Yoga For Bodybuilders
Everyone can benefit from yoga; it helps you stretch, focus, build strength, and gain flexibility. However, those of us who lift weights seriously probably need it more than most.
Yoga will help you avoid injury. You’ll be less sore after workouts. Your posture will be better. You’ll be less likely to have lower back pain. All of those things are great reasons to dedicate 1 to 2 hours a week to yoga.
Reasons Bodybuilders Need Yoga
First, we zone out during tough lifts. When my mind is determined to burn out one more rep but my muscles are wasted, where do I go?
Usually somewhere warm that smells more like like coconuts than sweat. It almost always involves an adult beverage until, before I know it, I finished my set and get a blissful 30-second break.
Second, we’re AWFUL about stretching. Who has time when there are weights to lift? I at least do a couple of warm up sets before my workout, but most of the guys I lift with literally just walk in and start lifting.
Since I’m not all about ripping a bicep or pulling a hamstring, I make an effort to do some ballistic stretching before my session and some static stretching after.
I used to make an effort to go to yoga twice a week, and I haven’t been going lately. I tend to take my natural flexibility for granted, and it showed last week when I tried to do the splits (don’t ask).
While builders most often care about bulk, flexibility is more than just about looking good. It’s about functional fitness, being able to do the things your life requires to maintain your lifestyle.
Third, we rarely hold any tension in the muscle. Yoga positions, such as warrior, help because they create muscular endurance in addition to muscular strength.
You’ll see different schools of thought, especially among builders, about how important muscular endurance is.
From my perspective, endurance is another part of functional fitness. What good is it if I can lift my bags of groceries if I don’t have the endurance to carry them to the car?
Fourth, it makes us more aware of our posture as well as our pain so we don’t get injured. Cannot stress enough the importance of the mind-body connection. I’ve gotten so much better at knowing what is “growing pain” and what is “injury pain” based on my yoga and Pilates practices.
Fifth, we don’t often sweat and for SURE don’t get in enough cardio. Most “serious” builders I know don’t do any cardio. I’m sorry, but that’s just not wise. You’ve got to get some burn in there to keep your heart healthy and strong.
Next to “low and slow” cycling and walking, I think Vinyasa yoga is a great way to keep up your endurance. You’re constantly moving through poses, which breaks a bit of a sweat, and you’re not zoning out mentally.
Best Yoga Options
There are seemingly endless types of yoga, and many of them verge on unpronounceable given that they come from Sanskrit.
I’ve chosen the ones that are best suited to bodybuilding so that you can select the right class for you.
If you’re visiting a class at your gym, ask the instructor what her class method is. If she says it’s mind-body connection, it’s pretty safe to assume she comes from a Hatha viewpoint.
If she calls it “flow”, it’s probably Vinyasa.
And if you walk into a room, immediately sweat your butt off and wonder who sent you to Death Valley in July, it’s probably a hot yoga, or Bikram class.
Hatha actually refers to any physical (versus solely spiritual) practice of yoga.
However, when we talk about Hatha yoga, we generally mean a practice that focus on controlled breathing, slow movements, and focus on the mind-body connection.
Having been to all, I can safely say that they all serve their purposes. I prefer Hatha for myself because I enjoy finding “the relaxation within the tension” of holding Reverse Warrior for thirty seconds or more. It helps me focus on my breathing and deal with discomfort.
While I find that most useful for childbirth, it’s great in the weight room. Often during the last rep of my last set on quads and biceps, I’ll take twenty or more seconds to lower the weight to tax the muscle to the max.
You’re dead tired, and I’ve actually come close to tears in front of a spotter (for shame!), but I’ve never been so sore afterward. I started making bigger gains when I added that last rep rule to the second two days of my two, 2-day splits.
Hatha is especially good for beginners, because it allows you to learn the correct form for the poses. For example, most people don’t know that you’re actually supposed to do a reverse push-up in chaturanga. Downward-facing dog can be tricky for people to get the right weight distribution, as well.
If you can’t find a beginner’s class, start with Hatha!
The word “Vinyasa” means “breath-synchronized movement”. It’s also called “yoga flow”, and has quite a number of varieties.
What I love about Vinayasa is that it keeps me from the boredom that can set in in a Hatha class.
I get a little restless and, while I truly believe in important of the mind-body connection, I often find myself focusing on my to-do list or some problem that needs solving instead of the task at hand.
In Vinyasa, I don’t have that luxury. It requires that I focus on moving from one pose to the next smoothly and safely.
It can be thoroughly exhausting to spend an hour moving through sun and moon salutations, and I dare you to come out feeling like your quads and calves got left out of the party.
I love Vinyasa for builders because of the heart rate increase. Because you’re constantly moving, you’ll get your heart rate up and keep it up. I’ve burned up to 400 calories in an intense flow class, though I tend to average about 250.
Given the “low and slow” philosophy, I just saved myself an hour of walking and I also got the benefit of strengthening my chest and back, as well as my quads. I’ll always take a “two-fer”.
Bikram is actually a variation of Vinyasa yoga, but it has one big difference: the heat.
The room is usually kept between 95 and 100 degrees. Classes are generally 90 minutes long, and there are 26 poses.
This is actually a pretty controversial type of yoga. People have passed out and gotten quite sick in class, so if you have ANY health conditions, you need to pass.
Pregnancy is an absolute contraindication to Bikram, so don’t even try it. Otherwise, you’re advised to bring a good mat, a towel, and lots of water. It’s also best not to eat two hours before to avoid the whole puking thing.
However, the beautiful part of Bikram is the toxins you’re excreting. Again, builders don’t tend to do the kind of cardio that will clear out your lymph system.
With all the protein you’re choking down, the body needs to sweat to get some of that junk out. Bikram’s a great way to do that without running for miles or sitting in the sauna.
It can take time to find a practice and an instructor that you like, but it’s invaluable to your physical and mental wellness. I can’t wait for you to get involved in something you love. Until then, namaste!