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Nikki’s Thoughts on Integrating Yoga with Fitness

October 08 2019 Coaches Feedback

How adding Yoga to your fitness can make you feel and perform better

Hi, I’m Nikki and I teach yoga at many studios around the city. I also teach and sweat at Ironstone.

As someone who is passionate about yoga and who has chosen it as a career, it should come as no surprise that even among the vast range of physical activities I like to fill my days and weeks with, yoga still holds the top spot for my favourite – my go to – activity when I’m looking for a wide range of physical, emotional or mental benefits. Setting aside my personal preferences there is simply a vast list of benefits to the practice of yoga, especially as a compliment to things like CrossFit, Weightlifting, circuit training and any other high intensity sports and activities.

The most important thing to understand is that there are numerous styles and types of yoga, each one with a host of benefits, often overlapping, that will suit a wide range of people, body types and fitness regimes. For the purpose of this post I am going to address 2 types, Yin and Power yoga, which you will find in either Rendered or Tempered yoga here at Ironstone.

What are some of the physical reasons we practice yoga? Flexibility, muscle strength including supportive muscles surrounding the more utilized ones, preventing cartilage and joint breakdown, bone health, increased blood flow, improved balance, releasing physical tension, increased focus and awareness, the possibility of a lower heart rate and BP and the benefits that go with the body activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Mental focus and control as well as breath control are huge for athletes of any kind. Both show up while competing or performing and definitely show up in recovery.

There is a reason we call yoga a practice. It is the practiced (re)shaping of our reactions and behaviors when we are faced with challenge, discomfort, powerful emotions and long held habits. In a class like Rendered, our Yin Yoga class, we hold poses on the ground or at the wall for long periods of time and through release and surrender we are stretching the deep tissues of the body including ligaments, joint capsules, cartilage, bones and fascial networks. This kind of practice is what will ultimately offer longevity in fitness, performance and all around body health.

There is the challenge of remaining still in discomfort, of sitting with whatever thoughts and habits show up, but also the challenge of not reaching for more and struggling to find deeper sensation or stretch. For those of us drawn to intense physical practices the real challenge in this style of yoga often arises in simply letting go and relaxing into the postures; which is where all the deep tissue stretching happens and therefore where much of the physical benefit shows up.

In our daily lives we are programmed to keep moving. Even when we are willing to engage in discomfort we often move from one discomfort to the next without really sitting in the present moment. A practice like Rendered offers the space to get still in the struggle and for high performance athletes can provide a kind of presence that will show up both in training and competition. This practice can take years to master but the benefits are long reaching.

Adding to all of that our Tempered Yoga class offers the added bonus of building strength and stability in powerful standing and active poses. You have the benefit of mental focus and the practice of being present in all the things. Think also of becoming more connected with the muscles you choose to recruit when in transition and when in stillness. It can become a selective process which both builds connection with the self but also an opportunity to build mastery over when and how to conserve energy. This kind of practice can have long reaching impacts not just in a CrossFit gym but in any physical practice, competitive or not.

It can be hard to carve out time to add other things to an already full schedule of workouts and activities and yet most athletes arrives at a point where they look back and realize they wish they’d added something to their weekly routine that had them working towards longevity of health and fitness. The best way to figure out if yoga at Ironstone is for you, the easiest way to figure out if what you do on a yoga mat will show up in other aspects of your life and fitness in a beneficial way, is to try it for a few weeks and see what shows up. You won’t be disappointed you took the time.