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Yoga isn't just about flexibility, and we don't have to accept its spiritual claims uncritically to learn from it and apply those lessons in our own training.

Yoga has things to teach us about attitudes to performance, achievement and ourselves, as well as practical lessons on movement quality and patterning. The value of what yoga has to teach us isn't about how it can make you look, but it's not directly related to yoga's spiritual teachings either. 

The Spiritual Value Of Yoga

Yoga is usually associated with the Hindu religion. But there are forms of yoga that aren't anything to do with Hinduism: Sikhs practice a form of yoga that's specific to their religious tradition. Yoga-like training methods including Qigong and the ground training syllabus of Silat appear in many different cultures around the world. And mainstream Indian yoga predates the Hindu religion anyway. So if you find yoga seems to help you feel calmer, more "centered" or more relaxed and confident, it probably does. That doesn't mean you have to give credence to a particular religious or spiritual tradition.


How do you know if today was a good day for you in the gym? Objective data. You look at what you lifted, reps, sets, and then you know. I'm certainly not denigrating ideas like progressive overload, planning your training and keeping a training journal. They're essential to progress. But they can help inculcate a mindset that's gradually destructive, one that sees people chasing PRs and looking to hit standards simply because they feel they should or they must. 

By contrast yoga practitioners allow themselves to be guided by their experience at the point of performance. 

Many yoga teachers advise their students to use their breath as a guide, suggesting that if their breathing is becoming ragged or strained, they're pushing too hard for performance. That's obviously not applicable to, say, sprint training. But the principle of letting each session be guided to some extent by how you feel is actually a good one. And while it's easy to dismiss when it comes from touchy-feely yoga teachers, when it comes from weightlifting coaches like Dan John it's hard to ignore. 

John recalls meeting Pavel Tsatsouline for the first time and doing his "easy strength" training. This Oly lifter and Highland Games competitor (and winner) was under orders to "never miss a rep, in fact, never even get close to struggling. Go as light as you need to and never go over ten reps... it is going to feel easy. When the weight feels light, simply add more weight." (Source: Just the sort of advice a yoga teacher might give. What was the result? "I broke my lifetime best... lifts went through the roof." (Always a risk when you're doing O-lifts at home.)

Continue reading after recommendations

  • "Even Easier Strength." "Is Perfect Squat Form a Myth?"

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