Yoga is all about balance. Everything you do on the right side, you also do on the left side. Every peak pose has a counterbalance pose, like shoulderstand to fish. It’s an equally designed flow to make you stable and whole.
However, I often find that yoga practitioners have too much lower body flexibility and not enough lower body strength. If you have open hips and a lot of flexibility it’s so easy to sink into a pose like extended side angle and just hang out there like it’s no big deal. But that’s not yoga in its truest form. There is no activation there.
When we can start to add strength into our movements, we can start to activate and engage different muscles in our bodies and find that perfect balance of strength and flexibility. In extended side angle we can begin by pressing into our heels to activate our quads and hamstrings, this will take some pressure out of the hip and bring the line of energy up rather than down. When we start to activate muscles and focus on the line of energy you’re creating, the practice as a whole completely shifts into something truly amazing. I always say, it’s one thing to just show up to your mat, put your body in the positions and just hang out, sure you’ll get some benefit to that. But it’s a whole other world of a practice when you begin to let the poses work for you by using alignment and engaging muscles.
Enter kettlebells, my new found love. KB’s are extremely versatile and I highly suggest you go and purchase one for your house. You can find one at any sporting goods store and I’ve even seen them at TJMaxx. And as much as I love going to the gym, I’m still pretty lazy. I like each one of my exercises to work multiple muscles at a time, not just one. KB’s are amazing for whole body training.
Here are 5 kettlebell exercises to improve your yoga practice from standing poses, to arm balances to funky variations of all sorts:
- KB Walking Lunges – Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes, Calves
If you have one KB, hold it right in front of your chest. If you have two KB’s hold one in each hand alongside of you. For an added ab bonus, hold different weighted KB’s in each hand.
- KB Swings – Hamstrings, Glutes, Shoulders, Calves, Lower Back
I prefer to hold the KB with both hands however this link shows it with one hand.
- KB Russian Twists – Abs, Lower back
- KB Goblet Squats – Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings, Shoulders
- KB Figure 8’s – Abs, Glutes, Hamstrings, Shoulders
Give them a try and have fun!