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Strong Body, Strong Soul, Part 2
How to Combine Yoga with Lower Body Strength Training

When someone practices Yoga for the first time, he or she is often surprised at how much strength it requires. An intense series of standing poses which include Asanas such as Warrior I and II (Virabhadranasa), and Lighting Bolt (Utkatasana) can turn a beginner's legs into jelly, especially if the poses are held for long periods of time. With practice, of course, those leg muscles will become stronger and more capable of handling the load. As with the upper body, lower body strength training can enhance the quality of your Yoga practice... that is, if you're strength training the right way. Improper strength training, especially when it comes to the lower body, can actually hamper your Yoga practice. Here are some pointers to keep you on the right track.

(Article continued below.)

Learn the proper form for any exercise you do
The best leg exercises ever invented are the classic squat and lunge. In fact, you're already doing variations of them when you practice the Yoga standing poses. Warrior I and II (and their easier modifications) and Side Angle Stretch (Parshvakonsasana), for example, are lunges. Lighting Bolt is a Yoga-fied squat. But these exercises (and Yoga poses) are useless if you don't do them right - in fact, you can do serious damage to yourself. But don't let that scare you - it's not that hard to do a lunge or a squat properly. The main rules to remember are that your knees should never go beyond your toes (in lunges, your front leg should not bend beyond 90 degrees), and your knees should be in line with your feet. You want to keep all your joints aligned, not twisted, and you want to stress your knees as little as possible. Keep your back straight! Don't hunch your back, and don't overarch. If you are using a barbell, be careful - you will need a spotter if you are using heavy weights. Most Yoga practitioners, however, probably won't be using heavy weights - you can get enough of a workout to improve your Yoga sessions by just using body resistance or light weights. If you are unsure of the how-to's, don't hesitate to hire a trainer for a session or two.

If an exercise is too challenging, use modifications
If a full squat is too much for you to handle, you can start off with chair squats - stand in front of a chair with your arms straight out, parallel to the floor, and sit back towards the seat. Pause about an inch or two over the seat for a beat - make sure your weight is in your heels (that's where your weight should be for all squats) - then stand up straight. If you are unsteady doing forward lunges, or if they bother your knees, try backward lunges instead - stepping back instead of forward. If squats and lunges are still beyond you, you have a lot of options. If you are a gym member, you can use the leg extension and leg curl machines. The leg press is a good alternative for squats. If you're not a gym member you can do similar exercises at home using exercise bands. You have an infinite number of options when it comes to building strength in your legs.

Next page >> The most important tips of all! >> Page 1, 2

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