Yin Yoga, The Perfect Adjunct to Strength Training

I just completed my 50 hour Yin Yoga Certification and it was incredible! It took me months to finally get myself to a Yin Yoga class in the first place. I was all about challenging Vinyasa style classes for so long. I wanted to push hard and achieve the satisfaction of conquering difficult poses! But I knew that what my body needed was to slow down. I love to strength train, and in order to find balance in my body, I didn’t need a power yoga class, I needed a calm and restorative class. I honestly didn’t think I would love Yin as much as I do! I couldn’t believe how amazing it made my body and mind feel. I now feel so much more recovered, and my energy has improved for strength training. This is extremely important to me, as training in the gym is my absolute passion.

Strength training is extremely important for the overall health and functionality of our bodies. Weight training strengthens our muscles, joints, connective tissues, and ligaments, plus it makes us feel good both mentally and physically! Without some kind of resistance training, our muscles become weak, more susceptible to injury, and we eventually lose muscle mass and as bone density as we age.

However, even with all the benefits, strength training can come with side effects. Our muscles and joints become less flexible and we may end up with a reduced range of motion, especially if we don’t properly stretch afterwards. And let’s face it, most of us don’t! Our muscles aren’t the only thing that gets tight, our fascia does too! Deep fascia surrounds, and is interconnected with, our muscles. It’s referred to as the myofascial system. In order to have healthy and strong muscles, we need to have healthy and strong fascia. Think of your fascia like a sponge. When a sponge is wet it’s very pliable and strong, you can squish it and pull on it and it won’t break. But when a sponge dries out, you can’t squeeze it anymore, and you could most likely snap it in half.  

If your fascia is stiff and dried up, your movement will be restricted and your workout won’t be as effective. Tight fascia will restrict muscle growth, function, and performance. And if you’re going to put in all that effort in the gym, don’t you want to see some results?

One really important point to make is that fascia is one big continuous network. For example, if you have fascial tightness in your foot it will affect the rest of your body as well. Try bending over and touching your toes, notice how it feels and how far you can reach. Then take a tennis ball or some other firm massage ball and roll the bottom of both feet. Now reach down and touch your toes and see how it feels. I’ll bet you could get much farther! Our fascia runs all the way from the bottom of the feet to the tops of our heads! Think about what you do when you have a stiff neck and you turn to look at something behind you. You probably end up turning from your torso instead. The point is, when one joint stiffens, when one muscle stiffens, it creates a chain reaction in the entire body because it’s ALL CONNECTED BY FASCIA! So, if you think about lifting weights and adding load to a joint or muscle that may not be moving well, you can see how this may lead to injury and stiffness over time.

How do we keep our fascia happy and supple like a wet sponge? With Yin Yoga! Yin yoga deeply restores and rings out our fascia, essentially “combing out” the knots. Committing to a regular Yin Yoga practice, will bring noticeable benefit to your training in the gym. This style of yoga holds supportive postures for a greater length of time than other styles of yoga. What this does is allow the body to deepen the stretch directly into the connective tissues (aka THE FASCIA!). Yin Yoga may look restorative on the outside, but do not be fooled, it is very intense! Once you get into the posture you need to find your “edge”, this simply means finding the right intensity for you. You need to FEEL it! Then, once you’re feeling it, become still, breathe intentionally, and hold the pose for time. Anywhere from 1 – 5 minutes is generally recommended depending on the pose and your body.

Yin Yoga also has great benefits for the mind. It allows your parasympathetic nervous system to dominate. This is your “rest and digest” state. It’s the opposite of your sympathetic nervous system, or your fight or flight mode. Most strength training enthusiasts find it difficult to relax and are therefore always in that fight or flight mode. Gym lovers tend to also be more busy minded, always thinking about the next thing they need to do. They struggle with being present. Yin Yoga really helps you to focus and breath, becoming more connected to your body.

Strength training and Yin Yoga couldn’t be more opposite from each other, but they fit so beautifully together to build a healthy and well functioning body and mind.

After an intense weight lifting session, there’s nothing better than calming the mind and body with a few Yin postures. Alternatively, you can save your Yin practice for recovery days when you’re away from the gym. Either way, you’ll get great benefit from adding this practice into your weekly regimen.

3 of my favourite poses to compliment strength training are:

  1. Dragons – to open up tight hips
  2. Swan – to release tight hips and glutes
  3. Saddle – to relax and release the hip flexors, quads, and deep front line of the body

Check out my video of them HERE!

They’re honestly ALL really great, it’s hard to pick only 3. If you’re interested in trying Yin Yoga but don’t have a studio near you, or you just want to learn a few for a home practice I work with people online, so I’d love to help! If you strength train, Yin Yoga is a MUST to add into your routine! Contact me for a personalized sequence that you can add into your weekly regimen!

In Wellness, Krista

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