We always hear how yoga can enhance performance in running and strength training, but what about the other way around?
We always hear why and how yoga is amazing cross training for a multitude of different athletic endeavors. Yoga can increase stamina, flexibility, and agility. It can improve your swing, shorten recovery time in between workouts, reduce risk of injury—the list goes on. But what if you’re a yogi looking to cross train and enhance your yoga? What sorts of activities and workouts would augment your practice? We’ve come up with the five best workouts to enhance and complement your yoga routine.
For the devoted yogi who needs something with more substance than traditional cardio, SoulCycle may be your answer. Its heart-pumping 45-minute cardio workout is something that might be seriously lacking in a yoga-only person’s life. “The soul of Soul Cycle inspires the rider to dig deeper than simply burning calories,” says Laurie Cole, senior master instructor at SoulCycle. “Soul Cycle allows the client to get similar benefits to a yoga class but it also is uplifting in ways that yoga may take more time to achieve, in that within a short 45 minutes you get the emotional, physical, AND spiritual components.” The balance is there, too. “SoulCycle is complementary (to a yoga practice) in the way it is mostly vertical exercise to the mostly lateral movements,” says Cole. “The breathing of both exercises support one another in a grounding perspective.” A devoted yoga practitioner can easily fall prey to overstretched hamstrings (the infamous “yoga butt” that people don’t want) due to too much flexibility work and not enough strengthening of those muscles. SoulCycle does wonders for hamstrings, something all yogis can use.
Sometimes even yogis just want to blow off steam and not have to meditate on it. Whether it’s at a bag, with a trainer, or with a cardio kickboxing DVD, this workout is a great outlet for stress, anger, anxiety, or pent-up emotions. Some yogis feel pressure to maintain the expected “chill, even-keeled” persona they think yoga should give them. Having a safe and controlled outlet to release stressful feelings can be a very positive thing (lion’s breath isn’t for everyone). Then, hopefully, they can meditate or go back to their practice and explore why those feelings were there in the first place!
For the yogi who struggles with meditation or breath work, swimming laps can be an amazing tool. With the rhythmic breathing between strokes, and the limited distraction of sight or sound that being in water gives, focusing on the breath and clearing the mind gets a whole lot easier. Like yoga, swimming is also a workout for the whole body, strengthening all the right places for your yoga practice while giving you cardio and zero impact. Swimming is great for anyone who doesn’t feel “strong enough” for yoga yet (something I hear a lot from people scared to come to a group yoga class). The core strengthening alone will help make almost all yoga poses feel more manageable.
If you’re a yogi who is not yet ready for a full-blown “workout class” but you want to dip your toes in, a yoga mash-up like CrossFlowX or Yoga Booty Ballet may be a great start. There is a rising trend of fusion yoga workouts for a reason: Cardio is good for overall health (read: What My Apple Watch Taught Me About My Yoga Practice) but there is not much cardio to be found in traditional yoga classes. Adding a class into your rotation that blends yoga with cardio can give the best of both worlds, while still keeping the mind and body benefits you love.
Two words: core strength. I never understood why yoga and Pilates always seem to be lumped together, since I don’t find them to be ANYTHING alike. However, many yoga teachers and practitioners pick up Pilates to enhance their core strength, since not every yoga class is core-centric. “Pilates complements yoga perfectly,” says NYC Pilates instructor Nicola Yvette Hughes. “[It] teaches the concept of working opposing muscle groups; yoga poses use the same concept.” She notes the importance of focusing on strength and not just stretching: “We often forsake the strength component of the work by using innate flexibility. Learn your range of motion and how to move beyond it safely by adding a conditioning program like Pilates.” According to Hughes, “A perfect exercise to add to any yoga routine is the side leg kicks series. It will strengthen the hip flexors and glutes. Yogis will notice a huge difference in their standing poses.”