Yoga is a common form of cross training for many athletes: from runners to rugby players, it’s pretty much guaranteed that yoga will supplement their training. It’s great for flexibility, balance and for strengthening certain muscle groups, which makes it a welcome addition to most sports training. However, what most people don’t realise is that if you’re mostly practising yoga, then you still need to cross-train like you would any other sport. At a workshop a couple of weeks ago, the teacher (who’d been practising yoga for over 50 years!) was talking about injury: he said that throughout his yoga career he’s had numerous injuries, and only since cross-training regularly has managed to prevent this. Ironically, it seems that although yoga can be great for recovering from injury, lots of yogis still manage to pick up injuries on the mat mostly because what they have in flexibility they lack in strength.
Swimming is a great cardio-vascular form of exercise and is easy on the joints. Over the last few months I’ve been re-teaching myself how to swim front crawl and am now swimming a few times a week. Not only am I loving being a fish again, it’s also had a really positive impact on my yoga. Building strength in my shoulders through swimming front-crawl has massively helped my inversions and other postures that require strength in the area. I’ve nearly cracked my forearm stand and my handstand is coming along nicely. It’s the staying up rather than getting up which seems to be the problem!
For the last 6 months or so I’ve been doing regular circuit training to build muscle and strength. Recently, I’ve started doing some hardcore sessions with a PT at work, which although make me want to vomit every week, has definitely started to make me stronger. Building muscle has meant that I’m able to hold poses for longer and tire less easily in the dynamic classes. More importantly, being stronger means that injury on the mat is less likely. A lot of injury is caused by flexibility without the supporting strength – getting into the posture may seem easy, but if you don’t have the strength to support the pose then over time injury may occur. After tearing my adductor, the physio told me that I had to strengthen all the surrounding muscles to protect it from further injury. Hopefully I’ve done enough squats and glute exercises to stop this from happening, but time will tell!
Yoga can be a really challenging workout that leaves you sweating and out of breath. Of course, there are gentler forms of yoga but if you want to have a regular dynamic flow practise, you need to be fit! Running is great for building base-fitness and can have the same meditative qualities as yoga once you get into it. It does tighten the hips and hamstrings, but a couple of short runs a week shouldn’t make too much of an impact. It’s also lovely to be out in the fresh air, working the legs muscles in a way that yoga doesn’t.
As you probably know, Jess and I both love hiking and this is also a great form of cross-training for yoga. Going up the mountain builds strength in the quads and glutes, whilst descending safely requires good balance and core strength. Due to the often uneven terrian, hiking is also great for building strength in the ankles, which is important for stability in standing postures and balances.
BUILDING THE CORE
Many of the more difficult yoga moves are dependant on core strength more than anything else: inversions, arm balances and jump throughs are made so much easier with a strong core. Of course this can be built through yoga but by incorporating other forms of exercise into your regime, it’s likely to be built much more quickly.
At the moment my exercise is probably the most varied it’s ever been and I’m really enjoying it. Over the last few months my yoga practise has come on a lot and I think it’s all down to cross-training. I must admit my Broga class yesterday morning was pretty impossible due to a serious case of DOMs, but in general I think the well-rounded approach to exercising is definitely a good one!
HOW DO YOU CROSS-TRAIN?