This past year changed so many things for so many of us. People suffered incredible loss and dealt with changes to their health, employment, or their place of living.
The pandemic also shifted many minor things too, like our social networks, our wearing of “hard pants,” how skilled we got at using Zoom (like it or not), and in my case, how we move our bodies.
For a decade, I’ve been what I’d describe as a pretty hardcore weightlifter and bodybuilder, hitting the gym daily and competing in in several bikini shows (yes, as in jeweled bikinis and spray tan).
Once COVID hit, I started lifting daily at my makeshift home gym without missing a beat.
The Reality of Quarantine Pushed Me to Look at Fitness Differently
For as long as I’ve been working out, I’ve admired devoted yogis and enjoyed the now-and-then yoga class. But if truth be told, I’d viewed yoga as secondary to my lifting and never identified as a “true” yogi.
As the realities of quarantine settled in though, I found myself craving a yoga class and time down on the mat more and more. Maybe it was thanks to the extra time I had at home, the slowed down pace of life, my changing views on true health, or as I’d suspect, all of the above.
Here’s what this past year taught me about the importance of a yoga practice, and why yoga for bodybuilders makes more sense than I’d ever realized.
Yoga for Bodybuilders Is Very Beneficial
I’ll be the first to admit, there’s a level of ego that can accompany the bodybuilding world. I’ve definitely fallen into the trap of thinking workouts only “counted” if they included maxing out on weight and generally killing myself at the gym.
Yoga, or any lower impact program, seemed like something I rarely had time for, since I had to get that lifting sesh in after all!
So, what changed?
Here’s where I have to acknowledge – compared to so many – my 2020 experience was incredibly lucky and privileged. Regardless, like for many, my anxiety increased tenfold and I felt a constant fear of the virus affecting my own health or that of my high-risk parents.
So as my stress levels ratcheted up, I felt an impossible-to-ignore need for comfort and relaxation wherever I could find it.
Frankly, a visible six pack and veins in my biceps became a lot less important than being able to breathe a little deeper or give myself a little more kindness. And one of the best ways I knew to do that was by getting down on the mat!
Here’s Why Yoga for Bodybuilders Makes a Whole Lot of Sense
As I turned more to morning Sun Salutations or nighttime yoga classes to ease my anxiety (and let’s be real, keep me from doom scrolling), I realized a few truths.
First, despite what the super-intense world of competitive bodybuilding can sometimes make you believe, one does not lose their gains when trading in a couple lifting sessions each week for yoga or a complete rest day, or for that matter, walking instead of running.
My physique softened a little, but I’m at peace with it, and feel just as strong when I lift (if not stronger) after a year away from the gym.
Pairing bodybuilding and yoga is a no brainer.
Second, yoga for bodybuilders specifically makes a whole lot of sense. Bodybuilding is not the easiest on the body. Despite its benefits, it can also come with increased risk for injury, stress on the joints and muscles, and increased inflammation and fatigue.
Since yoga is so great for flexibility, relaxation, and restoration, pairing bodybuilding and yoga is a no brainer.
Plus, yoga encourages good posture, strengthens the smaller muscles (that traditional bodybuilding can sometimes miss), and obviously, can be hugely beneficial in lowering stress levels.
Even in Non-Pandemic Times, Yoga for Bodybuilders Can Be Hugely Beneficial
It’s no secret that stress does a number on mental health, but prolonged stress (hello 2020!) can also lead to increased inflammation in the body.
Inflammation, if you haven’t heard, is basically the enemy to all health goals – be it sleeping better, looking svelte, or building muscle.
As a competitor, we were urged to mitigate our stress levels however we could before show day, to look and perform our best.
Had I been doing more yoga back then, I can only imagine how much healthier and more enjoyable my lifting practice would have been!
My Outlook Changed Since I Started Practicing Yoga for Bodybuilders
It’s impossible to put into words how vastly 2020 shifted my outlook and priorities, and I know I’m far from alone in that.
Don’t get me wrong: I still love a good bicep vein or a shoulder pump, and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Do I miss the gym? Sometimes! (I’ve chosen to remain at home though, for the time being.) I look back on my competition days with nothing but fondness and a sense of pride in myself.
But the past year made me practice so much more kindness and grace toward myself. I’ve ditched dieting in favor of intuitive eating, started to embrace the body neutrality movement, and of course, finally embraced my yoga practice.
I know my new-and-improved normal is going to include a lot more time down on the mat.
No matter how elementary or sporadic it may be, and even if it’s just (as it often is) a few minutes of Sun Salutations after my morning meditation, it offers me a lot.
Lifting heavy will be something I do as long as I’m able to: it’s important for bone density, it makes me feel like a badass, and to be honest, I like knowing I can curl as much as the dudes (even if I’m around exactly zero of them!).
But as the world comes back up to speed, I know my new-and-improved normal is going to include a lot more time down on the mat.