Lets be clear yoga is most certainly not just about the amazing physical benefits, it can have a profound effect on you as a person on a deep level. However, just for this particular post, I’d like to focus on the physical side of things alone. After all the human body is a miraculous part of evolution made up of vibrating particles. The physical manifestation is just as miraculous as the inner experience of human being and its not to be taken for granted. You only live once so its important to keep this extraordinary vehicle in tip top condition and treat it with love. This includes diet, physical activity and meditation. I could go on and on about the balance of these things but for now I’m just going to talk about physical activity.
I started out as a personal trainer and spent years learning about the anatomy of the body and how to activate particular muscles in the most effect way. I often draw on this knowledge when teaching yoga and find it really helps my students to understand the how and why of each pose. Not just following blindly but really understanding whats going on in their own bodies and the benefits.
In a physical sense yoga does have its limitations; yoga only involves pushing the body weight. This means two things, you will only ever be moving the same amount of weight (your body weight) and secondly no equipment means no pulling actions, the movements are limited to pushing. This can lead to an imbalance of weakness and strength in particular muscle groups, and therefore injury or discomfort.
A particular issue with yoga is that the back muscles don’t get used to their full potential as they would with weight training. However weight training might not give you the mobility and suppleness that yoga gives you. So with a combination of yoga, weight training and the right diet you can take things into a whole new level of strength, mobility and physical awesomeness. Here’s my top 3 weight pulling exercises to complement your yoga practise:
Cable machine row
For this you will need to attach a double handle to the carabiner clip. Sit either on a seat or grab a bench and place it infront of the cable with enough room to extend your legs out with a slight bend in the knee. Set the weight so that one rep feels about a 7 out of 10 of your absolute max. Sit upright with a straight back lean forwards to pick up the handles with arms fully extended. Keeping your back straight pull the handles in towards your lower chest/upper abdomen. Keep the elbows fairly close to the side of your body and hold their for 3 seconds whilst you squeeze and engage the muscles inbetween your shoulder blades and at the sides of your back (romboids and lats). As you extend your arms forward again, lean forwards with your torso, keeping the back straight. Repeat this 8-10 more times. Rest for 1 minute and then do 3 or 4 more rounds of this.
For this you can use either a barbell or two dumbells, one in each hand. Stand with the feet about hip width and bend your knees and place your hands on the bar. Its important to set your positioning up from this starting point before lifting the weight. Set your hands wider than your knees so that your arms and knees don’t clash on the way. You want to keep a straight back throughout and don’t let your back round as this can lead to injury. Always look forward as this helps you to keep that straight back when lowering the bar towards the floor. When starting out don’t lower the bar all the way to the floor as this can be too much and cause you to hunch your back in order to reach the floor. Alternatively you can place low benches either side of you to put the weight down onto. While lifting the bar up to standing, keep your core engaged and think about using your legs as much as your back to lift. Repeat this 8-10 times for 3 or 4 rounds. Rest inbetween each set for a minute or two.
Cable machine wood chops
For this you’ll need to attach a single handle grip to the carabiner. Set the cable machine to a weight that feels right for you by testing out a few different weights. You want to be able to perform 8 reps and be fatigued by the 7th or 8th. Set the height of the hand grip to about shin height. Stand sideways with the feet hip width. Holding the handle with both hands, draw the cable across your body and up to over your opposite shoulder. Be sure to engage the core and keep the arms straight at all times. This is a great core and shoulder strengthener. Repeat 8-10 times for 3 or 4 rounds.