In this excerpt from Yoga With Weights for Dummies, author Sherri Baptiste takes a look at some of the reasons you might explore to decide whether yoga with weights is right for you.
You Haven’t Studied Yoga
Should you have studied yoga already in order to study yoga with weights? The short answer is: It isn’t necessary. Yoga with weights is user-friendly, meaning it isn’t intimidating, and you don’t need a background in yoga. The door is always open. Anyone who’s interested is welcome.
Yogis sometimes say, “You’re as young as your yoga practice.” The saying refers to yoga’s rejuvenating qualities and to the fact that practicing yoga is akin to being a newborn, in that you discover anew how to move your body when you practice yoga. Like a baby learning to lift his or her head or roll over, yoga students feel their way into new, more liberating body motions and positions as they practice yoga.
Yoga is well known for making people look and feel younger. To some degree, yoga slows down the aging process. Bone mass develops, and you feel more vital and energetic.
Of course, if you’ve already studied yoga, studying yoga with weights is that much easier because the language and the concepts aren’t completely new or unfamiliar. For example, you already understand the importance of breathing in exercise, or to breathe deep into your chest and lungs. And if you need to move into the downward-facing dog position, you know exactly what that is. A downwardfacing dog? Don’t all dogs face downward?
You Haven’t Had Weight Training (or You Lift Weights Regularly)
You don’t need to have lifted weights before now to study yoga with weights. The weights you use are only 1 to 5 pounds and aren’t difficult to get the hang of. If you’ve never picked up a weight before, rest reassured that holding a pair of hand weights or strapping on a pair of ankle weights doesn’t take any expertise whatsoever. The weights help you feel more grounded, but don’t weigh you down.
We’ve noticed that the yoga room intimidates people who have lifted weights. Why? Because weightlifters aren’t flexible, and they’re used to being some of the fittest, best athletes in the gym.
Stepping out of your element and comfort zone is a challenge for everybody, bodybuilders included, but taking that first step is actually much easier than you may think. The real beauty of yoga with weights for people who do lift weights regularly is that it benefits them in new and balanced ways, allowing them to reclaim full range of motion and flexibility while maintaining their strength. This is just what they often need.
One of the biggest attractions of yoga with weights is being able to lift weights and still maintain your flexibility. You 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.
You’re Really Out of Shape
Out of shape? Who? You? Well, you’re not the only one who’s out of shape. Life just starts doing its thing with us and pretty soon we fall out of shape. We’re sure you’ve been told before that staying in shape takes consistency and a life-long commitment. All you have to do is put in the effort and you soon reap the rewards.
If you’re very out of shape, start slow. Schedule the time. Knowing how easy it is not to exercise, they enter their yoga classes on their calendars and plan their time around yoga. They make a commitment in writing to show up. The classes are on their calendars and they have to go no matter what.
You’re Stiff as a Board
Some people are by nature muscle-bound or tight, and they have a limited range of motion. They can hardly lean forward far enough to tie their shoes. People with tight muscles tend to be protective and guarded in their movements. They don’t have the confidence to move freely. This lack of confidence hinders their movements and makes them even stiffer.
Eventually, they may develop bad posture, which can lead to other health problems, including chronic back pain and chronic headaches. Bad posture can compress the internal organs, causing poor digestion, high blood pressure, and respiratory ailments.
If you’re stiff by nature, yoga with weights can seem like a risky enterprise mentally and emotionally when you begin exercising. But hang in there. Breath by breath, exercise by exercise, you can escape the cage that your body has become, spread your wings, and fly.
Yoga breathing techniques can improve the blood circulation in your body and bring new healthy cells to your muscles. Where flexibility is concerned, success breeds success. One muscle unknotting can cause the one beside it to loosen. Even people who are very stiff by nature can become limber if they stick with yoga with weights and practice it as little as twice a week.
Eventually, your muscles will rest back against your bones and stretch out and elongate, and you’ll be able to move more comfortably and freely.
You’re Loose as a Goose
Some people are double-jointed. Their tendons and ligaments are more elastic. They can touch their noses to their knees without any distress or bend over backwards to touch the floor. People who are double-jointed, or hyperflexible, run the risk of hyperextending their knees, elbows, and other joints because their ligaments and tendons are too elastic. They’re capable of flexing well beyond a joint’s normal range. Unless they develop the muscular strength to support their supple joints, these people can injure their joints in the course of doing an exercise.
Hyperflexibility is probably a matter of genetics. You’re born with limbs that are too loose, but you can do something about it. Yoga with weights can benefit people who suffer from hyperflexibility because it strengthens supporting muscles. This extra muscle mass makes the joints more stable.
Excerpted from Yoga With Weights for Dummies by Sherri Baptiste. Copyright ©2012 by Sherri Baptiste. All rights reserved.