Strength training or Yoga? Which one should you choose?

Published: 08:17AM 12 April 2023

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Alfisha Sabri

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Are you confused between gaining muscle and flexibility? Yoga or gymming is an age-old question that people have always debated about. Someone tells you the former is better, and someone goes with the latter. Well, most of us had the same doubt, but not anymore. We had the expert answer all our questions, and now we are in a position to make an informed choice.

SocialBoat hosted a Live session with Greesha (@gree_yogini) to address doubts related to Yoga and strength training. Greesha is well-experienced in both domains and with the knowledge, answered all the questions. The questions were asked by people from the SocialBoat communities and SocialBoat’s audience. Read on to find beneficial information from the expert herself.

Image credits- YogiApproved
Image credits- YogiApproved

Yoga, Strength-training, and their Combination

In questions asked by Abhiteg, Swapnil, and a few others, the major concern was which out of Yoga and strength training was a better option for gaining weight and having a sculpted body.

Having significant experience in both the domains, Greesha had the following insights-

1. Prep your body with yoga.

Yoga is the best way to begin because it will definitely help you work up your muscles, joints, and familiarise your body with movement. If you begin with an extreme routine, you will be tired, lose motivation and give up the next day. Then slowly start to add treadmill walking. Then, slowly and progressively increase the intensity of your training.

2. Boost overall health with yoga, body aesthetics will follow.

Our focus is on aesthetics- flat belly, ripped body, etc. but we should realize and understand that an aesthetic body is a by-product. The focus should be on overall health, which also involves internal organs, breathing properly, giving enough time to rejuvenate the body, and proper blood circulation. This overall growth is Yoga’s objective.

3. Cross-training and weights- 3 days each, per week.

Finally, doing cross-training really helps. Yoga and strength training is the best combination one can ever have- for example, three times a week yoga and three times cross-training. Where strength training adds weight and muscle, Yoga enhances agility, mobility, improves your core health, which is very very important. It improves your flexibility.

When asked to suggest the best strength training, Greesha said that it depends completely on your goal. If your goal is to do bodybuilding, you focus on increasing weight. Whereas if you want to be more agile, have more muscle performance, a more athletic way of training is suggested. Greesha subscribes to the latter approach and her training involves a lot of compound muscle movements like squats, chest press, overhead press, etc. So it depends on one’s objective.

Abishek (Your Coach Abhi) asked about creating a yoga flow for lower back pain and once again standing true to her scientific temperament, Greesha explains that our spine is divided into three parts, and the lower back is the most sensitive. You have to activate your top part, the Thoracic part, first, which is also used when you breathe. Then the lowest part, sacrum, and then the middle part, lumber. So one should take up asanas that do this sequentially.

Ideally, start with cat-cow for the top, then sarvanga asana for the bottom, and then the backbend. This will help you warm up your back and release stiffness.

Image credits- Healthline
Image credits- Healthline

Importance of a sleep schedule and alternatives.

Parul told Greesha that her work hours keep her sleep-deprived and asked if yoga would be the right approach for her.

Reinstating the importance of proper sleep Greesha said do whatever, if you want to extract benefit from your workout routine, you will have to sleep at least 6-8 hours a day so that your muscle get the time to recover. But she also had a very interesting suggestion to make- Yoga Nidra classes. Check out the profiles of the following Yoga Nidra trainers- Chitra Sukhu, Tania Garcia.    

It consists of lying down in shava asana, and is moderated by a professional who gives verbal instructions. This helps you calm down your breath and mind. You are awake, but you are going to a complete vacuum. You channelize all your energy on specific body parts, one by one, and hence feel rejuvenated, and calm.

Image credits- Verywell Health
Image credits- Verywell Health

On beginning and re-beginning Yoga

Simple, a 45-years-old, who left Yoga 5 years ago asked if restarting Yoga will cause strain to which Greesha said that feeling stiffness in all parts of your body is only normal after restarting. However, in 6 months’ time or so, you will feel the stiffness relieving and that is an amazing feeling. But all you have to do is start.

Anish Bansal wanted to know about the time suggested for a beginner to invest in Yoga.

The ideal scenario, according to Greesha, would be spending one hour a day- 15 minutes for warming up, 30 for asana practice, and the last 15 for pranayama. The last 15 minutes are very important because they help you relax. This also minimizes muscle soreness, especially for beginners.

Image credits: The New York Times
Image credits: The New York Times

The science behind Yoga and strength training

Greesha explained that in strength training, endorphins are released because you push your limits every day and eventually, it makes you feel rewarded and good about yourself. That is one way of calmness. You feel rewarded. This is the science behind strength training.

“Yoga on the other hand has a different procedure of achieving calm. Our nervous system is divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The former handles fight and flight and is active all the time. Yoga involves a lot of breathing and hence your body is made to shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic and starts rejuvenating. That’s why yoga has a very calming and relaxing effect.”

Yoga and strength training are often seen as two opposing concepts. But, the fact is, the two can be combined into a balanced routine. The key is to understand how each of these exercises impacts the body and to train accordingly. When done in the right manner, Yoga and strength training can help you achieve fitness and strength goals and improve your overall health and well-being.

You can watch the full video of the question and answer blog here.

Stay tuned for more such opportunities to ask your questions to our experts.

For more such insights from fitness creators, visit SocialBoat.

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