Most people tend to think yoga teachers only do yoga to keep strong and fit. Now, although that is true in some cases, I also know many yoga teachers who run, do strength training, cycle and dance to keep healthy and strong on top of doing their yoga practice. Yoga offers great benefits to most of these other practices, but we can also use alternate excercises to strengthen and improve our yoga practice. I have found kettlebells enormously helpful in my yoga practice as I am naturally quite flexible but I struggle more when it comes to strength in poses.
So in honour of my helpful kettlebells I would like to share a couple of moves that really help strengthen two common yoga standing poses.
I like to start with a set of 5 sun salutations before I pick up my kettlebell. The sun salutations help to warm up my spine and legs and focus on my breathing. Once done I pick up my kettlebell from a slight squat position, holding on with both hands. Keeping my back straight I then push forwards with my hips and allow straight my arms to swing the kettle up to shoulder height (not above!). I bend my knees as the kettlebell comes down and allow the kettlebell to swing between my legs whilst keeping my mula bandha (pelvic floor muscles and lower abdominals) active .
- For this modified Triangle pose, I start in the regular squat position to safely pick the kettlebell up with both hands.
- I then step my feet further apart and turn my left foot and right foot out.
- Holding the kettlebell close to my chest with my left hand only, I gently bend my knees and push the kettlebell straight up above my shoulder as I straighten my knees.
- Looking at the kettlebell to make sure it stays above my shoulder I then stretch to the right as I normally would in Triangle pose.
- Holding for a couple of breaths, I inhale to come back up pushing the kettlebell straight above my shoulder before I gently bring it back down towards my chest. Repeat on the other side. Once both sides are done, try holding for 5 breaths on each side.
Heavy Warrior (Virabhadrasana)
To strengthen the shoulders as well as toning legs and hip flexors, try this kettlebell move.
- I always start in my regular high squat to pick up the kettlebell with both hands.
- I then step my feet further apart into a Warrior stance. and turn my toes towards the right hand side of my mat. Holding the kettlebell close to my chest and gripping the sides of the handle I then come onto the ball of the left foot and bend the front knee.
- I make sure to keep the back leg straight and my lower abdominals and Mula Bandha drawn in strongly to avoid over arching the lower back. Once the pose is set up stronge through the legs and core, I slowly extend my arms directly forwards of the shoulders.
- Holding for two breaths, I draw the kettlebell close to my chest before straightening the right knee and reapeating on the other side.
- Once both sides are done, I try and hold the pose a bit longer (but I must admit this one is tough for me, which is why I need to do it more regularly).