Use yoga principles to build strength without stress.
What are students looking for? Do they want to look better, perhaps perform better in sports or leisure activities? Do they want to be stronger? For many, it’s all of the above. In addition, most people want to feel better. What can we do as instructors to help participants feel empowered and rejuvenated? In this sample class, we apply yoga principles to traditional strength training moves. This fusion offers the best of both worlds: improved strength, posture, performance and appearance, as well as an increased sense of calmness and self-acceptance.
The class adopts the following general yoga principles:
- Lose the “no pain, no gain” mentality, and focus on the overload principle. Encourage students to rest once their muscles are sufficiently fatigued. This is similar to cuing yoga students into child’s pose when needed.
- Link exercises to create a flowing, moving meditation experience, similar to sun salutations and vinyasa cycles.
- Synchronize movements with the breath, to encourage presence.
- Help students find self-acceptance, and encourage them to enjoy the process without being attached to outcomes.
Goal/Emphasis: core stabilization, balance and muscular strength
Equipment Needed: dumbbells of sufficient weight to provide overload
Time: 60 minutes
Music: instrumental, 128–130 beats per minute
Preview some of the class movements. Use large muscle groups to increase body temperature and heart rate. Complete each exercise in this sequence 8x (1 set), and then do 3 more sets:
- Squat, and circle arms back to standing.
- Hinge forward at hips (to a 90-degree angle); return to standing.
- Do an alternating front lunge.
- Do an alternating rear lunge.
- Squat, place hands on thighs, do a cat stretch, return to flat back, and stand.
Complete each of the following exercises 8x right (R) lead and 8x left (L) lead.
- Squat on counts 1 and 2; step back to plank (R leg, then L) on counts 3 and 4; step forward (R, L) on counts 5 and 6; stand on counts 7 and 8.
- Squat on counts 1 and 2; step back to plank (R leg, then L) on counts 3 and 4; step forward with R leg only on counts 5 and 6; stand slow (balancing on R leg) on counts 7 and 8.
- Squat on counts 1 and 2; hop back to plank on counts 3 and 4; hop in on counts 5 and 6; stand on counts 7 and 8.
- Repeat the move above with dumbbells. Place weights on the floor when hopping back to plank. Note: Make sure weights have flat edges so they are stable when placed on floor.
Alignment Tip. Maintain neutral spine throughout movement. Focus on hinging at hips (instead of rounding spine) when squatting and returning to standing.
Beginner’s Tip. Stick with first two options for less intensity.
Mind-Body Tip. Remind students to focus on their breath throughout the sequence.
Complete each of the following 8x on both sides.
- Balance on R leg with L leg reaching behind, L toes lightly touching floor. Hinging at hips, lower body until it is parallel to floor; return to start.
- Balance on R leg, with L leg reaching behind, as above. Hinge at hips while simultaneously lifting rear leg parallel to floor; return to start.
- Repeat previous move while holding dumbbells. Let arms hang directly below shoulders throughout execution.
- Repeat same move, adding bilateral arm raise when torso is parallel to floor.
Alignment Tip. Maintain neutral spine throughout movement and avoid dropping or lifting head. Keep arms at shoulder level and return to start position before standing.
Beginner’s Tip. Complete movements with both feet on floor, hip distance apart.
Mind-Body Tip. Cue participants to bring their attention to the muscles they are using. For example, “Press through heels to engage the hamstrings while returning to the standing position.”
Complete each of the following 8x, resting 1 minute between sets.
- Traveling Push-Up. Start with hands under shoulders. Lift R hand and place it 2 inches wider on count 1; lower down to push-up on count 2; lift on count 3; place hand 2 inches narrower on count 4. Repeat L.
- Triceps Push-Up. With hands under shoulders, lower down on counts 1 and 2; lift on counts 3 and 4. On lowering motion, reach shoulders forward and keep forearms perpendicular to floor.
- Combine traveling push-up with triceps push-up. Complete traveling push-up R and then triceps push-up in center. Repeat L.
- Repeat sequence while holding dumbbells.
Alignment Tip. Don’t let hips sink while in plank position. Maintain neutral neck throughout movement.
Beginner’s Tip. Place knees on floor or complete fewer repetitions.
Mind-Body Tip. Suggest that students rest when necessary. Remind them to focus on quality, not quantity.
Hold each of the following stretches for 30 seconds:
- From supine position, extend R foot toward ceiling, L leg extended on floor. Gently pull R leg toward nose; repeat L.
- Bring R knee to chest and extend L leg on floor. Twist R knee across body to stretch hip and spine (roll L hip down toward floor); repeat L.
- From prone position, lift onto forearms to stretch abdominal muscles. Reach chest forward while keeping shoulders down.
- Return chest to floor. Reach back and pull R heel toward buttock to lengthen quadriceps; repeat L.
- Press up to quadruped position and reach hips back toward feet to release spine. Ask students to close their eyes and hold this stretch for an extra few minutes while focusing on their breath.