Photos by Bonnie Markel
We know you’re good at multi-tasking. Talking to the doctor’s office while making breakfast. Buying a birthday present online as you’re on the couch watching West World. Efficiency is the guiding principle that gets us through the day. So it makes sense that when you get on your yoga mat you accomplish more than just good stretching, balance, and inner peace. Add some weights for load-bearing resistance that’s so important for women like us, and get a yoga fitness workout like none you’ve ever done before. Sonya Cantu, an Austin yoga instructor and personal trainer, has developed a type of yoga that truly helps you find your power—Yoga Strong. She will be sharing her yoga fitness routines with us regularly.
Using weights for these poses will give you the load-bearing resistance that’s so important for women like us.
You can add these moves to your regular yoga routine. First, make sure you’re properly warmed up before you begin. For most moves, you can use light weights—2 or 3 pounds in each hand. When heavy weights are indicated, this means 5 to 9 pounds, depending on your strength (you can stay with light weights if you choose). Never go over 9 pounds in each hand. In between each session with weights, do a series of poses without weights. Suggestions: Warrior flow (warrior one, two and reverse warrior), planks, chaturanga flow to upward facing dog, mountain climbers, or push ups. Make sure to end your workout with a cool down and Savasana.
These sets should be done on the breath, as all moves in yoga are, to keep a cadence. For more of a yoga fitness workout, you can repeat this whole series two or three times.
Yoga Fitness: Reverse Lunge Curl and Press
(Works: Biceps, legs, core, shoulders.) Step back into a lunge on the right side. Curl the weights in both hands toward your shoulders as you step back. Hold for 2 seconds then return to the starting position and lift your knee up, balancing on one leg as you press both weights overhead. Bring your leg down to the floor as you bring the weights by your side. Repeat 8 to 10 times on each leg. After you’ve finished the repetitions, drop the weights and hold a reverse lunge on each side for five breaths. Keep your hands together at heart center.
Yoga Fitness: Tree Pose/Lateral Raise
(Works: shoulders, legs, core and balance.) Stand in tree pose with a weight in each hands at your midsection. Lift your arms into a lateral raise, going no higher than shoulder level and keeping a slight bend in your elbow. Repeat 8 to 10 times standing on your right leg, and 8 to 10 more standing on your left leg. After the repetitions, drop the weights and hold the tree pose for 5 breaths on each leg.
Yoga Fitness: Ganesha with W Arms
(Works, rear delts, legs, core and balance.) Using light weights, stand in ganesha pose with your arms bent in a W. Straighten your arms, but don’t lock your elbows, hold for 2 seconds, and bring your arms back to your side in a W. Repeat 8 to 10 times standing on your right leg and 8 to 10 more standing on your left leg. After the repetitions, drop the weights and hold the ganesha pose for 5 breaths on each leg.
Yoga Fitness: Lateral Lunge Row
(Works core, obliques, back and legs.) Holding a heavier weight (if you’re comfortable with going heavier), take a lateral lunge to the left and extend your right arm toward your left knee. Pause for 2 seconds. Then, as you straighten your left leg and come back to center, row your right arm up across your body, stopping the weight at rib level. You should be up on your toes on your left foot for a calf raise. Pause for 2 seconds. Repeat 8 to 10 times with a lunge to the left, and 8 to 10 times with a lunge to the right. After the repetitions, drop the weights and hold a side lunge on each side (with prayer hands at heart level) for at least 5 breaths.
Yoga Fitness: Bridge Pose Forehead Crusher
(Works core, legs and triceps.) While in bridge pose, hold a heavier weight in each hand above your head. Bending your arm at the elbow, move the weights down to your ears and back up. Repeat 10 times, then rest. Repeat 10 times with the other leg raised. After the repetitions, put down the weights and hold bridge for at least 5 deep breaths.