5 exercises at the gym that will enhance your yoga and vice versa


This article assumes otherwise sound health.  Some poses are contraindicated for some medical conditions.  Please check the contraindications in Yogasync.tv movement library.  Just click on a pose and it will let you know. 

1 . Shoulder press/pull up machine and headstand/handstand

Its quite common for women to struggle with their upper body strength, and then take the belief that we need it to do headstands, handstands and arm balances.  There’s a certain amount of truth in this.  Many yoga teachers will tell you that it’s only about the structure of the posture and not strength.  In my experience, it’s both.  Train your shoulders at the gym with good alignment and then take the extra strength onto the mat.  Or against a wall!


Shoulder press at gym

Press play for full video instruction of half handstand against the wall

2 – Full inversions and the elliptical trainer

Putting your feet above the rest of your body, passively brings a greater volume of blood to the heart than it is used to.  The heart must beat with more force to keep this greater volume circulating.  It does this very well and in the process, you get to build new cardiac muscle.  Its called Stahling’s Law of the Heart.  Take this extra cardiac output onto the x- trainer (or other cardio) and you find that you can work at a greater intensity and endurance.  I recommend half headstand against the wall of you’re just beginning with full inversions, or shoulder-stand with blankets.  Milder versions of inversions include downward dog and legs up the wall. Stronger inversions include handstands and feather of a peacock.

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Eliptical trainer works the whole body, heart and lungs.

Press play for full video instruction of handstand against the wall

3 – Leg Press and powerful pose (chair pose).

Chair pose requires strength in the legs and buttocks, plus flexibility in the ankles, calves, buttocks and spine to come down low in the posture.  You don’t have to get to 90degree with your knees in the posture, but if you’re working on it, then try this:

When selecting the leg press seat position, take one where your knees are as near to your body as possible.  Try this out with a light weight at first and gradually build up.  By taking your knees in closer, you are encouraging that shape, flexibility and strength that is needed in powerful pose.  However, if you try to force too great a weight through this position, you can end up hurting your knees….so build it up slowly and make sure your heels can always stay in contact with the foot pad, plus knees in line with toes.  This also tends to get a lot more work through the buttocks and you are bound to feel it the next day!

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One of the many versions of a leg press machine

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Click the image to go to Powerful/Chair Pose in Yogasync.tv

4 – Balancing on Bosu and Tree Pose

One leg balances on a BOSU very quickly encourage the stabilisation of muscles, ligaments and tendons around the ankle.  Stable ankles enhance your balance skills in poses such as Warrior 3, Eagle and Tree pose.  Once you have mastered standing on a BOSU with both feet, try one leg.  Make sure you stand with really great posture, as per Tadasana or any standing balance posture.  Build up the time on one leg and start to notice the difference it makes on the mat.  Once you feel more comfortable on the mat, you can take Warrior 3, Tree and Eagle onto the BOSU for extra challenge.

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BOSU means BOth Sides Up – you can use it on either side.

Click play for the beginners version of Tree Pose.

5 – Crocodile pose on forearms and plank

Plank is a well-loved gym exercise for enhancing core strength, tucking in waists and toning abs.  Crocodile pose on forearms has all the same great effects only more.  When you try crocodile pose with full instruction, which includes pushing up through the arms and shoulders, sandwiching the legs together and activating the quads, plus exemplary spine alignment….This pose takes on a whole new meaning.  Plank pose seems easy in comparison!  But then you start doing planks like you do your crocodiles.  You may spend less time in it, but you’ll get a whole lot more out.

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Typical gym plank?  With legs apart, legs bent missing full activation if thighs, and not pressing up through forearms (see gap between arm and mat)

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This is even worse…drooping back!  Definitely do not attempt plank or crocodile again until you’ve seen the alignment in Yogasync.  Click the picture to go straight there.

It goes without saying (doesn’t it?) that stretching after a workout will allow your body both strength and flexibility…exactly the required prescription for challenging yoga asana.  Always stretch after a workout, slip a few yoga poses into your workout and do some yoga every day, even if it’s just a forward bend.

Yogasync Me!  If you’ve done too many squats at the gym, try this Yogasync I made on one of those days I had to hold the walls to sit down.  Ouch!  

Don’t forget that members can modify the Yogasync and take out any poses that are too demanding.

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About Claire Bhavani-Winzar

Claire Bhavani-Winzar is a Certified Women's Health & Nutrition Coach, and Yoga Alliance 500 Registered Yoga Teacher. Her favourite work is with women who find themselves frazzled and rushed - using hormonal balancing strategies that are proven to work. Previous incarnations have been a physical trainer, supporting people with chronic medical conditions to their best health; a pharma rep and a genetic sequencer on the Human Genome Project. Claire has made a lifelong study of positive physical, emotional, mental and spiritual growth - she studied it so you don't have to. Claire brings you the best nuggets of information to propel you back to health, plus the 200% enthusiasm in YOU so that you can spend you time doing what you do best: living a happier, vibrant, satisfying life with your family. Healthy Lifestyle Workshops, Yoga Prescription and Women's Circles. Visit www.thesistahood.org to access yoga videos, health education, your free coaching session, and your Sistahood Community.

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