The gym makes you strong. But did you know that yoga can make you strong too? And in a totally different way? Some gym rats avoid yoga because they think it’s a waste of time and won’t build strength. Most yogis avoid the gym because they want all of their strength from yoga. Is there a middle ground? Do the two complement each other? Absolutely. 

Gym strong involves lifting weights. You can tell if someone is gym strong because they tend to have a neck as thick as your thigh and huge arms. But did you know that the same gym rat, who can bench press 150lbs, can also throw out his back from lifting up his toddler? Because weight lifting only involves the most superficial (top layer) muscles and because each muscle is worked one at a time, gym training and weight lifting aren’t functional. Functional training is when you are able to work multiple muscle groups at once in a way that mimics real life or the action that you are practicing. For example, a soccer player will gain strength from leg extensions, but they won’t improve their sprint power or balance unless they do plyometrics or jump squats, which will not only engage and strengthen the thighs, but also the rest of the lower leg and the core. While very cool to do bicep curls with 50lb weights, it’s not functional, because there is no activity in the world that uses the biceps by themselves; there are always others working. You should always train how you want your body to perform. 

Yoga strong is limited by your body weight. Because you don’t have any extra weights, you will eventually max out on pure strength building. But yoga has a secret added benefit: it works your body from the inside out. Take plank, or the top of a push up, for example: the arms are working, the shoulder girdle (lats, delts, biceps, triceps, pecs, and rotator cuff, to name a few), the abdominals are engaged to keep the low back from sagging, and the thighs are engaged to keep the legs up. In one position, you are working every single muscle in your body. Many yoga postures also involve a balance aspect. 

Crescent Pose

Crescent Pose

Think of a standing pose, like crescent pose: shoulder girdle is engaged and stabilizing, abdominals are drawn in, and the thighs are working. To top that all off, every tiny intrinsic muscle in your torso, feet, and legs, are working together to keep you from falling over! The core, which is more than just the sexy six-pack abs, is always working when you’re balancing. Did you know that the core is comprised of not only the muscles on the front of your torso, but also wraps around to the back AND includes hip flexors? That’s why Mr. Gym strong can throw out his back so easily; although each individual muscle is strong, they don’t work together to form a strong core and support his spine. 

Together, gym strong and yoga strong keep you leaner, meaner, and active for longer than you would without both. Yoga helps to undo the shortening of the muscles that occurs from weight lifting while weight lifting helps to improve overall strength, helping you to stay longer in postures. The body awareness that you build in yoga will also help you to become a better and safer weight lifter, as you now have the brainpower to pay attention to the entire body during every lift!

So stop being afraid of one another and mingle!