Why Cross-Training with Yoga Will Save Your Active Body

Why Cross-Training with Yoga Will Save Your Active Body

Yoga is an ancient practice that brings the mind and body together through physical movements and breath. Yoga moves your body in all planes of movement and strengthens and stretches every muscle. You build functional strength, balance, and mobility, while training the mind to stay calm and focused.

How will this benefit you? Whether or not you are an athlete or active adult, aging takes its toll on the body. Morning stiffness creeps in, making it tougher to get out of bed and get going. Neck and back pain plagues you from sitting at a desk all day (or doom scrolling on your phone). If you play a sport or are active in a physical activity, often times you are only moving in one plane of motion (like bicycling), or are dominating with one side of your body (like tennis). Over time, this limited range of motion can increase imbalances in your body and lead to overuse or Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI).

Problems that arise from not Cross-Training

  • Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) from repetitive movements in one plane of motion
  • Imbalances in the body from overworking some muscles and underworking or ignoring others. This leads to tightness and pain in daily life
  • Postural problems that occur over time related to the sport: hunched back; shrugged shoulders; overly tight hips, hip flexors, and hamstrings; weak glutes, core, lower back, and shoulders/rotator cuff
  • In life we move through multiple planes of motion; exercise should support our daily life too. Limiting our movements affects how we feel as we age, and how active we can continue to be

Repetitive Strain Injuries occur when you only move your body through one plane of motion. Bicyclers, for example, often get either really tight or painful hip flexors from moving the thigh toward the chest repeatedly through the ride. When you are overworking one muscle or muscle group, and are not doing anything else, that muscle/group can get tight or hurt from overuse. This leads to muscular imbalances which can affect how you move through your day. You might find, in this instance, that standing up straight becomes difficult and that your lower back starts to hurt. This comes from having overly tight hip flexors.

Golf is a game where you are one-side dominant. No one swings to both sides, you swing to the same side over and over, for hours, and maybe years. The twisting movement of the swing creates one side that is stronger, and one side that gets over stretched. In my acupuncture practice, I commonly see right handed golfers who are injured in their right shoulder (or elbow) and left hip/lower back, all due to the nature of the swing. Their posture is often uneven, with them leaning toward the tighter side of their lower back.

Benefits of Cross-Training with Yoga

  • Builds functional strength in all planes of motion to support any sport or activity, while also building strength in muscles that are ignored
  • Cultivates a strong core and awareness of how to use our muscles to both strengthen and stretch
  • Stretches the muscles mindfully and intentionally to help create and maintain mobility and physical comfort during your sport or activity. You are never forcing a stretch, which can lead to injury; you are relaxing into a stretch so that your muscles can lengthen safely.
  • Is a bilateral practice, so everything you do on one side, you do on the other. This creates a more balanced body so that you have fewer one-sided pain symptoms and injuries. Yoga supports the non-dominant side for one-sided sports like golf, tennis, or softball.
  • Instills calm, both mentally and physically. When you practice yoga you are better able to cope with challenges as they arise, as it teaches you to notice, breathe, and respond, rather than react. 
  • Helps you be more present in your body so that you can mindfully adjust (your alignment, your movements) as needed

Yoga moves the body equally to both sides; anything you do on one side, you do to the other. If you participate in activities that move in only one plane of motion, your yoga practice will create more balance in your muscles so that your activity doesn’t plague you in day to day life. It also balances out left and right. Even if you don’t play a sport, we are one-side-dominant creatures. When was the last time that you brushed your teeth with the other hand? Yoga creates balance in the body, left to right, front to back, and top to bottom. You will strengthen and stretch the muscles you use during your sport or activity, while feeling stronger and more flexible over all.

Yoga also cultivates core strength, which benefits every person, athlete or not. You need a strong core, especially as you age, to move through the world comfortably and with ease. A strong core keeps your lower back from hurting, it keeps you from “leaking,” and it allows you to do all of your daily movements. Lifting a laundry basket or a child, pushing a full grocery cart, and loading and unloading the dishwasher all become easier with a strong core.

Because yoga is not just a physical activity, your mind and focus benefit as well. Yoga teaches concentration, observation, and self-reflection. It also teaches us to be calm under stressful situations. When you are training for a race, that can be both mentally and physically stressful. Your yoga practice will help you stay relaxed and focused to get the job done.

Click here to check out my YouTube channel that has multiple stretch classes for after you Walk or Run, Bike, or Swim!

Join me weekly for live classes online, or classes anytime on demand! Purple Room Yoga offers classes like Mindful Core, Head to Toe Stretch, and 30 Min FitFlow to balance your body and support you in any sport or activity! Click here to see the full schedule of classes!

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