Day 40 – Another Yoga Post?

Today is an off day from the weight room.  However, I will be doing some light cardio & practicing yoga later on today.

The cardio is more to just get some blood moving more than anything.  I could actually skip it & it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.

But yoga?

Yoga is VERY important to me.  I won’t be skipping that today.

I do yoga most everyday for a number of reasons:

Once such reason is…

Sitting at a desk for the majority of the workday can wreak havoc on the body.  Before I began regularly practicing yoga, I had the following issues:

  • Internally rotated shoulders
  • Lower back pain
  • Tight hamstrings & hip flexors
  • Poor overall body flexibility

In the past few months these issues have become non-issues.  While some of this can be attributed to better exercise habits, the vast majority of the change is due to yoga.

More benefits…

I have noticed that correcting these issues has lead to better performance in the weight room.  Especially when doing lower body exercises.  Now that my lower back pain is gone, I can perform deadlifts.  The lack of tightness in the hamstrings & hip flexors allows for full range of motion while squatting & lunging.  The increased flexibility has definitely benefited my shoulders.

Another reason I do yoga (especially Post-workout)….

I believe that the recent muscle growth I have experienced is due, in part, to yoga.  Granted, the majority of the muscle growth is directly related to lifting weights & an increased caloric intake.  But, if it weren’t for yoga, I would be compromising my ability to grow muscle.

How’s that possible?  

Let me explain…

Have you ever heard of deep fascia?  Think of deep fascia as a fibrous pillowcase that surrounds the muscle & keeps them in place.  It is a very critical part of the body’s connective tissue makeup.

Now let’s think about what would happen if the fascia surrounding a particular muscle group were overly tight.  Instead of a pillow case, the fascia in this instance has become more of a hardened shell.

Uh oh.

How will your muscles grow if they are encased in a hard shell?  That’s right, they won’t grow much, if at all, if they have no room to grow!

But yoga can help to stretch the fascia, thus relieving the tension.  The shell is now back to being more like a pillow case.  The resulting flexibility/elasticity of the fascia is vital for muscle growth.

Post-workout yoga is great for stretching tight fascia. A great ratio of yoga to weight lifting would be 1 minute of yoga for every 1minute spent lifting weights.  If that isn’t possible at least 5-10 minutes of post-workout yoga would make a big difference.

While desk-job relief & muscle growth are very important, they aren’t the main reasons I do yoga.

The most important reason to do yoga is to..

Yes, the mental clarity is probably the greatest benefit I derive from regularly practicing yoga.

To do yoga properly, one must block out all outside distractions while also quieting the mind.  Focus on breathing & movement patterns is vital.  To do this requires being in the current moment – not thinking of the thing at work that made you mad earlier or what you are going to do when your yoga session is over.

I will admit that the first few times I did yoga I had difficulty in clearing out the mind.  It didn’t feel right.  But over time it became more natural.  The mental clarity is well worth the effort.

It is during these moments of clarity that the restorative qualities of yoga become more pronounced.  To do this I focus on breathing in the tension & then during the exhalation portion of each breath I think “relaxation”.  As I do this, I find myself getting deeper into a pose & becoming more relaxed.  The day’s stress seems to melt away.  Eventually, I find myself no longer breathing in tension but just breathing.

More than anything, the feeling of complete relaxation & being aware of/present in the current moment is why I regularly practice yoga.

Too often in life we don’t take the time to slow down, relax & be in the current moment.  I’m guilty of this far too often.  But not when the yoga mat gets rolled out on the floor.  I know that in a matter of a few moments I will be visiting a wonderful place of relaxation & mental well-being.

If you haven’t given yoga a try, why not start?

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