A Yoga Teacher since 2000 and two years into teaching, I got this great (and I thought unique) idea that using light dumbbells along with yoga postures would add variety to my routines and greatly enhance the benefits of the practice. The key for me was using light weights (2 kilos or 4.4 pounds) so that the postures became more challenging but the aim was definitely not to “bulk up”, instead to work on building internal muscle strength.
To this end, I am greatly successful. Students instantly responded, saying they loved the challenge. I choreographed many interesting routines with weights and added 30 odd dumbbell sets to my studio equipment. Today, come 2016, another sixteen years later I am so happy to have filmed a video of yoga with weights with my 26-year old son.
Around the same time, in 2002, while I, a simple Yoga Teacher in Gurgaon, India, running her own studio, adding this creative exercise routine in my class, at the opposite end of the world, after the Ironman USA triathlon ended in Lake Placid, New York, Anthony Carillo was practising yoga in his living room. While performing the standing pose Warrior II, the triathlete felt a muscle burn in his legs. This made him wonder how he could experience a burn with the same level of intensity in his upper body as well.
Noticing a pair of dumbbells in a corner of his room, he chanced upon the same idea I had and Iron Yoga, the union of upper body weight training exercises with favorite yoga poses, was born. The term “Iron” refers not only to dumbbells used while performing the poses but also to Anthony’s passion for the Ironman triathlon and combining yoga with extreme physical fitness.
The Iron Yoga logo was inspired by Da Vinci’s sketch , the Vitruvian Man. The sketch depicts the balance and proportions of the human body as an analogy for the same in the universe. Iron Yoga forces a person to be more present in the moment. When performing postures with weights, one has to be fully present and attentive, to prevent any mishap or injury. Consequently, this allows the practitioner to deepen their mental, physical, and spiritual practice as well.
Yoga with weights also has an amazing impact on one’s breathing. It becomes imperative to breathe deep and long to sustain the arm movements while holding the dumbbells. So, we don’t have to remind ourselves to continue to breathe deeply along with the body movements; it happens naturally. This is a great automatic Pranayama training.
Our sense of balance is wonderfully honed as we do postures with weights. There is no scope for short cuts. Because we are challenged with holding weights, the relevant muscles have to engage strongly and remain working while we execute our movements.
A time-saving workout, it combines yoga with weight training to create a perfect combination. While the yoga postures add more flexibility and strengthen the lower body, the dumbbells add power to the arms, back, and shoulders. Stronger bones and improved upper-body strength makes this a challenging, yet fulfilling practice for those seeking access to physical vigor along with mental stability. Don’t be intimidated by the rigorous practice.
Iron Yoga allows the workout to be modified to different levels. I advise my students to practice poses without weights when they are beginners, then graduate to light weights (1 kilo or two point two pounds in each hand) and slowly progress to 2 kilos or 4.4 pounds. I allow only a few students to advance to heavier weights.
With Power Yoga as its base, Iron Yoga synergizes weight training and the steady, focused practice of yoga. Practicing standing and leg-balancing yoga asanas with light to moderate weight dumbbells helps to work our arms and upper body. We can build our chest, back, shoulders, and core with this body shaping and sculpting routine that gives us an energy boost as well. Weight training combines mind and muscle power.
While performing the pose, we hold weights so muscle contraction couples with an adequate flow of oxygen, blood, and nutrients to the muscles. This helps the muscles to strengthen and grow rapidly.
Iron Yoga is an intense practice with a complete range of motions designed to boost health and fitness levels, build concentration and focus and a thirst to strive for and experience a stronger will, and a toned physique.
Iron Yoga combines the best of both practices to yield the following benefits:
Iron Yoga taps the fiery strength of the physical body and integrates it with stabilizing mind and breath. It is founded the below basic principles:
As we move from one step to the next, breathing deeply, we inhale fresh energy and exhale toxins from our body. Our movements need to be slow and measured – we need to keep our muscles engaged but very relaxed, so the muscles work effectively. We need to ensure that through the arm movements, as we bend and straighten our arms ( while holding weights) we keep our elbows a little bent and soft so that we don’t strain our elbow joint.
The Static Contraction is an advanced technique performed through the following steps:
Dumbbells are not the only weights used for performing yoga stretches. The poses these days are also practiced with kettle balls, gym balls, medicine balls and barbells. Iron Yoga uses the best of both disciplines to build muscle strength and boost overall health. Framed in accordance with the principles of biomechanics, Iron Yoga focuses on modifying and intensifying postures to suit your fitness level.
Precautions To Observe
While practicing the poses, here are a few essential principles to keep in mind:
Do this exercise in 3 steps.
Iron Yoga is a strenuous and vigorous practice, but its inner core is the stability that yoga provides. Combining weight training with the ancient art of yoga, Iron Yoga is a sublime union of the traditional and the modern. But, then, yoga has a critical role to play in contemporary society. From strengthening the body to soothing the mind, Iron Yoga is an inner journey of awakening that tests your endurance and challenges it to grow.