Yoga and weights

In response to a comment on our Instagram post, here’s what Pranalistic has to say.  Rather than specifically addressing the inclusion of the kettlebell windmill,  I think it’s better to discuss the bigger picture of integrating weights with your yoga asana practice:

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Specifically, the 5 benefits listed here on our Instagram post for triangle pose (trikonasana) are, and by means limited to:

1. Improve blood circulation

Yoga exercise benefits your entire circulatory system, beginning with the production of blood, which takes place in the marrow of the long bones in the thighs. By improving circulation to the legs with daily yoga stretching exercises we help to rejuvenate the blood.  Yoga exercises stretch the body’s major blood vessels, keeping them free-flowing and elastic.  Consistent practice of triangle pose is a big contribution to this.  By adding weights, you would not necessarily compromise this benefit of blood circulation as long as you maintain proper alignment of the pose and focus on breath and movement synchronization.  Yoga poses with weights can still help to get your heart pumping and your blood flowing!  The best yoga poses to improve blood circulation include Triangle Pose, Warrior poses, Downward Dog, Shoulder Stand to name a few.

2. Stimulate function of abdominal organs

Many yoga poses can activate the abdominal organs (i.e. digestive organs like the stomach, intestines, pancreas, liver and the gall bladder).  Triangle pose and Supported Shoulder-stand are great poses for this.  Generally, yoga can help to improve digestive health as it not only stretches your muscles, but helps to detoxify the body by massaging your internal organs.

Not only that, but yoga helps to relieve any mental stress that may be impacting your digestive health. Our stomachs and minds are closely related. By practicing yoga poses such as triangle pose, you’ll get everything flowing in harmony again.  Other great poses to help with digestion and stimulate abdominal organs include cat and cow pose, forward fold and many twisting poses such as lord of the half fishes and revolved triangle pose.

I don’t think it’s necessary to incorporate weights to yoga poses that promote stimulation of digestive organs as the emphasis is on the twisting and massaging of internal organs.

3. Improve flexibility

A body which may have been quite rigid at the beginning of learning yoga will start to experience remarkable flexibility in all parts, even those parts which have not been consciously worked upon.  Correct Yogic stretching develops the entire body.

While I believe that traditional yoga asana practice is one of the best forms of exercise for improving flexibility, there is research which suggests resistance or strength training produces great improvements in flexibility.  I think, if you do resistance or strength training, especially if you focus on full range of motion, you would still promote flexibility.

4. Strengthens muscles

Yoga increases muscle endurance because you typically hold any given pose for a period of time and repeat it several times during a yoga workout.  However, adding small weights adds a bigger element of strength, stamina and endurance to your yoga practice.

Adding a little bit of weight to your yoga practice will give extra oomph in your yoga poses especially if you’re naturally flexible and struggle to build strength.

Weight bearing yoga poses can also help to increase bone density so adding weights would bring an added benefit.

However, you must maintain body alignment when you use weights with yoga.  Don’t allow the weights to compromise the integrity of the pose alignment.

5. Relieves stress

Yoga works on all the levels hence the reduction in stress is relatively long term.  Yoga teaches to let go, which is the most important thing.  Additionally, yoga poses strengthens the spine and improves the flexibility of the spine which will impact on the mind, making it flexible as well.

While cardio and strength training can improve the physical capacity, a regular practice of traditional yoga and meditation improves the mental capacity as well.  Adding weights to your yoga practice might not help towards relieving stress, but there is a place for all three – cardio/strength training, yoga and meditation which could contribute to the long term benefits of a healthy mind.

By doing yoga poses, you activate all the systems of your body which will help you overcome stress as stress will affect the chemical composition of the body and thus the mind.  Meditation is a part of yoga and will also help you focus and calm your mind down.  Having said this, if you do strength training and love doing it, you must do what you love.

Conclusion

You wouldn’t necessarily take away any benefits by adding weights such as kettle bells to your yoga practice, as long as the primary focus is on the breath and the weights still ensures safe, smooth and graceful movements and the alignment of the body isn’t compromised.

Remember that weight training with yoga is not traditional yoga practice and that traditional yoga practice isn’t just about building strength and flexibility but also building self-awareness.

Currently, I’m not using weights and don’t find the need to include them at the moment.  Personally, my strength and muscle definition has greatly improved with a combination of yoga, and HIIT workouts (without weights.)

I would suggest you try integrating kettle bells or other hand weights with yoga poses, but still find time to practice traditional yoga asana practice as the benefits are more holistic than any other form of exercise.  If you’re new to yoga, please give it a try and be patient with it.  You will find it compliments all other forms of exercise extremely well.

The goal with yoga asana practice to to achieve proper alignment and breathe correctly in every move while cultivating an open mind and heart.

Feel free to ask any other questions.  We’ll do our best to address them based on our personal experience, research and knowledge.

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