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Yoga with Weights by Sherri Baptiste

08/06/2023 5:00 AM | Anonymous

A Stand-Alone System

Yoga with weights is neither yoga nor weight training, but a synthesis of the two forms of exercise. It’s a higher level of conditioning. Holding the weights in your hands and bearing the weights on your ankles fires and develops your muscles. The weights sculpt and tone your body. Meanwhile, as you strike the yoga postures, you develop flexibility and a conscious awareness of your body.

Yoga with weights adds another dimension to yoga. Because you’re supporting weights, the challenges that normally accompany yoga exercise—of knowing which muscles to flex and which to relax during an exercise—are made even more demanding. The weights stabilize the body and encourage you to feel the action of the yoga practice itself. The weight helps the muscles understand where they’re supposed to be and what they’re supposed to do in an exercise. The result is a more intense, more exact exercise discipline. 

Yoga with weights also builds body self-awareness. You can think of yoga with weights as a dialogue between your mind and your body. As you exercise, your brain sends a stimulus to a part of your body telling it to move in a certain direction. Then a signal comes back to the brain saying that the body part either can move or can’t move any further, and the brain sends out another signal asking the part of the body to flex or relax a little more. This ongoing dialogue amounts to a self-exploration of your body. In a very profound way, it makes you more aware of your body and enables you to extend the physical limits that your body is capable of reaching.

For the past several years, Sherri has worked with an elderly man who had polio in his youth. Her experiences with this man showed very clearly just how beneficial yoga can be to body awareness. Yoga was able to help the man so-to-speak reconnect the muscles and nerves in his body. He can now bend over, sit up, and walk with more ease, confidence, and coordination. His muscle strength, range of motion, and overall sense of well-being have improved physically and mentally. Yoga helped him rebuild the lines of connection in his body. It helped him restore and rewire what we call the nerve highways and pathways that had been damaged by polio.

Remember: Like traditional yoga, yoga with weight emphasizes correct breathing and an awareness of how you breath. This attention to breathing gives you a sense of calm relief, a feeling of grace, a feeling of steadiness similar to what you get from a traditional yoga workout. The addition of the weights brings the very physical feeling you get from weight training. You feel your individual muscles and you get the solid feeling that weightlifters get. 

Finally, the addition of the weights makes you feel the effect of the yoga training sooner. The weights train the muscles where to be and where to go. In a beginning yoga practice, it sometimes takes a year for students to “get it.” It doesn’t take students practicing yoga with weights that long.

Should I have had some weight training?

You don’t need to have lifted weights before to study yoga with weights. The weights are only three to five pounds and are not difficult to get the hang of.

If you’re an avid weight trainer, you may have to unlearn one or two things before you attempt yoga with weights. Sherri can’t count the number of times weight trainers and big-time body builders have told her, “I want to come to your yoga class.” But they never show up. They’re intimidated by the yoga room and they never make it over the threshold because they’re not flexible and because they’re used to being the fittest, best athletes in the gym. Stepping out of your element and comfort zone is a challenge for everybody, body builders included. But the beauty of yoga with weights is that it benefits classic body builders in new and balanced ways, allowing them to reclaim full range of motion and flexibility while maintaining their strength. This is just the thing they often need.

One of the biggest attractions of yoga with weights is being able to lift weights and still maintain your flexibility. You can get the same muscular tone you get from weight training and work on your flexibility as well. You won’t get “bulked up” or muscle-bound, but your muscles will be toned, defined, and strengthened.

Yoga-with-Weights Breathing

If you’re new to yoga with weights, you may wonder why you have to pay so much attention to breathing. In every exercise, we tell you when to inhale and exhale and how long to inhale and exhale. In between exercises, we instruct you to pause for three deep and steady breaths. We have you focus on breathing because breathing correctly helps you to feel emotionally centered, physically stronger, and mentally alert. In the full-body workout, you use the complete breath (Chapter 4 explains what that is). Breathing complete breaths is a mindful practice that will harmonize body, mind, and spirit. It’s important to remember never to force a breath into your lungs; simply welcome a full breath to move in and out naturally. Breathing consciously helps you move safely as you exercise and connect to undiscovered areas of your body. The deep rhythmic breathing you do in these exercises also improves your circulation and de-stresses your mind.

Excerpted from Yoga with Weights for Dummies, by Sherri Baptiste and Megan Scott. Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana, 2006. Available wherever books are sold.

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