A little over a year ago, if you had asked me whether or not I stretched after my workout, I would have given the usual, frequent excuse of "I didn't have time." I hated the idea of any kind of stretching, let alone yoga. It was painful. I wasn't graceful, I was clumsy. I didn't understand how people walked into a yoga class and all their worries went away. However, I'd heard that there were some benefits to it, so I decided to give it a try.
The first time I tried yoga, and for the first few times after that, my mind was constantly racing as I sat at the back of the yoga classroom. I would think:
"Am I doing this right?"
"Do I look stupid?"
"How can that girl be smiling right now?"
"Why am I so bad at this?"
"I should have stayed home."
"This isn't for me."
"I hate this."
"I have so much to do today"
I was the classic stubborn weightlifter.
Although I would spend those entire hours staring at the clock counting down the minutes until it was over, I still forced myself to go once a week. I did this because as much as I hated going, I had been told it would be worth it.
As it turned out, yoga changed my life.
The results from stretching my overly tight muscles were amazing. As my flexibility increased, I gained a better range of motion, which allowed me to hit more parts of muscle groups. Instead of using the wrong muscles to exercises (such as my traps instead of my delts), I was able to lift correctly and saw my muscles become longer and leaner over time. Ultimately, I began to feel less pain and my weightlifting sessions became 10x more efficient. Eventually, yoga no longer became a chore to me. I started going willingly and began to reap the many more benefits that stretching had to offer.
Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not about how far you can touch your toes. The most important part about yoga is actually the breath. As weightlifters, we sometimes struggle to just breathe and a reduced supply of oxygen will actually reduce performance in the gym. Therefore, finding a few minutes each day to be aware of your body is important. The heightened awareness will aid in preventing injury, as you will learn to maintain proper posture at all times. Additionally, yoga has scientifically been proven to help reduce stress, diminished fatigue, improve balance, improve sleep quality, decrease anxiety and speed up post-workout recovery.
As mentioned before, as a beginner yogi I could never quite seem to shut my chattering mind. After a while though, I began to feel more relaxed. This is because the stress reducing effects of yoga have been proven to improve cortisol levels. Yoga increases the levels of antidepressant type neurotransmitters. These feel good chemicals helped motivate me to get up, get out the door, and hit the gym!
To say that yoga has changed my life would be an understatement.
I have learned a lot in the past year, but I still have a long way to go. What I have learned though, is that its not just about photos of bendy yogis on social media. I have learned that if I don't practice, life just seems to be more difficult. Incorporating yoga into my life has not only helped my weightlifting & cardio routine... but my life tremendously.
I understand that yoga is not for everyone, it wasn't for me at first either. However, after reading this article I hope you will take into consideration the importance of taking time to stretch after your workouts. Increasing your mobility and strength in connective tissue will help reduce the likelihood of injury. Yoga has helped improve my body, mind and soul. The most exciting part is that it's only just the beginning.