If you thought yoga was only geared towards hippies and spiritually minded people, then you were mistaken. Yoga can benefit people of all backgrounds, age, ability level, or gender. Furthermore yoga has demonstrated that it has great benefits for athletes conducting high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

Yoga for HIIT athletes can be beneficial. It supports quick recoveries and reduces the risk of injury. It also improves the athlete's overall strength and mobility. Yoga for HIIT helps the athlete become more aware of their bodies, breathing, and balance. Yoga HIIT fusion pairs both disciplines together.

Continue reading for information about how these two very different athletic disciplines complement each other in many ways. I will start with a brief overview of both sports, then explain how yoga can benefit HIIT athletes. To conclude I will share some poses that promote joint and muscle recovery.

Yoga and HIIT: An Overview

HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, has become very popular in the fitness world in the last ten years. Combining strength and cardio exercises, HIIT uses short bursts of very high-intensity exercises followed by a short break of rest to bring it back down. This is to increase the heart rate and burn fat in shorter periods of time

HIIT Athletes_HIIT Athlete Training

Proponents of HIIT claim that it is one of the most effective forms of weight loss and strength building. Athletes are drawn to HIIT because the workouts tend to be 30 minutes or less. It increases your metabolism, and you can do it almost anywhere without equipment.

Yoga's Transformation

Yoga originated in India as a predominantly spiritual practice rooted in ancient Indian philosophy. It was meant as an opportunity for practitioners to connect with their inner selves or a higher power. However, over many centuries, it has transformed into a popular fitness movement in the United States. People who want to enhance their fitness level or recover from an injury now practice yoga. It also a great way to find a way to connect with their inner selves

People of all backgrounds practice yoga for many reasons, such as improving their physical fitness. It also helps improve posture and helps with pain management. These are only a few of the benefits of practising yoga, but this article will focus specifically on how yoga can benefit HIIT athletes.

These two athletic disciplines are complete opposites. Yoga focuses on calmness, breathing, and total body awareness. HIIT aims for quick bursts of activity followed by short periods of rest to increase the heart rate.

Benefits of Yoga for HIIT Athletes

Many people think of yoga as a way to increase flexibility, and they are right. However, it offers numerous benefits beyond that, such as strength and endurance. This section will describe the many ways in which yoga can support HIIT athletes. This is both physically and mentally, in the gym and their everyday lives.

Increased Strength, Mobility, and Flexibility

These are three important components of physical fitness, and they are the bread and butter of yoga. Each part of our body is connected to another. Yoga really takes this into account by working all parts of the body at the same time to increase strength, mobility, and flexibility. That is precisely why yoga works so well to improve our overall athletic performance.

Strength

We all want to be stronger. Feeling strong is empowering, and that confidence and self-esteem are likely to spill over into all other areas of your life. Regular yoga practice is guaranteed to make you physically and mentally stronger.

HIIT Athletes_Strength Training

If you have ever taken a yoga class, you know that it targets every part of your body. It requires muscle engagement from your core, your lower body, and your upper body. Further, it encourages a mental focus on your breath and how each part of your body performs. 

Flexibility

You might be thinking that flexibility is the same thing as mobility, but you would be wrong. The terms are frequently used interchangeably, which creates some confusion. Flexibility refers only to the muscles' ability to lengthen. You would recognise flexibility as being able to touch your toes.

Yoga contributes to flexibility with poses such as the downward-facing dog. Regular practice creates muscle memory, which is how we become more flexible. With each pose, your muscles get longer and stretch further, allowing you to go deeper and increase your flexibility.

Mobility

Mobility is a little bit different than flexibility. While it requires flexibility, rather than the muscles lengthening, it refers to a joint's ability to move through a range of motion. Strength is an important component of mobility because the joint's muscles have to be strong enough to support the movement.

You can promote mobility with the pigeon pose, for example, because it is pushing the hip joint to go just slightly further than it wants to. This is similar to muscle memory, but for your joints. With each breath, they get more and more comfortable going deeper. Both mobility and flexibility complement each other. They are very important for enhancing your physical performance and reducing your risks of injury.

Overall Body Mindfulness

Overall, body mindfulness can benefit HIIT athletes in two main ways:

It can get you through some of the tougher workouts by staying mentally strong when you feel physically tired. We have all heard the line that tells us that you get tired mentally long before you get tired physically. This is what yoga can prevent, or at least delay, by developing overall body mindfulness.

HIIT Athletes_Mindfulness

It can help you learn to recognise when you are pushing things too hard. Knowing the difference between pushing yourself hard and pushing yourself too hard is an important lesson that can prevent injury. We expect some pain during workouts, especially high-intensity ones. So you must know when you are experiencing pain from an injury rather than just a tough workout.

Endurance

This one might be surprising to some people, but practising yoga regularly can improve our endurance. Yoga requires total body mindfulness, as I discussed above. Some poses might be challenging and push you to your limits. Suppose you can practice holding some of these poses for longer periods of time. In that case, you will begin to increase your mental and physical endurance. Consequently this will eventually begin to translate to your HIIT sessions.

Balance

You may be familiar enough with yoga to know that many poses require balance and a lot of core strength. This practice can be helpful in HIIT because many of the movements require these two components.

Lunges, single-leg squats, and toe touches require balancing when doing these exercises. Yoga consists of a series of movements that require transitions. This is where yoga is engaging important balancing muscles applied to those tricky moves in HIIT.

Reduced Risk of Injury

Many HIIT athletes experience high rates of hip tightness and hip injuries. This results from a lack of focus on hip and glute strength and stretching routines that ignore some muscle groups. Tight and weak hip muscles cause smaller muscle groups to overcompensate for the hips' work. This can lead to a plethora of injuries, with the lower back and knees being particularly vulnerable.

HIIT Athletes_Sport injury

Many yoga poses enhance hip strength and mobility, naturally decreasing injury chances. Yoga is the ounce of prevention, worth much more than a pound of prevention down the road.

Enhanced Recovery Time

Injuries can be almost inevitable for athletes, especially as they get older and experience the woes of tired joints. If an athlete experiences an injury, then regular yoga practices will proactively increase a speedy recovery likelihood. It can also aid during the recovery process by allowing the athlete to focus on overall mental and physical well being.

Increased Ability to Focus on Breath

Being able to focus on your breath and breathing can be a huge asset during a HIIT session. During these high-intensity workouts, you are putting in a lot of effort. Your heart rate is nearing its maximum capacity, and you are probably breathing really heavy. This is when being aware of your breathing can come in handy.

Most of us don't pay much attention to our breath, but if you have ever been to a yoga class, you know this is a big component. You have probably heard your teacher explaining that your breath should be audible. It reminds you to breathe, or counting down a pose in breaths rather than seconds. These yoga techniques teach you to consciously control your breath. This helps you be present at the moment and activate different parts of your brain.

Yoga Poses for HIIT Athletes Full Body Recovery

Now that you know specifically how yoga can benefit you let's get into some specifics to put all of this information to good use. This section will detail a few yoga poses that will enhance your muscles' recovery after a tough HIIT workout.

Forward Fold

Forward fold is a simple yet extremely effective pose for enhancing muscle recovery. Begin by standing up tall with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Hinging at the waist, bring your upper body towards your knees, allowing a slight bend if you need. It should feel like you are folding your body in half.

Once you are in this position, you can let your arms drop straight down, which will promote relaxation in your shoulder muscles. You can also grab both elbows with the opposite hand, which will add a bit of a stretch to your sides.

This pose can be modified into a wide-legged forward fold. Slowly begin to walk your feet outwards two or three small steps, keeping them pointing forward. This will stretch the hamstrings as well as the inner thighs. Hold this pose for 3 or 4 long breaths, sinking more in-depth with each one.

Restorative Bridge Pose

To get into the bridge pose, you should be lying on your back with your knees bent and your hands down at your side. Your hands should be facing down towards the mat and should be in line with your heels. Lift your butt off the mat and your hips towards the ceiling, ensuring that your body is in a straight line from your knees to your chest. Focus on engaging your hips and glutes rather than your hamstring muscles.

Typically bridge pose is focused on opening the hips and building glute strength. However, since this section is focused on recovery, the standard bridge pose must be modified to promote that rather than strength building. From the bridge pose, place a yoga block or firm pillow underneath the flat part of your lower back.

The height will vary; make sure it is something you are comfortable with. You should feel the front part of your body relax and open up. Close your eyes and relax into the stretch for at least one minute, but several minutes is optimal.

Pigeon Pose

Pigeon pose is one of the best options for opening those hip joints and promoting mobility and recovery. To get into pigeon pose, start by sitting on your mat. Bring your right leg to the front and position your shin to be parallel with the front of your mat. Your left leg should be straight back with the tops of your toes flat on the mat. You should be feeling an intense stretch in your hip.

If you feel like this isn't quite enough of a stretch, you can modify it to make this slightly more difficult. Fold your upper body forward so that you are resting on top of your right knee. Repeat this pose on both legs, holding for at least 30 seconds on each side. Focus on your breathing and notice how the stretch feels in your hip.

Reclining Pigeon Pose

The reclining pigeon pose is a modification of the pigeon pose, but different enough that I felt it needed its own section. For this pose, you will start by sitting up on your mat with your knees bent. Bring your right foot over to your left knee, resting your ankle on the top of your quad at the knee. You will feel a stretch in your glutes and down the side of your quad.

If you want to push it a little bit further, you can lie on your back, lace your fingers together around your left knee and pull it towards your chest. This should feel like an intense stretch in your glutes. Hold this pose for at least 30 seconds, ensuring that you stretch both sides. Again, focus on your breath and try to get deeper into the stretch with each one.

Yoga HIIT Fusion

In recent years, yoga HIIT fusion has become the new fitness phenomenon. As you probably guessed, it pairs both fitness disciplines into one workout. It incorporates many of the benefits from yoga, such as mobility and flexibility. In addition with some of HIIT's benefits like strength, increased heart rate, and calorie burning.

Wrap it all up in about 20 or 30 minutes, and you have yourself a full-body workout. It is more gentle on the joints than a regular HIIT class and will certainly be more intense than your usual yoga practice.

This fusion might not be for everyone. You might find that you prefer to keep the slow, controlled environment of yoga separate from HIIT. However, you might also find that this is a new and creative way to reap the benefits of these two popular disciplines in less than half an hour.

In case you are wondering, a yoga HIIT fusion class might be formatted like this:

Warm-up

This portion will be mostly yoga focused, using poses that will get your muscles ready for an intense workout. Transitions might seem a bit faster than usual because you are preparing for a more intense workout. You might see poses like bridge pose, tree pose, or cat-cow.

HIIT

After the warm-up, you will move on to the high-intensity portion of the workout. This section could have many variations, but it will consist of short bursts of a lot of effort for about 20-45 seconds. This is followed by a short rest or period of low-intensity activity. You might do this for approximately six or eight rounds, depending on the timing of the burst.

Cool-down

As you probably guessed, this will be a yoga focused cool down designed to lower your heart rate. You also focus on breath, and give your muscles a little bit of recovery. You might see poses such as pigeon, reclining pigeon, or forward fold.

Fancy giving it a try? I found a very popular online class; Total Body HIIT & Yoga Fusion on Yoga Download.

Final Thoughts

The fast-paced nature of HIIT compared to the slow and controlled nature of yoga may seem like an odd pair. But by incorporating yoga into your HIIT routine has no shortage of benefits for the athlete.

If you feel like you have hit a plateau in your workout routine or are just looking to enhance your performance, yoga could be the answer. You might also find that a yoga HIIT fusion hits the spot. Regardless, by increasing your strength, mobility, flexibility, and balance, yoga will reduce your risk of injury and make you a more well-rounded HIIT athlete.

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