When you exercise or work out, what’s your go-to? Weights? Running? Boxing? Strength or cardio? What about yoga?
In 2012 a survey by Yoga Journal found that of the 20.4 million people who practice yoga only 18% of them were men. By 2020 it was estimated that over 55 million people around the world would practice yoga. For many reasons, construction workers should most definitely be a part of this number. Yoga has so many benefits, many of which could change the life of a construction worker.
Yoga is often looked at as both a mind and body exercise and meditation practice. A series of moves or exercises - called poses - are completed in a series along with specific breathing techniques. Yoga is used to ease anxiety, slow the mind, build strength and improve flexibility.
Those who practice yoga sometimes do it for meditation, others use it specifically for the physical benefits and some practice for both the mental and physical aspects.
Yoga dates back more than 5,000 years ago and is believed to originate from northern India. Ancient texts have been found that refer to a practice called “Rig Veda”. Rig Vega involved mantras, poses, rituals and songs.
Yoga was then adapted to many other Asian cultures and used to develop steps to meditation. It was supposed to help a person slow their mind, become more observant to their own bodies and be aware of the inner self.
Yoga began to be more popular in the West in the 1900s when it became linked to inner wellness and as an overall health practice in North America. With this Western adaptation, the physical benefits to yoga became more celebrated and it became less of a spiritual practice for many people.
There are many different types of yoga practices and pose flows. Power yoga is a fast-paced style that focuses on strength and endurance improvement. Forrest yoga involves holding poses for a longer period of time with slower movements. Bikram yoga usually cycles through 26 of the same poses, all performed in a very hot room over the course of 90 minutes. Hot yoga in general is a little different because it’s usually a shorter time period, can use a variety of poses and the room isn’t quite as hot. Anti-gravity yoga is one of the newer forms of yoga. It involves using a hanging cloth to suspend or hang parts of the body during poses. It’s unique in that the traction of gravity helps to decompress the spine and other joints.
Yoga is about holding poses that stretch your muscles and increase your range of motion. Over time, this stretching will lead to greater flexibility.
Flexibility for construction workers means a reduced risk of injury on the site. A quicker recovery time in the event of a strain means that injuries are less likely to be as extreme as well.
Yoga often involves shifting weight in ways that our bodies aren’t used to. Balance and core strength are improved by practicing these shifts and holding poses for periods of time.
Being sure-of-foot and having balance is beneficial for those walking on beams, carrying multiple tools or working in precarious positions. Balance isn’t just about holding a position but being able to recover in the event of a slip or stumble. For construction workers, balance is super important.
Yoga, whether you practise for the sake of body-mind connection or not, will lead to you being more in tune with your body. This happens naturally when you begin to exercise regularly, no matter the form of workout. Many yoga poses require you to pay attention to the little tweaks and turns of your body. Because of this, a renewed and improved mind-body connection is bound to happen anyway.
Construction workers are known to push themselves hard. The industry is hard on the body as is any type of physical labor. When you are more in tune with what your body tells you, you are more likely to identify any challenges or abnormalities quicker.
Being able to listen to your body is key to preventing a serious injury on site. If something feels off, take a break. Ask to change roles to reduce repetitive movement, take a day to rest or seek treatment with a physiotherapist or massage therapist. Prevention is so important and being able to listen to your body is a great way to tell when you’re pushing yourself too hard.
Yoga is about slowing down. Deep breathing, a calm environment and lasting poses all help to slow down the mind and body alike. Many studies have proven that yoga leads to lower stress levels and a reduction in anxiety.
Contractors are under constant pressure. Budgets, deadlines, subcontractors, site supervisors, home responsibilities and job requirements are a lot for one person to manage. When you’re stressed out, it makes it harder to focus and increases the risk of injury or accident on site. Yoga provides a safe space to help contractors slow down and let go of some of that stress. Breathing techniques can be used throughout the day to help contractors find calmness and stay focused until they can confront or handle the source of the stress.
Mental health in the construction industry is a major topic that many people don’t talk about. While yoga can help with stress management, it’s important to look for the root source of the problem. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or support if you need it.
Yoga builds strength in a way that engages parts of the body that are often ignored. Many weight lifting exercises focus on major muscle groups. Because yoga uses the entire body, smaller muscle groups are often engaged together. This creates more all-encompassing strength training that is more consistent throughout the entire body.
Being strong makes working construction easier. Holding materials, handling power tools, lifting boxes and climbing ladders are all actions that work the entire body. Having the muscle power to do these jobs without straining your body means you’re less likely to be injured on the job.
Many actions performed by construction workers engage all the muscle groups at once. If you just focus on arms and legs, then your strength is uneven and you could overcompensate. Having strength in your chest, core, shoulders, back, triceps, calves, glutes and every other part of your body mean that you can perform your job safely all day long.
Yoga is an amazing workout that builds strength, endurance, flexibility, mental fortitude and balance. It’s definitely a must-do workout for construction workers.