When I first tried yoga, I had no idea how it would change me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. After experiencing how yoga could open up hips, relax tight muscles, and build stabilization in balancing poses, I began to realize the benefits of yoga for bodybuilders.
The bodybuilders I know lack flexibility and complain of overall tightness in the body. I’ve seen at least a dozen different bodybuilding shows, and watch as they flex their muscles like the Hulk, but can’t touch their toes. When you have that kind of strength, but lack flexibility, you are setting yourself up for back injuries and hamstrings that could pop at any given moment.
I’ve seen it happen. Without stretching and elongating muscles, muscles and ligaments are torn.
I’ve been teaching yoga for more than 5 years, and the amount of bodybuilders that come into class has increased. I think I know why; it’s the Yin to their Yang.
Why Yoga is Good for Bodybuilding
Bodybuilding without yoga doesn’t make sense. Have you noticed the increase of yoga teachers in CrossFit boxes? Or how NFL teams are looking into yoga as part of their weekly routine?
It’s not only helping the body, yoga also brings peace and relief to the mind. Stress in the body is one thing, but stress in the mind is toxic.
There are several reasons why yoga and bodybuilding complement each other. Here are the best three:
1. Yoga gives your muscles the ability to fire more efficiently without shutting down in response to stretched tendons.
2. No more use for a weight belt. You’ll learn how to use your abs -- your natural stabilizers.
3. Yogic has the ability to hit muscle groups that don’t respond well to regular weight training.
Different Kinds of Yoga to Try
Power Vinyasa yoga would be great if you are looking to strengthen your body and build muscle. This is the yoga for bodybuilders that they’d want to do on a non-weight lifting day. It’s gentle on the body and allows deep stretching while strengthening sans weights.
If you’re a bodybuilder experiencing chronic pain, you might want to look into Yin yoga. Yin lengthens connective tissue through relaxation and encourages joints to reach full flexion and extension. This type of yoga will alleviate muscular tightness and joint pain.
The third type of yoga great for aches and pains is Restorative yoga. This style of yoga emphasizes healing and realignment through supportive postures and sequences, and is awesome for people recovering from an injury.
A few poses to get you started on your bodybuilding yoga venture are:
1. Legs up the Wall Pose
One of the best Restorative yoga poses, this pose will get blood flowing in the opposite direction and is great for people who travel, are on their feet a lot, or have desk jobs where their feet are always toward the ground.
To do the pose, find the nearest empty wall. Come to lie on your back, with your knees bent. Scoot your bum as close to the wall as you can, while you walk your feet up the wall. Eventually, your bum will be directly against the wall, with your legs resting along it above you.
You can either rest your hands on your belly, or spread your arms out on either side, with palms up, like a big "T."
Stay here for as long as comfortable, and relax.
2. Pigeon Pose
My personal favorite and the best hip opener stretch around. If you spend at least 20 seconds in this pose, your body will thank you.
To get into Pigeon Pose, start from Downward Facing Dog. On an inhale, lift your right leg up towards the sky, bend the knee, and as you exhale, bring the right knee along the center-line of the body towards the front of the mat. Gently place the right knee behind the right wrist, and bring the left leg down to rest on the mat. Uncurl the left toes, so that the left leg is nice and long behind you.
Either stay here in an upright position with the spine straight, or walk the hands out in front of you so you're resting over the right leg, but only as far as is comfortable. Keep your weight centered and lifted, so you're not spilling onto the right knee. Too much pressure on the right knee could cause injury.
Stay here for 8-10 breaths, or as long as is comfortable.
To come out of the pose, walk the hands back up under the shoulders, curl the left toes under, lifting the left knee off the ground, and on a large exhale, pouring weight into the hands, send the right leg back to meet the left in Downward Facing Dog.
Repeat on the left side.
3. Spinal Twist, or Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
I hear bodybuilding friends chat about digestion issues and tight lower backs. A spinal twist is a great way to get your digestion moving and releases tightness in the spine.
Starting from a seated position with the legs straight out in front of you, bend the right knee, and gently place the right foot to the outside of the left leg. Hook the left elbow over the right knee, and twist the torso open towards the right on an exhale.
Breathe here for 5 to 10 breaths, and gently release on an exhale. Repeat on the other side.
Are you a body builder who does yoga? What poses work for you? Share them with us below!