibility as my foundation for exercising. I had put some intersting exercises together at the gym (someone was always staring and I could see the slight confusion/curiosity in their eyes) but it was not till i took a Yoga class that I understood what that kinetic chain felt like. I could feel where I lacked body awareness and also where my weaknesses were. A humbling experience it was and till this day I still continue to reconstruct my body through Yogic/Martial lengthening and strengthening exercises that continue to give me a feeling of fullness and balance.

So if your an iron swinging God, gym rat or just a casual visitor to your local fitness club you may wanna take a little time to get to know your body better by reconnecting all the body parts you take apart throughout your week at the gym.

Here’s an article from that clarifies some of the things people wonder about how Yoga compares to Weight Training. The article touches on the key benefits of Yoga and adds how its the perfect addition to your workout routine.

Ask anyone which activity they think is most effective for toning and strengthening muscles, and most would say weight training. For some reason, yoga always seems to end up last on the exercise to-do list, but ironically, the same graceful stress-releasing moves can be just as effective as lifting weights for building a stronger, shapelier body.

“If all you’re looking to do is build muscle, weight training is the more practical approach,” says Nicholas DiNubile, MD, author of FrameWork: Your 7-Step Program for Healthy Muscles, Bones, and Joints. “However, yoga can be just as effective as weights when it comes to developing a stronger, more impressive physique –especially when the two are used together.”

Think yoga is way too passive to give your body the boost it’s been looking for? Here’s why yoga moves just may help your muscles reach your fitness goals even faster!

It’s convenient and cheaper
Weight training requires, well, weights. Traveling often for work, holidays or to see friends can put your workouts on hold — not to mention your fitness results. But with yoga, you have 24-hour access. “Many yoga poses require nothing more than using your own bodyweight as resistance,” says DiNubile. “Knowing a few essential poses you can take on the road can allow you to continue to exercise anywhere, no matter where you end up.”

It helps to prevent injuries
“When it comes to lifting weights, most people tend to only work the ‘mirror muscles’ — meaning, the chest, biceps, abs and thighs,” says DiNubile. “This can cause one side of your body to become stronger than the other, creating a muscular imbalance that can pull the spine out of its natural state of alignment.” A solid yoga program works all of your muscles — front and back –while it stretches them at the same time. “This helps improve your body’s overall posture, allowing it to function more efficiently with less risk of injury.”

It can improve your next workout
Tired of ‘feeling the burn’ when you exercise? Yoga can actually help your muscles prepare for the next time you exercise. “Lifting weights releases lactic acid, a waste product that sits in your muscles and causes that burning sensation you feel days later,” says DiNubile, “Flushing out any excess lactic acid reduces your chances of experiencing any next-day muscle soreness and stiffness that could make your next workout more difficult.” Yoga does just that! By simultaneously stretching muscles as it strengthens them, many yoga moves help flow more blood and oxygen into your muscles, washing out excess lactic acid before it becomes a problem later on.

It teaches muscles to work properly
When was the last time you needed to press a weight off your chest, did a pull-up or curled anything up to your shoulders? “A lot of free-weight exercises train your muscles through a single plane of motion,” says DiNubile, “Unfortunately, that’s not how muscles are used in real life. Yoga, on the other hand, uses poses that teach all of your muscles to work together through a wider variety of angles. The end result: you build functional strength that trains your muscles to work collectively, which can improve your performance in any everyday activity.

It gives muscles more stamina
Most exercises require you to do 6-12 repetitions each set. This only makes your muscles contract for between 24-48 seconds. With yoga, you may hold a pose for as long as five minutes or more. “Maintaining poses for minutes at a time teaches your muscles to contract for longer periods, which can drastically improve your muscular endurance,” says DiNubile. That means they’ll be less likely to quit on you –both in and out of the gym.

Fitness expert Myatt Murphy is the author of the best-selling books, The Body You Want in the Time You Have, Ultimate Dumbbell Guide and The Men’s Health Gym Bible.

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