Yoga for powerlifting and strength training is incredible. Why? Because yoga is the passive to lifting heavy, the aggressive.
Yoga is a combination of philosophies from well over 2000 years ago, following Vedic values and traditions from India.
‘Modern’ yoga as you know it is basically adapting specific body postures.
Obviously you aren’t here for a history lesson, so I’ll get straight to it.
Today we are looking at this ancient practice as a method of benefiting one’s strength training regime; coming from my perspective of powerlifting and Olympic lifting training. Yoga encompasses much more than physically ‘stretching’ the body and is in many ways about consciousness, spiritual perspectives on the world, some may even call it a way of life, or an ideology.
However, since we are using yoga as a means of enhancing our physical state, we will focus on the latter.
Yoga has the reputation to be for ‘flexible’ people or women, for some reason it isn’t perceived as a masculine practice.
This is wrong, yoga is for everyone. How do you think people who practice yoga got flexible in the first place? Regardless of your current flexibility, age, even injuries you have (always consult a doctor) there are options no matter what your situation and yoga is likely to improve your situation.
The first yoga pose is called the Prayer Squat or ‘Namaskarasana‘. It’s very simple.
Firstly as you would in a squat you move down and at the bottom hold this position with a neutral back. Keeping the weight on the soles of your feet, bring your arms between your legs, holding your elbows directly on the inside of your knee. Now push outwards slowly and increase the pressure to a 7/10, 10 being painful, 1 being no pressure at all. However, it should never be painful enough to not be able to comfortably hold it for over 30 seconds.
You’ll feel the stretch in the inside of your hips. The prayer squat is going to provide great comfort and benefit to those who regularly squat heavy loads.
The second yoga pose is called the Pigeon Pose or ‘Kapotasana’, I have modified it to be a little easier than the full kapotasana. Why? Because I presume most strength athletes reading this are tight in the hips so it’s important to take baby steps.
If you’re doing yoga for powerlifting purposes you must understand that the hips are constantly being used to relieve this you need to open up the hips and stretch the piriformis (external glutes). By doing the pigeon pose your hips and and lower back will feel the benefits, especially after squats.
I can attest a lot of my quick recovery from squats using the pigeon pose.
To perform this yoga pose, start on all four limbs. Place one of your legs backwards locking out your knee and the other knee forward just further than 45 degrees until you feel the stretch, again at a 7/10. Hold this for 30 seconds or as long as you feel comfortable with, preferably longer and make sure it is at least over 15 seconds, otherwise the muscle isn’t even really being stretched.
The further you bring your knee into your body the more you’ll feel the stretch. If at first you can’t get it to 45 degrees, don’t worry, this just means you’ve been training hard. With time, as with lifting, your progress will get better. Think of flexibility like progressive overload, but for yoga.
The third yoga pose is called the Upward Facing Dog or ‘urdhvamukha shvanasana’. As with the other poses, your hips will be stretched. However what makes the upwards facing dog unique is the similarity to the stretch in your hips to the tightness locking out deadlifts causes in your hips. Your chest and shoulders are also opened, the upwards facing dog is also great for your overall upper body posture.
To perform the upward facing dog lie flat on the ground bring your hands just in front of your hips with your palms facing down and extent your torso upwards. Take deep breath and push upwards to feel the stretch. You may also feel the stretch in your wrists, make sure to to extent too far up at first as your wrist flexors and muscles are quite sensitive.
The fourth and final yoga pose is called the Hero Pose or ‘Virasana’. This pose is great for you knee, the anterior tibialis and your quads. This one is easy to perform, but can require slightly more flexibility than the others.
To start you’re going to want your feet to be touching your glutes as you kneel down and at the same time make sure your entire torso is completely upright. With your shoulders rolled back. Have have your ass touch your feet try focus on keeping your hips open (which they should be from the previous yoga poses and sink your hips down as you breathe in and out.
Note: Breathing is really important when doing yoga. It’s important to take in deep long breaths as this will allow your muscles to fully relax and stretch further. Learning to breathe properly is not only good for yoga but also for meditation, which can be great for your body too.
Follow a breathing pattern like this, try it yourself. It’s actually quite fun.
So now that you know four simple yoga poses for powerlifting. But when is the right time to use them and how often should you use them?
In order to specifically utilize the benefits of yoga for the benefit of your strength and performance inside the gym it is best to do so within 24 hours of your training session. I say right after as your muscles are already warm, meaning they are vulnerable (in a good sense) to being exposed to strenuous stretching.
Yoga has the reputation of being a relaxing practice and while it is very relaxing and some may even call it meditative, but it still burns calories. Yoga if done right and for long enough can become quite intense, due to the positions you have your body in.
So to answer the question, yoga for powerlifting should be done after workouts so you can kill two birds with one stone. This is also to prevent injury. It’s best to practice yoga for powerlifting when your body is expecting exogenous stress. This should never be done completely cold (not warmed up).
The best way to incorporate yoga into your strength training regime is as follows:
Add in one full day of yoga training sessions which you would usually use as a rest day. Do this for 30 minutes and then on top of this add in 10-15 minutes after most of your training sessions, ideally all of them and just practice these four simple poses.
Of course there are more yoga poses, but as with strength training it’s best to focus on a few basics and master them, in this case the four yoga poses for powerlifting I have just shown you.
If you want to see these poses in action, I recorded myself doing them. Check it out and subscribe if you enjoy the content.