Q: Can I combine yoga with a resistance training routine without overtaxing my muscles' ability to recover? —Charles Valenta, Cicero, Illinois
Read Dario's reply:
You're wise to consider giving your muscles time to recover. Too many athletes and fitness buffs practice yoga in ways that overstress systems of the body already worked strongly in other physical activities. If you have a thorough and regular resistance training program, your yoga practice should center more on recovery and less on building strength.
Here's why: In resistance training, you gain strength by applying muscular effort until you create subtle, microscopic damage to the muscles. But the strength gains don't occur while you're exercising; they come when you're recovering from training as your body builds new tissue to repair the micro-strains. If you don't give your muscles a chance to recover, the training becomes counterproductive and may eventually lead to injury.
While focusing on recovery, you can still enjoy many of the physical benefits of yoga. I recommend that you concentrate on developing joint stability, maintaining or improving your muscle flexibility, and recharging your nervous system.
To improve joint stability, practice a style of yoga that places special emphasis on alignment and allows a fair amount of time to work precisely in each pose, such as Iyengar or Anusara, perhaps. To increase your muscle flexibility, make sure to include poses that stretch the muscle groups you challenge in your strength training. If you do hamstring curls, for example, counter them with a hamstring stretch such as Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose).
Practicing restorative poses will recharge your nervous system. Moderate to intense exercise stimulates the nervous system's stress response; restorative poses help you recover by stimulating its counterpart, the relaxation response. Anyone can benefit from these poses; I highly recommend them for all athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
Dario Fredrick has studied yoga for 12 years, primarily with Iyengar-influenced teachers in the United States and also with the Iyengars in India. Fredrick, who holds a master's degree in exercise science, integrates his experience as an exercise physiologist with his yoga instruction. He teaches public classes and workshops in Northern California. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.