Fortify Your Yoga Practice with Strength Training
Many students ask me if I do anything else besides yoga. I cheat on yoga with weights. This was the best thing that happened for my yoga practice. When I walked into yoga I realized that my upper body strength totally sucked! I mean it was bad. A modified forearm plank was my nemesis! You saw that correctly: MODIFIED forearm plank. Don’t ever tell that to any of my coaches growing up.
From 20-22 years old, I did not workout at all. That two-year hiatus taught me how much my body needed to move. I grew up practicing Jujitsu and competing in sparring. On our “off days” we did an hour of pure, old-fashioned strength training. Lots of weights. My Sensei was a Veteran U.S. Marine and a bounty hunter on the side, so our workouts were very “colorful” to say the least. I spent many of days with other classmates literally throwing up from the intense workouts but it was awesome! I’m very grateful for that one to two days of strength training he had us do because it helped. In order to spar or throw a proper punch you have to have upper body strength and in order to do a proper chaturanga without dropping to your knees, you also have to develop upper body strength.
Strength Training and Yoga
All this being said, this is where strength training is imperative for your yoga practice. Yes, yoga is about the balance of strength and flexibility, but sometimes supplemental training is needed. I’m speaking for myself and saying it was needed because my arms were like noodles. I needed help and the weights helped. Even 3 pound weights (when properly used) can help strengthen your shoulders, rotator cuffs, triceps, biceps, rhomboids, and chest. All helping not only with the chaturanga, but with downward facing dog, arm balances, and inversions. You’ll see your new strength affect different areas of your practice. Example: Utkatasana and squats. You can “yoga while you lift,” I promise.
As a woman, finding physical strength and seeing muscles pop out has really lifted my self confidence. It’s helped my posture and alignment outside of yoga as well—the way I sit in a chair, walk, etc. I’m glad to see that strength is being encouraged in many areas of organized fitness, as opposed to emphasis on being as small as possible.
4 Ways to Introduce Strength Training
1. Start light and work your way up, just like with any physical activity.
2. Train with a professional or someone that knows what they are doing.
3. Research form and techniques from professionals. This does not include looking at pictures on Instagram from models or amateurs. 9 times out of 10 their form is shitty because they are staring at the lens, smiling, when they should be looking elsewhere.
4. Have fun and keep it interesting. Change it up.
What outside sources have you used to benefit your yoga practice? What do you do to push through plateaus?