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Q & A

Got a question about some aspect of mind-body-spirit fitness? Ask! It can be as earthly as "Can a heart monitor really enhance my workout?" (the short answer to that is yes) or as heady as, "Don't I need to sell all my worldly goods and go live on a mountain top to find enlightenment?" (the short answer here is no). Needless to say, we can't answer every question we receive, but we will take one every month and answer it here. If you've got a burning need to know about something, email us, and you may find your query featured next time around.

HE: I want to devote more time to my Yoga practice but how do I balance it with weight training? I've spent a lot of time building my muscles and don't want to lose them.
SHE: I'm afraid if I weight train, I'll look like some bulky she-male. Can I just build strength through Yoga and leave it at that?

(Article continued below.)

With these two questions, we have the difference between Mars and Venus laid out for all to see — the guy takes pride in his muscular physique and wants to hang onto it; the woman will do anything to avoid looking pumped. What they both need to do is face their fears and realize that it's not as bad as they imagine. In fact, muscle men gain something very valuable from their Yoga practice that weight training can't give and, if anything, women who weight train properly can look even more feminine.

First we'll approach the man's dilemma since he asked first (we believe in absolute equality here at All Spirit Fitness). In spite of the fact that some women seem to think that you can sprout big muscles by lifting anything heavier than an 8-pound dumbbell, the truth is that building sizable muscles takes a lot of work and dedication, not to mention genetics (certain men are just gifted in the muscle-building category). So the bottom-line truth is that you cannot look like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger or any serious body builder and have a regular Yoga practice. Why? Two reasons: 1) You won't have time for Yoga because you're spending all your leisure hours pumping iron at the gym (or recovering from pumping iron), and 2) Big, bulky, bodybuilder's muscles lack flexibility — there's just too much mass to practice most Yoga moves. That's the reason why so many Yogis are slender or have wiry, not muscle-bound, builds. That said, while you may not win the Mr. Universe title if you want to practice Yoga several times weekly, you can still hang onto a lot of muscle. There are some Yoga masters out there who have a nice looking set of muscles. Rodney Yee is one, but keep in mind that before he practiced Yoga, he studied gymnastics and was a ballet dancer. He's also apparently just one of those genetically gifted guys — he has a truly beautiful, well-shaped, well-muscled physique. There are more full-time, male Yoga practitioners who have that slightly scrawny, runner's build.

That said, it is possible for a man to hold onto a certain amount of muscle mass and practice Yoga frequently — he just needs to balance his gym time and his Yoga time. While it's a nice upper body workout, most guys need more than Crow or Chaturanga Dandasana to build their upper bodies. Even a challenging practice like Ashtanga, is not great for developing big muscles — it's more likely to build the smaller, "slow-twitch" muscle fibers first (these are the fibers that runners and other endurance athletes have). Those bulky muscles you want to keep are made up of "fast twitch" fibers and are best built through weight training. Since there's only so much time during the week, both the Yoga practice and the gym sessions need to consist of quality time. In the gym that means really focus on your weight training — don't spend long pockets of time just hanging around. Make sure you're doing quality lifting — really concentrate on form and the muscle being worked. For the most part, stick to less than ten reps per set (assuming that each set goes 'til failure) — higher reps are more likely to work those slow-twitch muscle fibers and you're already probably doing that with the help of Yoga, especially if you're practicing Flow, Ashtanga or Power Yoga. Do stretch at the end of your weight training — in fact, you might want to sneak in a couple of Yoga moves, since many of them make great full-body stretches. A lot of this weight training advice goes for your Yoga practice too — really focus on your breathing, how the stretch feels, what your body is experiencing. If your mind starts to wander, bring it back to the pose you are doing. You learn a lot about your body at the Yoga studio that you can take with you into the weight room, and into daily life. You also learn about your inner workings — a pretty neat benefit! Most importantly, remember to give yourself one or two recovery days a week. If you're like most men, you enjoy pushing yourself to the limit, so give your body a chance to recoup, heal and absorb the lessons you've taught it. This goes for both weight training and Yoga — if you're sore the day after a Yoga session, you're not a wimp if you take a day off.

For men, combining weight training with a Yoga practice can earn you a great physique, flexibility you'd never get in a weight room, and you'll move with more confidence and style.

Next page >> Women, Yoga and Weights >> Page 1, 2

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