I’m super excited to bring hand weights to my yoga teaching. I have been on a journey to get stronger for over ten years. Once I realized that I was spending too much time stretching and trying to get into some deep yoga postures, I felt like I was always chasing pain around my body. But strength work changed everything. It became clear that my core was weak, which was part of the cause of some repetitive injuries I had been dealing with trying to manage.
You may have been in a class with me where we have added external load using a yoga block, bolster, or blanket. However, unless you have worked with me privately or done a specific strength-building course I’ve offered, you may have experienced only some of the benefits hand weights can offer.
First, I began focusing on more strength-building postures using my body weight and adding core work to my practice. In yoga, we work with our body weight as the load. My motto was, “the muscle needed to earn the right to stretch!” So often, I would sequence classes to wake up and engage the muscle we needed to use, work it out a bit, and then stretch it. Once in a while, we would increase resistance by sliding blankets on the floor or using a strap. Or we would increase the load by holding a block, blanket, or bolster.
In my practice, I started using resistance bands and small hand weights and doing more squats and other strength training exercises. I began to bring postures that were not traditional yoga poses into the sequences I taught and engage them in a yogic way. After all, any shape you can do with your body is, in fact, a yoga pose–even if it is not one of the set poses already agreed upon by the yoga community. Yoga is, after all, not what you do but how you do it. In fact, it is everything you do–but that is a topic for another day.
The interesting thing I noticed over these last many years is that adding these poses to a yoga class was becoming fashionable. Many yoga instructors were waking up to the injuries and imbalances a yoga practice alone might bring and embellishing their classes with strength work.
The important thing here is that I, and many of my colleagues, never blamed yoga for the issues. We brought to the practice what was needed to be more balanced and make our yoga practice sustainable. Now my body feels stronger and more mobile – better than ever. I aspire to practice and teach a style of yoga that lasts a lifetime and gives you a balance of what you need to keep your body moving and functioning well.
These days I have begun to incorporate hand weights into some of my classes. I ask you to have a set of 2-3 pound weights, just as you have blocks, blankets, bolsters, and a strap! Don’t worry. You can still get started even if you don’t have hand weights yet. Use your yoga blocks, two cans of soup, or jars filled with something–or maybe you will find another household item that will work.
Here are some benefits of adding hand weights to your yoga practice:
• Build strength and increase muscle mass
• Improve balance and stability
• Increase cardiovascular fitness
• More flexibility
• Enhance proprioceptive awareness
• Boost resiliency
And building muscle mass increases longevity in several ways. It improves metabolic function, lowers the risk of chronic disease, increases bone density, and, like many types of exercises, helps reduce stress and inflammation and improve mobility, immune function, and mental health.
In the coming weeks, I will write more on the topic of uses hand weights and expand on the benefits above. Stay tuned. For now, try it and see how it feels for yourself. Here is a video to get you started: https://momence.com/p/187531
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