How to Combine Yoga and Weight Training

Can you tell me the best way to incorporate weight training and yoga? Is it advisable to do on same day – if so, what order? Every other day?

There are several approaches one can take when incorporating weight training and yoga. First, I would like to address the basic physiological principles with weight training. People who perform weight training do so for one of two main goals: 1) either to gain muscle mass (low repetition exercises with high amounts of weight to build strength) or

2) to tone muscle tissues (high repetition exercises with low amounts of weight to build endurance and tone muscles).

Regardless of the approach, one needs to target muscle groups effectively and progressively in each session followed by adequate rest. Typically, a minimum of 48 hours is required for muscle tissue to recover and be ready for another bout of loading. Without this recovery period, muscle fibers become stressed and will rapidly lose strength, which ultimately can lead to poor performance and injury.

How does this relate to yoga? This now depends on the style of yoga that you are doing. If you are doing vigorous power/vinyasa style yoga, it may become difficult to coordinate recovery time for your tissues with an in-depth weight training program. Imagine performing power yoga the day after doing a chest and shoulder workout. These muscle groups may not have the energetic capacity to perform the demanding vinyasa flows and the practice may move into a place of struggle. On the other hand, if your preferred yoga practice is a lighter, slower hatha yoga which places only a light amount of loading on the musculoskeletal system, then yoga can be a great restorative tool for your weight training program.

So here are my basic recommendations when trying to combine yoga and weight training:

*Set your weight training schedule with a specific understanding and emphasis on which muscle groups you wish to target and the method of training desired (muscle building or muscle toning). Establish 48 hours of recovery time for every muscle group worked.

*Determine what type of yoga best suits your body with this weight training program (power yoga versus light hatha/ restorative). Integrate your yoga schedule into the overall program addressing the recovery needs from weight training. Focus on poses that expand the muscles that have been recently conditioned with weight training along with other yoga poses that will balance out the rest of your program.  

Can you do yoga the same day as weight training? Yes! I use my yoga practice as a tool to establish inner connection and to set a positive tone of thought and action for the day. I prefer to do yoga after any stimulating activity to balance this energy. Personally, I would do weight training first (and any cardiovascular exercises) and then move into a suitable yoga flow right after. After vigorous exercise, the body remains at a slightly elevated state (heart rate and respiration) as the body needs to flush out lactic acid and re-saturate tissues with oxygen. A yoga practice following vigorous exercise can enhance this temporarily, elevated state by more effectively cooling down the nervous system while directing more conscious breath into the body.

If you are doing a yoga practice later in the day or the following day, I would definitely move into a more gentle flow rather than a vigorous flow as your body has already moved into a recovery state from weight training.  

Here is an example practice schedule:  

Monday morning: 30 minutes weights (chest, shoulders, thighs) followed by a core yoga flow (that minimizes loading of the limbs and focuses on core conditioning)

Tuesday morning: 20 minutes cardio followed by a restorative, expanding flow (again, minimal loading of limbs and shoulders)

Wednesday morning: 30 minutes weights (back, arms, hamstrings) followed by a vinyasa yoga flow (primary muscles for vinyasa flows have recovered by this time from the previous weight training session)

Thursday morning: 20 minutes cardio followed by a restorative, expanding flow

Friday morning: 30 minutes weights (chest, shoulders, thighs) followed by a core yoga flow

Saturday morning: 20 minutes cardio followed by a restorative, expanding flow

Sunday: no physical activity…enjoy a meditation practice with breathing and relaxation

Repeat the schedule the following week with the “back and arms” day starting on Monday.

This is just an example program and I recommend that you consult a qualified exercise specialist to determine the appropriate program for you. But as you can see from this example program, I have integrated specific yoga flows with the weight training to balance the time needed for recovery. On alternate days, the lighter yoga flows provide the physical opening without placing loads on recovering tissues. My other recommendation is to NOT incorporate weights directly into your yoga practice (holding onto weights while doing poses). This is a new trend being applied by the “fitness industry” and highly degrades the integrity of one’s yoga practice. Avoid making your yoga practice a “workout”.  As you experience clear physical benefits, do not become solely drawn into the physicality of the poses.

Always return to the fundamental purpose of the practice and the definition of yoga poses: asanas are physical Yoga postures that are designed to help master the body and enhance the body’s functions, thus to create a healthy body in order to move more readily to the state of oneness and realization. Imagine now that we apply this same observance and principle of yoga to our weight training program. How powerful would that be!

8 Replies to “How to Combine Yoga and Weight Training”

  1. You could also trying finding a Yoga Sculpt or Yoga Lean class near you, which is yoga with weights. I love doing this when I don’t have time to fit in my yoga and weight training. It is a fun way to do both at the same time! I have a lot of people that see great strength benefits from doing yoga with weights in my yoga sculpt classes.

    1. unfortunately, as per my article, I have to disagree with you on adding weights directly into a yoga practice … the asanas are designed specifically to accommodate and utilize one’s own body mass to offer the ideal level of ‘conditioning’ to generate optimal benefits … adding weights can also readily shift the practice into a deep state of Ego and ‘achieving’ which more often than not leads to injury

      1. Thank you for the article. Rarely do you find any information on how to incorporate yoga with other disciples, such as weight training.

        I concur with what you said about the classes with adding weights. I am a yoga instructor and the gym where I teach tried incorporating such a class and I tried teaching it. Regular yoga students did not attend. Attendees were the students that did not have a regular practice but they wanted “tough” classes and a workout (they couldn’t even hold the regular poses without weights). It’s just the fitness industry coming up with another fad without understanding the disciplines that they are trying to combine.

      2. Thanks Sean – I completely agree with you on all your points. Having come from the fitness industry, I too saw how they tried to integrate ‘fads’ into the program to spice things up – hence, you would see significant changes to the program over extended periods (ie what happened to HiLo aerobics!?!?!). Unfortunately, yoga chains are taking on this same approach – finessing up the programs with new ‘styles’ of yoga and hybrids with the attempt to attract the ‘gym crowd’ to their studios. Cheers, Kreg

      3. So true. I dislike the idea of combining any “ego” activity with yoga. Yoga is for the mind, leave ego off the mat. That means no power yoga either!

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  3. great article! thank you. I am a yoga teacher and personal trainer and I am thinking about this a lot at the moment. How best to make a programme for me that incorporates my daily yoga practice and appropriate weight training, with appropriate rest. Thank you, Gemma

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