The past few years, my regular exercise and fitness has mainly focused on yoga. I added in some Pilates, some elliptical, cycling, and other cardio occasionally, but mostly it was yoga. It’s been my staple and my guiding light through the good times and the worst of times. This past year, though, when the whole world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my fitness began to change. At the recommendation of my dance teacher, I added very small dumbbell exercises a couple of times a week. I began with just one little arm exercise. One small exercise with one-pound weights, as I quickly realized my arm strength was weaker than I imagined. A couple of weeks later, I was amazed at the difference. With this one small tweak, I already began to feel stronger. Certain dance moves were easier, which is what sparked the initial picking up of the weights. In addition to that, my yoga practice felt stronger. Plank pose felt easier. My handstand practice improved. Random lifting of heavier items around the house was not quite as much of a struggle. I started seeking out additional strength training moves. I slowly increased repetitions and weight size. I slowly added resistance bands. I read, researched, and learned more about moving with load, or added weight, and all the benefits to the body.
Fast forward to today, and I have been continually amazed at how strength training has transformed my daily life. I have less neck and shoulder pain. Things I didn’t even realize were physically challenging are suddenly easier and smoother. As I grow stronger, it has even helped increase my flexibility. We often think of the two as mutually exclusive, but I’ve learned that the way our muscles work both in tandem and in opposition in order to move our bones means that resistance training improves flexibility as well. You can read more about strength training and flexibility here and here.
And you don’t have to lift super heavy weights to get stronger and in better shape. I’ve lived it and seen it. Strength gains come quickly. Yet when it comes down to fitting in movement, it can be challenging to fit in a lot of extra things into already busy lifestyles. I still love the benefits I get from yoga. The breath. The stress relief. The coordination. The grounding. The calm and peace. The healing. The mindfulness. The energy. The focus. The better sleep. The improved digestion. The self-connection and self-love. The immune system benefits. Embodied awareness. I could go on!
To get the benefits from both strength training AND yoga, I have been creating classes and working on a training program that combines strength training and yoga.
I realize that this combo is not for everyone. However, if you are interested in combining strength and yoga, and getting the benefits of both into one practice to optimize your exercise time, you might enjoy this practice. As a preview, check out my new training Yoga Strength and Sculpt video. It’s a quick moving 30-minute mindful strength practice that incorporates hand weights and vinyasa yoga flows. Adding weights helps build bone density, improve muscle strength and coordination. Wrapped up in a mindful practice, this will leave you stronger in both mind and body. Rejuvenated. You can even start with 1-pound weights like I did. You’ll be feeling stronger before you know it. Try it out here and let me know how it goes!