This as-told-to story is one in a series of 12 that explores the role of strength in modern life.
“I played high school football and ran track. I’ve always been athletic. But my first Bikram yoga class was just so physically exhausting. I had to sit during a few postures. I loved the challenge. I came right back the next day and have kept coming back. That was 2009.
Only half of competitive yoga is about flexibility. The other half is strength. I’m now 40 and won the national championship in 2017. I do yoga five or six days a week, but I also strength-train a few days. I usually do total-body workouts, 12 to 20 reps. I need muscle endurance so I can contract my muscles to maintain stillness and balance in the postures.
Only half of competitive yoga is about flexibility. The other half is strength.
Every yoga posture has a corresponding inhale and exhale. I do the same breathing practice with lifting. For instance, if you’re doing a curl, you inhale as you lift and exhale as you lower. Moving with your breath helps you better lengthen or contract the muscle, which gives you better results.
If you’re making weird faces while you’re lifting or doing yoga, it’s a sign you’re not breathing right. That’s going to throw off your form—if you’re straining your face, you’re straining your joints, too. Instead, relax your face and breathe in and out deeply through your nose.
Holding a challenging yoga pose while breathing steadily has also taught me to stay calm
Holding a challenging yoga pose while breathing steadily has also taught me to stay calm and breathe through uncomfortable situations in my everyday life. It’s made a huge difference in helping me raise my nine-month-old son and also deal with annoyances like crazy traffic or conflicts at work. It helps me stay out of a negative mind-set.”
JAMES SHAW JR.
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