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Strong Body, Strong Soul
Page 2: Strength Training Tips and Facts

Why are Yoga practitioners less likely to have bulky muscles? It all has to do with the stretching and flexibility we gain with our sessions. We are lengthening the muscles as we make them stronger. Our muscle mass increases, but it increases over a longer area, so we look leaner and more toned. Someone who weight trains but does not do Yoga, Pilates or some other activity that includes intensive stretching will likely have shorter, thicker, less flexible muscles. It's always important, by the way, to stretch right after strength training, with or without weights - muscles that become stiff and inflexible through lack of stretching can lead to serious injury. Always, always stretch. Don't wait for your Yoga sessions in the belief that you're getting enough stretch time there. Stretching after strength training is a necessity that's separate from your Yoga sessions - although you are welcome to use some Yoga poses in your post-workout stretch.

(Article continued below.)

Why don't you need heavy weights to improve your Yoga sessions? Because in this case your weight training is complementary to your Yoga sessions. Sure, you can use heavier weights if you want to get bigger biceps or build up your chest muscles, but it's not necessary just to make your Yoga poses easier. In Yoga you use your own body weight for resistance, so you don't really need a whole lot more. You're using weights to target weaker areas and bring them up to speed. You don't need a lot of poundage to do that. When it comes to bicep and tricep curls, lateral shoulder raises and upright rows, most women probably don't need anything heavier than a pair of 10-pound dumbbells, and beginners will see benefits with three-pound weights. Anything more is purely optional (most guys, of course, will want to use something heavier than a 10-pound dumbbell!). If you're really adverse to weights, you don't have to use them - you can use exercise bands, tubing, or the classic, no-tools-required push-ups and tricep dips. Again for the women - don't be afraid of push-ups. If you can't even handle them on bent knees, you can start with wall push-ups. Once you've mastered that, you can progress to knee push-ups and then straight-leg push-ups. All women should work on their upper body strength - the feeling of accomplishment when you see your progress is wonderful! It's also useful - imagine changing a five-gallon water bottle without a man's help, or bringing in your groceries in two trips instead of four!

You can make the most out of your strength training sessions by approaching them in exactly the same way you do your Yoga sessions - concentrate on form and breath. Good form will help you avoid injury, and for most strength training moves you should be exhaling on the effort, or contraction. Make sure your opposing muscle groups get equal attention - exercise both your chest and back, and your biceps and triceps (although not necessarily on the same day). Be in the moment - stay aware of your movements and how you feel. Focus on the muscles being used - what are they saying? Are you pushing too hard or can you go a little further? Honor the level that you're at - don't allow judgment to dampen your enthusiasm or pride to make you reckless. Find a good teacher - it is highly recommended that you hire a trainer for at least one session to show you the proper way to do the exercises. Relax. Listen to your body and allow your muscles time to recover (in other words, don't rush into a Power Yoga class right after you've had a heavy strength training session). Most of all, be grateful for the gift of your body and the lessons it constantly shows you.

Next week we focus on the lower body - strong legs mean more powerful standing postures!

Previous page >> Strengthening Your Yoga Practice with Upper Body Training >> Page 1, 2

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