5 reasons yoga & strength training are a perfect combination

5 reasons yoga and strength training are a perfect combination

Opposites attract

At first yoga and strength training seem like polar opposites. Yoga is about what’s going on inside of our body and has less focus on appearance. While strength training, such as lifting weights, is mostly about the outside. But they say polar opposites attract, right? You can both physically and mentally experience the benefits of combining yoga with strength training:

1. the combination make you physically stronger;

2. yoga you will increase muscle endurance;

3. doing a bit of yoga will promote healthy healing in your body;

4. yoga is known for the effects on mental health, a perfect combination with the ‘mood boost’ from resistance training;

5. we learn to control our body.

Strong body, strong mind

Since I’ve been back in the Netherlands due to COVID19 a great new opportunity came across my path: to be a personal trainer at The studio Naarden. During my years as a model I have been doing all sorts of strength training to stay in shape. Also during that time I experienced yoga for the first time. It was a great combination but after a while weight training moved to the background a bit. During my ‘dark age’ (aka my depression. It was only a few years but it felt like an era), my psychologist encouraged me to do some weight training again. I agreed and kudos to him, it worked.

Besides my yoga routine, I started strength training and I felt my body getting strong again which made me feel like my mind was getting stronger again too. Long story short. I personally experienced the benefits of combining yoga with some strength training, both physically and mentally. In this blog I will give you 5 reasons that might convince you to give it a try too.

Feeling fit and healthy

With the combination of yoga and strength training I don’t mean achieving an olympic weight trainer body. For me, and what I also incorporate as the foundation of my personal training programs, is the focus on feeling good and being healthy. On the inside and outside. It is all about training with Ahimsa in mind, which means compassion for ourselves.

Related: https://petrianne.yoga/yoga-philosophy-101-the-yoga-sutras-explaining-the-eight-limbs-of-yoga/

We often struggle with compassion as a society: being kind to our self and being kind to others. Start small and start with self-compassion. That should be the foundation when you start training, so you will be able to listen to your body. Ok, so without further ado, let’s get into the 5 reasons why yoga and strength training complement each other perfectly.

“I mean actual yoga. Not just simple sitting on the floor and leaning forward over one leg with a rounded spine, staring in the distance.”

1. The relationship between strength & flexibility

Yoga in itself is great for building strength. But If you haven’t got enough time to practice yoga every other day, adding some resistance training in your routine can be great to improve muscular strength and endurance. So yes, yoga can make you strong. But combining yoga and strength training can make you stronger. Both physically and mentally.

Yin and Yang

Yoga and strength training, you can say: the yin and yang. Yoga builds and tones your muscles and improves mobility and flexibility. Yoga is also known for strengthening the connective tissues. With strength training you build muscle size, density and strength. What also increases is the bone density. Which is very important since we lose bone density as we age. Combining these benefits sound like the perfect mix of yin and yang for a healthy and happy body and mind.

Yoga for strength training

Just to make it clear, I mean actual yoga. Not just simple sitting on the floor and leaning forward over one leg with a rounded spine, staring in the distance. This is yoga, not simple stretching. With adding yoga to your strength training you will gain flexibility in your hamstrings, glutes, hips and shoulders which helps you find good posture and protect from injuries. Yoga also builds strength evenly through the body, with lifting weights not so much. Muscles grow faster than connective tissue. So you might be able to use a 20 kilo dumbbell but your elbow might not be able to cope with that amount of weight. With yoga you also train the ligaments and tendons to support the muscles.

“It is all about balance: between strength and flexibility during a yoga practice.”

Strength training for yoga

Yoga doesn’t only benefit in strength training, it also works the other way around. When you practice a lot of yoga you can benefit from strength training as well. To prevent a yogi from injury it is important to build strength around the joints. The muscles protect the joints from being pushed too far into a posture. This is especially important for people with hypermobility. I’ve said it a lot and I probably am going to say it many times again: It is all about balance! In this case the balance between strength and flexibility during a yoga practice. If you have too much strength you’ll lose the balance. If you are over flexible and the joints are not supported by your muscles, injury can happen quickly, again, because a lack of balance.

2. Smarter workouts

Functional Fitness

Yoga is a form of functional fitness. Which means that what your body learns during the practice you will be able to use in your daily life. When you lift weights and want to be able to lift more weights, the answer is simple: you just add on more weight and train more. With yoga as a form of functional fitness you’re able to use your strength in all different kinds of life situations like, twisting, bending and walking. It helps with basic activities like getting out of your car for example. Yoga is known for improving posture because it reconnects you with your natural movement patterns and you will be able to actually use the strength you build with weight training. Yoga also improves the range of motion in your joints so you will be able to lift weights in a safe and more effective way.

Better chaturanga

Resistancetraining gives you strength from which you can benefit greatly in yoga. For example with doing a chaturanga you need that arm and chest strength to perform it correctly and don’t cause any strain on the joints. As a yoga teacher I often see people perform a chaturanga but their bodies are not strong enough yet, which results in poor alignment. Of course, you don’t have to perform a chaturanga in yoga, but I understand that you want to see some progression at one point and challenge yourself. Weight training can also help with getting easier into the arm balances.


Regular strength exercises use mostly only one range of motion and work on one major muscle group at a time. For example when you do triceps extensions you only use your triceps. When we take a look at crow pose, you have to work your triceps, shoulders and deltoids to lift and balance your body weight. With yoga you use both large and small muscle groups at the same time while you get into poses that require twisting, arching or pressing. In this way those muscles have to work harder than strength exercises that only use one motion and work one muscle group at a time.

Arm balance: Crow pose (Bakasana) VS tricep extensions

With yoga you will increase muscle endurance as you learn to hold certain postures for longer each time. There are two types of skeletal muscle fibers; fast-twitch muscle fibers and slow-twitch muscle fibers. When you do strength training, for example lift weights, you activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers. This helps you to develop power and speed. With yoga, when we do the movements slowly, with control and holding the poses for a while, the slow-twitch muscle fibers get activated, which builds endurance. So again, you will gain a perfect balance between the two. You can read all about the importance of that here.

3. Healthy recovery

Weight training can be hard on the body, which makes sense considering it involves damaging the muscle fiber in order to stimulate them to grow. That feeling you can get after an intense workout is called ‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness’, or DOMS in short. Yoga can reduce DOMS because with the stretching, twisting and lengthening it increases the blood flow in the damaged tissue. Of course I don’t mean doing an intense Ashtanga (link to blog) workout but more of the restorative and relaxing yoga poses.

Don’t be dumb: reduce DOMS with yoga

Often when you have DOMS, you don’t want to do anything but rest and contemplate the fragility of the human body. However, doing a bit of yoga will promote healing in your body due to the increased blood flow through the damaged tissue. This increase in blood flow also brings an increase in oxygen, which helps the muscles to heal and grow stronger. Not only the yoga postures aid in recovery but also the different breathing techniques help with moving fresh oxygen to the tight places in the body after a heavy workout. Adding some yoga stretches after strength training can help prevent or lessen DOMS. It doesn’t really need mentioning that being relaxed helps in almost everything.

4. Better mental health

More and more research shows that any form of exercise is good for mental health. I found a research where they looked at the effects of hatha yoga and weight training on anxiety. One group only did yoga and the other one only weight training. In both of the research groups the anxiety levels decreased. However, the level of anxiety of the people in the yoga test group were a bit lower. While yoga is more known for the effects on mental health, studies have shown that people get a ‘mood boost’ from resistance training. Combining that mood boost with the relaxation that yoga brings sounds like a solid match for a happy mind.

yoga happy and healthy mind yoga for better mental health

5. Prevent injuries

To make the simplest body movements there is a constant flow of nerve signals between our brain and muscles. Yoga improves the responsiveness to these nerve signals which leads to more fluid body motions, better reflections and faster adjustments to unexpected situations. This can help prevent injuries because we are able to react better and quicker. Yoga helps us to gain more control over our body movements because it forces us to feel in detail what we’re doing.

We learn to control our body

Tips from your trainer will be easier to understand because you will understand your own body movements better and will be able to train in a more safe way. When you only focus on the larger muscle groups and ignore the smaller stabilizer muscles, you can risk a muscle imbalance. Muscle imbalances can cause injuries such as dislocations and muscle tears. Through incorporating yoga you will be able to balance and strengthen joints and smaller stabilizing muscles, which helps prevent injury.

Balanced workout for mind & body

While at first yoga and strength training may look like two different worlds, taking a closer look shows us that combining the two can actually bring some very good benefits in overall health and wellbeing. It is all about balance and learning to listen to your body. Also, learning and respecting the boundaries of your body. The most important thing is: It is not about how you look, but it is how you feel.

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