Years of lifting weights will cause the muscle fibers to shorten, which over time will begin to limit your range of motion. Stretching your tight body in new ways will help it to become more flexible, bringing greater range of motion to muscles and joints. Over time, you can expect to gain flexibility in your hamstrings, back, shoulders and hips, which will translate into greater lifting strength and muscle mass.
The best way to increase the strength of your squat, deadlift, or bench press is to increase the stability of your core, allowing for more power transfer to the limbs. Many yoga poses require you to support the weight of your own body in new ways, including balancing on one leg or supporting yourself with your arms. Some exercises require you to move slowly in and out of poses, which also increases strength. Almost all of the exercises require a great amount of core stability, and due to the new movements your core will benefit quickly, allowing for almost instant progress on the compound lifts. As a by-product of getting stronger, you can expect to see increased muscle mass.
Increased flexibility and strength can help prevent the causes of many types of back pain, and not only because of increased core strength, which will help also. Many people who suffer from back pain spend a lot of time sitting at a computer, or driving a car. These activities can cause tightness and spinal compression, which you can begin to address with yoga. Yoga improves your spinal alignment, both in and out of class, which helps prevent many other types of referral back pain.
Most of us breathe very shallowly into the lungs and don’t give much thought to how we breathe. Yoga breathing exercises, called pranayama, focus the attention on the breath and teach us how to better use our lungs, which benefits the entire body. Certain types of breath can also help clear the nasal passages and even calm the central nervous system, which has both physical and mental benefits. The transfer of this to any heavy weight, or aerobic endurance exercise is obvious.
Yoga stresses calm, focus, and inner peace throughout the practice. These skills can translate into our everyday life as well as our gym efforts. The ability to focus and remain calm under a heavy barbell, or in a stressful situation is a great advantage to anyone possessing these abilities. Many of us are quick to become upset, or unfocused, and the mastery of our own self is what will allow us to advance in every avenue of life we pursue.