Intensify Your Yoga

Yoga has been shown to be an excellent form of exercise. In some studies, yoga has been found to yield better results than other forms of exercise. As you become fit, you need new ways to intensify your yoga to continuously improve your health.

My version of Warrior 2 pose in yoga. Photo by Alan Viau
My version of Warrior 2 pose in yoga. Photo by Alan Viau

When I started practicing yoga five years ago, at age 50, it was a new challenge. I couldn’t do the poses very well or hold them for long. Performing two classic sun salutations brought on heavy breathing. My body creaked and cracked as I assumed poses I never knew existed. I persevered and achieved a level of fitness that I was pleased with.

I knew that I had to push myself further to achieve even better health and fitness. I started exploring different methods to push my edge in yoga. You can try these and see which ones work for you. No doubt you’ll use more than one way to ‘deepen’ your practice. As you progress, I want to emphasize that executing the poses properly so that you don’t injure yourself becomes more important.

Hold Poses Longer – This is the first strategy to use safely. When I started I could barely hold tree pose for two seconds. You can aim to hold your pose from five breaths extending it to 10 breaths. This is a simple way to double your practice time.

Move Between Poses Faster – This is called Flow classes. Instead of stopping for each pose – you only pause long enough to hit the pose and move to the next one. This can bring your cardiac rate up pretty quickly for a great workout.

Pretzel Poses – You can try more difficult or advanced poses. I call them pretzel poses because they may challenge your contortion abilities. The first one I was able to do is Crow Pose.  Yoga teaches you to accept your limitations. I’ve had to accept that I may never be able to do certain poses because of my anatomical make up.

Hot Yoga –You practice in a room that is heated. The heat intensifies your work out. Hot Yoga is very popular amongst the younger yogi.  But, it may not be for you. If you are on certain medications or have medical conditions the heat stress may not be good for you. Because of my medical conditions, I only do relaxation yoga in a heated room.

Iron Yoga – This is my favorite way to intensify a yoga session. I incorporate dumbbells of various weights during my regular session. I may use 20lbs in each hand for a Warrior pose series and a 35lb weight in each hand for Chair pose. It is a great way for each student in a class to individually intensify their practice, gaining strength without incurring repetitive stress injuries.

When I teach a series called “Yoga for the Office Worker”, I use each one of these methods in class. During my “Iron Yoga” classes I focus on using weights to build strength and stability. In your yoga journey using these methods can help you advance in your practice.

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