Get Strong by Being Soft

Strong, Supple AND Soft! That’s what possible with the right kind of yoga practice!

Yoga can be a very balanced exercise routine – given the right approach it can even be cardiovascular! But often times those very practices that get your heart rate up, also stress your joints (not to mention your nervous system!)

And many people never approach yoga as a cardio exercise at all and so need other cardiovascular activities like walking, running or other sports they enjoy to feel fully fit.

In the same way, many people approach yoga more as a stretching routine than anything else and so seek out other exercises to help build strength, both in muscles and in bone. But given the right approach, yoga can also be extremely helpful in strength building!

In yoga, you use the resistance of your own body weight to stress both your bones and your muscles, which is how you strengthen. Although you may not be adding weight or external resistance, yoga can be especially effective way of addressing strength when you skillfully use both isometric (static) and eccentric (lengthening) contractions of your muscles as you move. The issues come when you either don’t know how to effectively engage your muscles, for example if you work too hard or not hard enough; or, if you have chronic tension patterns or weakness that don’t allow you to engage appropriately.

Chronic tension and over-efforting are probably the most common issues I see that keep people from feeling strong and resilient. Even in the case of weakness, students often over-work in some areas and so never fully access the strength they have, much less build it!

One of the most common recommendations I find myself making, to students who want to build strength, is “quit working so hard”. Over-efforting causes you to tense needlessly, to restrict your breath and it stresses your nervous system. If you really want to build the kind of supple, resilient strength that yoga is so good at providing, you may just need to learn how to relax and soften your effort!! 

Believe it or not, relaxation postures and breathing are important even if your primary goal is to build strength. Then, once you know how to relax you can work on strength.

Yoga can help you build overall balance of strength and flexibility which makes your body function at its best. One of the very best ways to do this is to get a personalized yoga routine that specifically addresses YOUR body. Group classes are great for a lot of things but there just isn’t a way for your teacher, in a group class, to really see what you are doing and give you the instructions that are most helpful for you. At best, a good teacher can give generalized instruction that is mostly helpful but she can’t really watch you individually to see how your are executing that instruction and what might be limiting you.

If you find you are often sore or even injured after exercising (even after doing yoga) or you are having a hard time finding a yoga class that really seems to meet your needs, consider doing a consultation with me to see if some private instruction might be of benefit.

In addition, there are a number of other approaches that can help you in creating the best balanced routine possible for you. One of the things I love about being at Jade River is the collaborative approach we take to helping our clients be their very best.

Here are a few things to consider including in your exercise and healthcare regimen to create the most balanced, supple, healthy YOU!!

Get a massage – massage can help to reduce tension in overworked and tight muscles. It supports better blood flow and can relax muscles so that they can work more efficiently.

Try acupuncture – if you’ve never had acupuncture, you may be leary of the needles, but don’t be scared! Acupuncture really doesn’t hurt and it can be so relaxing! It is a great way to balance your vital energy and your nervous system which again, allows all your other systems to function more at their best!

There are many other great energy and body work techniques that can also help to restore energy and balance; like, craniosacral technique and reiki which I often provide within private, therapeutic yoga sessions. In addition we have other practitioners at Jade River who are specialists in Reiki, reflexology and skin care – all of which can be soothingly relaxing and supportive.

Of course, along with relaxation, you do have to work your muscles to actually build that strength. So give me a call and we can look at specifically what you need to support YOUR body!

In addition to private yoga we also have a great series coming up called Yoga and Strength Conditioning with Maddie Adams. Its a great class where you learn classic yoga postures and breathing techniques along with specific exercises utilizing therabands, stability balls, foam rollers and tennis balls. Great for strength, coordination and balance and all built on the foundation of yoga. Click here for more information!

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