5 Benefits to Adding Weights to Your (Yoga) Practice.

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Excerpts from the book Yoga with Weights for Dummies

By: Sherri Baptiste

1. Making You Stronger

Yoga makes you stronger and tones your muscles, but by adding the weights, you give additional boost to the muscle strengthening and toning powers of yoga.

When you stress a muscle with exercise or a repeated activity, the muscle increases in strength and diameter as the muscle fiber expands. In other words, the muscle is toned.

The weight-bearing aspect of yoga with weights improves the oxygenation of muscles, which promotes the muscles’ growth and repair. The stretching improves the flexibility and health of muscles and tendons. Yoga with weights also reduces the risk of muscle tears and strains because weightlifting, when properly done, integrates the muscles closer to the bones.

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2. Building Your Core Strength

When we talk about your “core,” we’re referring to the muscles of your trunk and torso that support your spine. These muscles are the major players in balancing and coordination. The core muscles also support your shoulders and hips.

Most people don’t know it, but the abdominal muscles, which are also core muscles, are very important for supporting your spine. Unless your core muscles are strong, you can’t develop the muscles of your arms and legs to their fullest potential, in much the same way that tree branches can’t grow big unless the trunk of the tree is strong enough to support the branches.

Your core muscles are also responsible for good posture. They keep your back straight and your shoulders square, and they keep you from slouching. Your core muscles also support and protect your internal organs. For example, if the muscles around your back and abdomen aren’t strong, sitting up straight for long periods of time is hard, because the muscles of your back and abdomen take some of the weight-bearing stress off the smaller muscles in your head, neck, and even your shoulders. Without strong core muscles, you’re more susceptible to back problems.

When most people think of getting stronger, they imagine being able to lift heavier weights or run faster. But before you can accomplish such feats, you need to develop the core muscles of your trunk and torso. Deep strength begins in these core muscles—your power source, the axis around which so many muscles move. Yoga with weights is a superb program for reaching into the center of your body to engage, utilize, and exercise the core muscles that really matter.

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3. Toning Your Muscles

Yoga-with-weights exercises are designed to work and tone all the muscles of your body. If you think your arms are too flabby, if you want to develop your abdominal muscles, or if you want to strengthen your legs, you can find many yoga-with-weights exercises that target those areas.

In traditional yoga, you can tone and refine parts of your body with exercises. The addition of weights makes it possible to really dig into a muscle or muscle group and work it hard.

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4. Being More Beautiful

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course. But beauty is also a matter of confidence, poise, and bearing. We’ve seen older people with wrinkles and thinning silver hair who don’t fit the standard definition of beauty but who are nevertheless very beautiful. These people radiate an inner glow that has ripened during the years. They have a light in their eyes that tells you that they’re very much alive to the world around them and living their lives in a way that’s full of enthusiasm. They have what’s sometimes called inner beauty or an inspired state of being.

It’s often said that yoga slows the aging process. What yoga really does is to help maintain and improve your posture and general health through exercising and proper breathing. Yoga with weights helps to increase your vitality and overall well-being so you look and feel younger and more beautiful. It can give you self-confidence and poise, increase your self-awareness, and make the light inside you shine more brightly with each decade.

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5. Addressing Your Flexibility & Range of Motion

Yoga is well known for making people more flexible, supple, lithe, and limber. You’ve probably seen photographs of human pretzels, contorting themselves into different yoga postures. Being flexible is necessary if you want to be comfortable in your body. Think of all the practical advantages of being flexible. You can reach higher, sit more comfortably on the floor, sit at your desk for longer periods of time with greater ease, or stand longer. You have the choice of bending at the waist or squatting when you want to pick up something from the floor.

Soreness, swelling, and pain relate to the loss of body tissue movement. To prevent injury and postural changes, it helps if your joints have a maximum range of motion.

Many people believe that being flexible enough to get into pretzel poses is the primary goal of yoga. Being flexible does show up over time as a natural part of the process, but it’s a secondary goal. You can be a good yoga practitioner without being especially flexible. Yoga with weights combines basic master techniques from the yoga tradition with physical culture practices.

The goal is to achieve the proper body alignment and breathe correctly in every move and exercise while cultivating an open mind and heart. You want to achieve a balanced and overall strengthening effect, not to be as flexible as a pretzel.

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