Blog Writer: Emilia Wheaton
Blog Editor: Kristen Kennedy Smith
Photo Credit: Tucson Strength
When you think of yoga do you envision impossible contortions, ancient India, or Instagram models yoga posing on white sand beaches? It can be all of those things, sure, but many may not envision the physical, mental and emotional benefits a yogic practice can impart on the bodies and minds of Powerlifters. Competitive lifters, in particular, can benefit from the therapeutic stretching and present-mindedness that come along with yoga.
Yoga combines physical postures with intentional breath work, which work in conjunction to bring us mind-body awareness. Powerlifters can practice this breath-movement union and apply it to their competitive lifting. The presence of mind achieved by yoga can directly translate to other aspects of our life, namely the moments in which we are on the platform, when we need to be completely present and aware of every muscle’s interaction as we squat, bench press or deadlift. Harnessing the breath while deadlifting, for example allows our concentration to narrow on just our body and our breath working as one to accomplish our physical goals.
Yogic theory also adapts its own version of the yin and yang principle, where all powerful, strenuous, taxing energy be compensated with a restorative, flexible, softness. If Powerlifting is the yang in this case, yoga can provide the counterbalancing yin to both soothe our stressed and contracted muscles while reinforcing musculature that is not targeted by lifting. Building muscle requires for the muscle to heal and stretch, which yoga is perfect for. In fact, according to this study, “certain yoga techniques may improve physical and mental health through the down-regulation of the hypothalamo pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system.” Involving yoga in our lives is a holistic approach to managing the stress of our daily lives and the physical stress of our powerlifting careers.
Let’s break this down. This HPA axis thingy that I don’t remember hearing about since 12th grade biology? The scientists behind this book describe the HPA axis as being responsible for our reactions to stress and regulating digestion, the immune system, mood and sexuality and (drumroll please) energy usage! Lifting is very much a sport where energy must be harnessed and then pushed to explode as we complete a lift. Yoga’s benefits for the HPA axis then translate to an improved ability to use our energy most efficiently and appropriately as we (“lift”).
Yoga can truly be used as an effective practice for stressful lifestyles and for the physiological stress athletics put on our body. Through yoga, we are able to regulate our stress responses, improve our mood, and find mind-body awareness while at the same time soothing and building the muscles so integral for intense sports like powerlifting. Balancing the rigid with the flexible will bring peace, security, empowerment and a newfound way of caretaking our bodies which we expect so much from.
Reach out to us to learn more about our approach to yoga for Powerlifters, our class schedule, and other resources!
About the Editor: