For awhile now, I’ve been telling myself that I need to start up yoga again.
Yoga makes me feel so good…after it is over.
In a way, it’s like foam rolling and stretching…even warming up and cooling down…people either love it or skip it because they don’t see an immediate benefit, like sweat pouring off of them and their heart beating hard.
You may not be gasping for air or have that feeling that you were just “destroyed” by a workout, but if you want something that will help your lifts and make you both mentally and physically stronger, yoga is it!
Very quickly though, I will note that there is a big difference from a yoga that is simply stretching and one that does force you to hold more strengthening poses that may cause a bit of muscle shake-age. Both have their place and can be very beneficial, BUT there is a difference between what you will get out of each.
The yoga that I prefer is one that, yes does have stretching, but more importantly creates a bit of muscles shake-age. (AND also to note…I’m not necessarily talking about one specific “type” of yoga. Sometimes people can take the same class and get very different things out of it based on how low they choose to go in their warrior pose….)
While both can be great for recovery and mobility and flexibility work, ones that force you to hold a low and strong warrior pose for a decent amount of time are going to create more strength both mentally and physically.
I believe that one of the best ways to create more mental strength (and physical for that matter) is to force yourself to do something longer than your mind tells you that you want to do it. Our minds will give up way before our bodies have to.
Do one more squat than you want to…One more push up…Run that extra sprint…
All those things push you just a little beyond what you want to do.
But personally, I don’t think any are quite as good at developing mental strength as forcing yourself to hold an isometric pose while your muscles start to shake just a bit.
Pushing yourself to hold that Crescent pose even when your leg is shaking is an incredibly difficult thing. You don’t get to move…AT ALL.
At least when you are doing that extra sprint or extra squat, you are moving. For some reason, getting to move makes pushing yourself to do an extra rep just a wee bit easier. It’s like because you are moving you can feel yourself getting closer to the end so you can hold out through that extra rep or so.
Whereas it is WAY easier to give up when you are simply holding a move while being super uncomfortable and just waiting for the time to pass. It is hard to keep calm while your legs or arms are shaking and your mind is screaming at you “GIVE UP!” and you aren’t allowed to move.
Continuing to hold Warrior I as your legs shake until that teacher (or timer) tells you to stop can be incredibly challenging. You just want to stand up so bad as your leg muscles burn.
And the best part is…your instructor is probably also telling you at the same time that your mind wants to give up, “Just relax and breathe.”
Just relax and breath….
As your legs or arms are shaking, as your mind is telling you to give up, just RELAX and BREATHE.
And the reason the instructor is telling you this?
Because your mind will give up before your body has to.
Your mind will start screaming at you all sorts of negative thoughts. It will make you tighten and clench muscles that don’t even need to be clenched. It will force your breath to become more shallow, labored and even “panicked.”
But if you just focus on deep calming breaths and keep your mind on trying to relax the muscles, you may just manage to beat your mind and successfully hold the pose longer than you ever thought possible.
If you want to reach your full potential, if you want to lift more or run faster, you’ve got to not only strengthen your body, but also your mind.
You’ve got to be able to be RELAXED UNDER TENSION.
So the next time you consider skipping yoga because it isn’t that hard a workout, think about what your body and mind really need.
My guess is that most of us out there aren’t getting enough mobility and flexibility work let alone ever really focused on working on our mental strength during our workouts….Physical strength yes…maybe even “pushing ourselves” but truly focused on relaxing under tension? I DON’T THINK SO!
So try adding in yoga once a week. It may just be what your body and mind need to take your performance (and even your health!) to the next level!