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Why This Yogi Starting Lifting Weights

Sep 29th

I'll be honest, I was incredibly resistant to lifting weights. I'm a yogi. And if you ask most yogis, yoga is the miracle modality; there's no need to supplement the practice. 

When I began practicing yoga I felt muscularly stiff, which I was; however, I also had (and still have) a lot of mobility in my joints. With years of practice much of my stiffness resolved, and I now have a pretty significant range of motion. Too much motion; I'm what's reffered to as hypermobile. 

Yoga asana, according to the Yoga Sutras, should have both stability and ease (sutra 2.46). I was heavy on the ease and lacking in the stability. I started having moments in my practice where I thought, "if someone gave me an adjustment to deepen this pose, I might not be able to stop." That was a little scary. 

Many yoga injuries come from going deeper or further than is sustainable, and many of those attracted to yoga are those with a tendency towards hypermobility. While the benefits of yoga are many, it's important to see the risks clearly. 

In addition to my mobility issues, in early 2015 my role in the studio changed. I am at a computer a lot more and can feel the effect on my body; especially in my upper back, shoulders and neck. I found myself taking on the kyphotic tendencies I see in so many students. With the onset of those tendencies came discomfort. Something needed to change. 

With a little encouragement from my partner, a lifetime weight-lifter and yoga practitioner, I decided to give this weight lifting thing a try. I felt nervous, vulnerable and resistant. I was quite uncomfortable with the idea of being 'bad' at lifting and was not big on people seeing me lift. Suddenly I could really relate to the distress often described by new yoga practitioners; it was a good reminder. 

As it turns out, people lifting weights are there to do just taht, lift weights. No one stared at the 'new girl' and with some personalized instruction I was up and running quite quickly. I'm also now aware of how much a yoga practice can support a weight lifting program. My years of focus on alignment and breath have allowed me to progress quickly and safely. 

I'm still, and will forever be, a yogi. But I'm now a much more balanced yogi. Because of the new stability I'm creating, I feel more integrated in my asana practice. I am able to move deeper with more control. I feel both supple and strong - it's empowering. 

If you're interested in starting a weight lifting program, here are some great places to start:

  • meet with a personal trainer
  • attend Women & Barbells: A Small Group Class
    • meets Thursdays at 5:00pm

Ellen McKenzie serves as director for the Yoga Sangha; her offerings to the community include weekly classes, workshops, immersions, private sessions and teacher training.