Yoga is both a spiritual and physical practice, and depending on the type and intensity of your practice, your body can seriously benefit from your daily sessions. From developing your longer, lean muscles to improving core strength, flexibility, and balance, yoga is a great way to tune and center the body in a healthy lifestyle.
But for some, yoga alone isn’t enough when thinking about improving fitness – perhaps you’re training for an decathlon or have a specific fitness goal. With this in mind, let’s explore a few exercises that specifically complement yoga and can help add variety and new challenges to your work out routine.
1. Cardio (Running, Swimming, Hiking)
There is some debate if yoga (even hot yoga) really counts as cardio. Truth is, it doesn’t really provide a vigorous enough exercise to keep the heart rate up, unless you’re committing to brisk, continuously sun salutations.
This is where complementing your practice with a regular cardio exercise can really benefit body.
First, depending on your choice of cardio exercise, you’ll be targeting specific muscle groups that will be stressed for growth. Hiking, running, or jogging have some great examples of this, improving strength in the legs (quadriceps, calves, glutes), torso and back (obliques, lower back), and shoulders and arms if you hike with a pack or use hiking poles (deltoids, trapezious muscles). These exercises can also improve joint and bone strength, and even better, can help clear a cluttered mind.
Beyond building muscle mass, though, it’s important to remember that cardio is an aerobic exercise, meaning it puts stress on the heart and lungs, demanding large amounts of oxygen. This encourages these vital organs to become strengthened, evening helping to aid in respiratory ailments like lung disease.
2. Bouldering or Rock Climbing
Another great complementary exercise to yoga is bouldering or rock climbing. If you’ve never attempted to climb before, it can be a little strange your first time. But one thing will be apparent – your agility and dexterity when combined with the need for brute strength and balance.
First, this type of exercise does a great job at working a variety of muscle groups and tendons, throughout the back, arms, and legs, knees, and feet, as the various levels and “courses” put climbers in unique positions, often needed to use multiple limbs in tandem with each other. Mixing just a bit of calisthenics with rock climbing can provide a significantly taxing exercise for body (meaning more muscle built).
Next though, bouldering/rock climbing also is an exercise I’ve found to quiet the mind. In yoga, there is an emphasis on a still yet very aware state of being, where one doesn’t so much seek things around them as they do to allow things around them to come. Just by doing simple climbs, you’ll discover that throughout the climb, your mind is acutely focused on the present moment, a goal many of us seek in meditation. I’ve found that reflecting on this experience can help you return to in during your yoga sessions.
3. Tightroping and Slack Lining
Similar in both it’s symbol and the muscles exercised, tightroping or slack lining as an exercise can be a great addition to a yoga practice. Where yoga is slow, calm, and centered, slack lining requires a certain jubilance of energy and ferocity – you’ll be jumping on to a rope about a half inch across, after all. As in yoga, your mind is focused on maintaining a specific posture, and bodily awareness is a distinct element to both exercises. As with yoga (and our last exercise mentioned), slack lining also places emphasis on continued focus.
Keep Exercise Varied
Key to keep in mind is that an active lifestyle is one that provides a various amount of exercise for the body. Remember to work different parts of your body regularly, even if it just means adding a few reps of pushups in your day. For the most success, find a complementary exercise that you personally enjoy, making it easy to add as a commitment.