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A Well Rounded Fitness Program Will Benefit Your Yoga Practice
Many people who exercise regularly incorporate yoga into their exercise routine for its flexibility benefits. I add other exercise routines to benefit my yoga practice. It may sound backwards to you, but Pilates’ core strengthening helps with every yoga pose. Weight training helps with the strength needed to hold poses in yoga, and cardio exercises increase lung capacity and strengthen your heart. A well-rounded fitness routine is a good idea to balance your body and keep improving your yoga practice.
During any yoga practice you should be doing something with your core; Pulling it in, activating it in poses for balance, etc. Pilates is about strengthening the core and adding some flexibility, along with the rest of the body. Practicing Pilates exercises increases flexibility. It is similar to yoga in that you connect your breath with your movements. Since teaching yoga is my passion, I’m biased in my opinion that yoga’s flexibility is a plus. In contrast, core strength benefits more in Pilates because people will practice some core strength poses in yoga, but rarely focus an entire yoga session on core practice.
Joseph Pilates studied various exercise methods including yoga. Pilates taught that functional exercise would improve posture and physical fitness. His exercises were intended to balance the mind, body and spirit. With a physically fit body we can live easily and enjoy life. So as you can see, the practice of yoga and Pilates has many similarities: increased strength, flexibility, breathing exercises, and mind-body connection.
One benefits if you practice them regularly. I teach a lot of yoga and Pilates mixed classes and I teach them separately. Both are beneficial; They are only in larger doses when you do them separately.
Weight training brings many new benefits to your yoga practice. Strengthening the legs helps to hold the pose a little longer. Standing requires some strength in the legs, and that strength will only increase with yoga practice, but if you can build strength in your yoga practice, you’re ahead of the game.
Upper body strength training helps with plank (push up) poses and any pose that strengthens the shoulders and upper back. If you’re not strong enough to hold yourself up in a high pushup, you can always use your knees for support, but if you can strengthen that upper body through weight training, your strength will increase faster.
When I teach power yoga, I have a series of poses that take you from a high pushup position (plank pose) to a low push up position where you keep your body upright a few inches off the floor. Then you come into upward dog pose and return to a low pushup. This is a fantastic move for strengthening the shoulders and core, but you need some strength to do it. This requires both upper body strength and core strength. Of course any yoga pose can be adjusted and you can gain strength by practicing it on your knees, but again, if you get some strength from other activities, your overall gains will be faster.
Cardiovascular function increases your lung capacity. If a sedentary person were to try to sprint a full mile, the first problem would be that they wouldn’t be able to breathe. Anyone who does regular cardio exercises is more likely to run miles. Increasing lung capacity is another benefit of yoga, but again, if you practice cardio regularly, the benefits will be faster.
So how often should you do each thing? Weight training should be 2-3 times a week for 30-45 minutes. You want to work all muscle groups starting with the larger muscle groups and working towards the smaller ones. Chest, back and legs should be first followed by some shoulders, biceps and triceps. You can use any type of strength equipment, strength machines at the gym, free weights (dumbbells), or resistance bands work well. Consult someone certified in weight training or research about which exercises to start with. Just, please, be safe about it.
Pilates can be practiced at home with the many available DVDs or at a gym or Pilates studio. Practicing 2-3 times a week for 30-60 minutes can give you good results.
Cardiovascular exercises can also be done outside, such as walking, jogging or biking. If the weather is bad, this can be done on a treadmill, cross trainer or stationary bike. Dancing, ice skating, and playing soccer with the kids are all great forms of cardiovascular exercise. You want to focus on getting your heart rate up and breathing a little; A little out of breath means you can do Say a sentence as you do the activity.
Another great way to improve respiratory health and lung capacity is interval training. If you’re walking, you’ll want to come up with a way to keep track of time. You can walk slowly for a few minutes, then fast, then slow, etc. If you are at a high fitness level you can walk and run, jog and sprint etc. at your intervals. You get the idea. You want to get your heart rate up and then let it drop a bit, then back up and keep going. 30-60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per day is recommended.
This sounds like a lot of exercise, but an example of a weekly schedule might be:
2 days of weight training for 30 minutes.
Practice Pilates 2 days for 30-60 minutes.
3-5 days of 45-60 minutes of yoga.
Add 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise daily.
You don’t have to do everything at once, if you only have 20-30 minutes to exercise, break it up. Commit yourself to a well-balanced physical fitness.
You’re looking at an hour a day to improve your physical fitness, improve respiratory health and lung capacity, and increase your overall sense of well-being physically and mentally.
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