This Is How Yoga Builds Superior Strength and Endurance
Yoga Can Do What?
This ancient system of breathing, postures, and meditation is not widely associated with bulging muscles. What's so challenging about sitting cross-legged on a mat, anyway? The truth is as amazing as it is simple: Yoga safely whips the body into shape by reconnecting a much-ignored link, and that's the mind-body connection. This is far from being some kind of unicorn hoo-ha without substance. With a dexterity that is almost tailor-made for the individual, yoga can be whatever you need it to be.
- A way to become flexible
- Develop more balance
- Recover and strengthen muscle mass
- More endurance
- Improved cardiovascular and lung function
- A more tranquil mind
Yoga can be used as a tool to focus on one quality, all of the above or more. The same system can be beneficial to a wide spectrum of practitioners, from the convalescing patient to career athletes who want to be better at their sport. With persistence, both the patience and athlete will achieve amazing physical endurance.
The Mind-Body Connection
Unfortunately, the body-only concept of fitness remains prevalent in the West. When an exercise session hits the proverbial ceiling of tiredness or pain, the mind sends warning flares. Stop. Rest. Too often, athletes ignore these thoughts and tell themselves (or get told by their trainers) to man up. You want to reach the Olympics? Win that competition or get that six-pack? Man up and do a hundred more push-ups. When the link between the mind and body isn't honoured, that's when injuries follow.
Many might ask, “What's the mind got to do with fitness? The mind is not a muscle. It's in my head somewhere.” Anyone who's ever watched a game or practiced an art over a prolonged period has run into the mind's power over the body. Remember that super-fit football team that kept falling apart because their opponents psyched them out? Then there's that moment you hit “the zone” with something. It's like you had superpowers — your actions followed your mental flow and conviction, all the way to a victory that perhaps even outdid your personal best.
The mind can defeat or carry the athlete over the finishing line. When one's head is not in the game, physical fitness almost doesn't even matter. Similarly, control over the body can also help to master one's mind. Face it, the mind can be a crazy monkey.
Merging of the Halves
Yoga Is the Bridge
Yoga was designed from ancient times to be a bridge between the mental and the physical. Fine-tuned over generations, many people can automatically enjoy a reconnection between their bodies and minds purely by performing yoga mindfully. The mind experiences the body's sensations when a stretch goes too far or peace when postures hit the sweet spot. The mind cannot be tranquil during an incorrect or forced pose. During the best moments, such as mastering a challenging pose for the first time, it often releases dopamine (the happy hormone). In turn, growing physical fitness lessens stress, anxiety, and depression. Yoga keeps the two connected within this rewarding cycle.
Why Isn't Yoga Popular for Bodybuilding?
The reason is rooted in how yoga amps up strength and endurance. Contrary to the more popular weight training and resistance training, yoga takes more time to produce the same results. In addition, yoga may appear a little too “sissy” for the more testosterone-fueled bodybuilder.
Traditional muscle-building systems focus on repetitions, distance and even high-calorie milkshakes. In the wrong hands, the chances of injuries (and losing time to convalesce) increase. People want quick results and blood, sweat and tears promise them a six-pack within a month. Yoga isn't a quick fix or a miracle muscle milkshake. Most don't want to take the long road and that's yoga. Yet, if this were a race based on fewer injuries and a more body-friendly way of cultivating strength, then yoga practitioners will have the advantage.
You Don't Need to Put Down the Dumbbells
This is certainly not a dumbbell versus yoga battle! In some cases, especially with professional athletes, weightlifting is an essential part of training. However, some still blunt their edge by not understanding what produces superior strength. We've all seen the guy or gal who, even when they're at rest, have bulging biceps and calves. For generations, the swollen muscle has been touted as the very image of strength and yes, it's stronger than a weak, under-worked muscle. But the rather eye-opening truth is that these bulging people are not at their strongest.
True strength flows from peak muscle condition, balance and flexibility. One of the biggest problems with traditional strength training is that it often ignores the body as a whole. Joint health, the spine and balanced muscle development lose to looking buff. Yoga works muscles in a way that tense them in opposition to each other and strengthens the entire body to prevent lopsided proportions. A resting, bulging muscle is a sign of being “muscle-bound”. It may look like a superhero's body but that muscle is so unbalanced and stiff, it impedes full body motion and tears more easily. Yoga can add great preventive measures to the professional bodybuilder by adding balance and flexibility.
Find Your Sanctuary
How to Stay on the Long Road
For every exercise program started somewhere in the world, somebody quits another one. It's immensely difficult to see a new routine through to the end. This is harder for those who understand and want the benefits of yoga's strength and endurance — but desire those results quickly. Caught in this kind of mindset, it's all too easy to avoid the mat. However, there are ways to stay on course.
- If quick results are something you like (who doesn't?), then it's absolutely fine to start yoga along with another strength regime such as weights, aerobics or that machine at the gym that looks like a government weapon. All of these will bring their due and yoga, practiced in conjunction, will safely enhance them
- Start small and with poses you enjoy
- If possible, create your own yoga sanctuary, a place where you can go and experience the peacefulness of a simplistic environment
- Aim for weekly or daily goals that are achievable and encouraging
- Keep reading articles about the amazing benefits of yoga
- Enjoy each pose by activating the mind-body link and consciously think about the physical feelings produced by each posture
Yoga Is Power
Don't be fooled by yoga's grace. During certain postures, a person lifts his or her own weight – with ease. To try and lift dumbbells equal to one's own body weight would be a struggle for most. The secret to yoga's power is no longer so secret — giving equal exercise and attention to the three ingredients that blend correct yoga; the body, mind and spirit.
For a beginner, this can seem overwhelming but allow yourself the time to learn. Enjoy the poses for their own sake and as your knowledge and skill grow, raise the bar and let yoga challenge you to an even greater height.
© 2018 Jana Louise Smit