by Leigh Weingus, mbg Yoga & Fitness Editor
Most of us find one form of exercise we love and stick to it. For me, that's yoga.
But lately, trainers and yogis alike have been telling me that weight training is crucial to overall health and fitness. As someone who had poor posture and a propensity for running injuries before finding yoga, this advice seemed counterintuitive to me. Wouldn't my open shoulders and loose hips tighten right back up, undoing all those delicious pigeon poses and backbends?
Here's what they had to say.
Start out slow and know when to back off.
If you're a yogi who's new to the weight room, start slow. You may have heard that big weights lead to big results, but Sara suggest yogis keep it light—especially in the beginning. "Start out light, then work up to heavy," she warns. "Research says that the benefit of lifting isn't about the actual weight of the muscle, it's about the fatigue you place on the muscle. So even if you're using lighter weights, you may increase the number or reps you're doing and it's equally effective."
That being said, Adam thinks yogis who are new to the weightlifting game will be just fine. "People with a dedicated yoga practice tend to possess a great deal of self-awareness in terms of body alignment, which is great to go into if you're just getting started weight training."
Sara says that once yogis get accustomed to the weight room, they should aim to train two to three times per week. But she also cautions yogis to back off when it's necessary. "When you have an injury, you should definitely not weight train."
Weight lifting as injury prevention
According to Adam, weightlifting isn't just a nice supplement to yoga—it's actually key in preventing injuries. "Any yogi who's experienced a shoulder injury will likely agree that mobility without balanced strength can be dangerous," says Adam. "Most asanas favor your side but do little for your back—so you're walking around with strong pecs but a weak upper back. Hello, shoulder injury."
Similarly, he says yogis often find that they have strong quads but weak hamstrings, meaning they'll wind up with a knee injury down the road if they don't work hard to strengthen their hamstrings. Who wants that?
It's all about balance.
Sara has been a yogi nearly her entire life, and when she found weight training she realized it was exactly what her limber body needed. "Weight lifting and HIIT interval training has really helped my practice," says Sara. "It helps me strengthen areas where I'm weakest. I'm so the opposite of most people in the gym. Strength and flexibility? I've got that down! But one can be 'too' flexible and lack the support and strength to maintain healthy ligaments and muscle structure."
Adam adds that weight training is actually a great way for yogis to strengthen their practice and stabilize their bodies. "Muscular imbalance pulls your skeleton out of alignment and puts extra stress on your joints," he says. "In order to keep your bones balanced and centered in their joints and allow proper movement, you need an even balance."
So, should yogis weight train?
The short answer is yes. According to both Sara and Adam, the benefits of weight training will do far more good than harm. Just remember to watch your form, and always back off when you're dealing with an injury. Good luck!