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Strong Body, Strong Soul, Part 2
Page 2: More Tips on Having a Safe and Productive Workout

Take it slow
There's a double meaning here - first, don't do leg exercises (or any other exercises, for that matter) too quickly. If you perform them at too fast a pace, the benefits aren't that great - especially if you're using momentum to get up and down. The same moves done at a slower pace will build strength a lot more effectively. You'll notice it's more challenging to perform exercises that way - in fact, you probably already know that from holding various Yoga poses for extended periods of time. You should lower yourself into the move on a long, slow exhale, hold for a good, long beat and rise just as slowly - that's the least amount of time you should take. There are times when you should perform exercises quickly or suddenly - plyometrics, for example. And you can vary the routine by doing fast, pulsating moves instead of long, slow ones. But you should already be experienced at strength training, or have a fitness professional guiding you before attempting this.

(Article continued below.)

Secondly, take it slow also means that you should never push your body beyond its limits. Your muscles will increase strength in their own time. Cross-training, such as combining Yoga and strength exercises, will help you do it faster, but there's definitely a limit. You should exercise a muscle until it's fatigued - not until you're about to fall over and you won't be able to walk for three days! "Fatigued" means you can't do another rep with proper form - and if something starts really hurting, stop immediately. It's all basic common sense, but it's surprising how common sense sometimes flies out the window when people are strength training. Your leg muscles are some of the biggest muscles in your body and after a strength workout, give them at least 24-36 hours to recover. Most people need not work their legs more than two days a week. If you're doing Yoga regularly (meaning around 3 times a week) and you're not trying to build up huge quads, you can probably get by with only one.

Most importantly - stretch after your workout!
If you want to build strength in your legs, avoid injury and progress in your Yoga practice, it is mandatory that you stretch your legs after every workout. If you do not stretch adequately, it could impede your Yoga practice because the muscles, even if they get stronger, will become less flexible. Stretch for at least ten minutes, but even longer is better. You can always throw in a few Yoga poses - Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Vrksansana) is good for your calves and hamstrings, Forward Bend (Uttanasana) makes for another good hamstring stretch, and Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana) is a good hip opener. These aren't the only ones, of course - you can no doubt come up with several more on your own (and make sure to add one of the twisting poses). The important thing is to spend time really stretching out those big leg muscles. As a Yoga practitioner, you probably won't want to skimp on this anyhow - you know how good it feels!

With the proper balance of Yoga and strength training you will enhance your progress physically. But always keep in mind that there are other aspects of Yoga aside from the physical. Yoga also calms your mind and lifts your spirit - without this, it wouldn't be Yoga. Note the difference between the way you feel after strength training and the way you feel after a Yoga session. Both are exhilarating, but with Yoga, there's something deeper, more multi-dimensional. That incredible, all-encompassing feeling hints at the real reason we do Yoga. It's more about the heart than about doing a pose perfectly - remember that.

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