“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein
Think about this quote for a second and ask yourself, does this quote apply to the way you treat your body?
I get several questions from people asking if they can replace lifitng weights with yoga.
Before I give my thoughts on the subject, I like to ask people two important questions:
- Do you enjoy lifting weights?
- Does weight lifting give your body the shape you desire?
If the answer is an enthusiastic “no,” to both questions, which is usually the case for many people at this point in their lives, then I love liberating people from pressing metal plates, by saying, “JUST DO YOGA!”
Before I was introduced to yoga, I lifted weights three times a week for fifteen years. My body was toned, but my muscles looked bulky, not lean, which had been my natural body type growing up. I was frustrated because it seemed the more I lifted weights, the bigger my muscles appeared, I just looked and felt thick, not good.
It didn’t help that I was also doing an hour of intense cardiovascular exercise every day, which sent my appetite through the roof, so my eating habits ended up countering all my hard work spent at the gym. Two hours at the gym, equaled three hours of eating the house down when I got home at night-ugh!
However, when I got the opportunity to open my first yoga studio in 1999, I decided to do a pilot study with myself: I quit lifting weights and just practiced ashtanga yoga, 6 days a week. I had been a personal trainer for the last six years, so it was a big deal for me to let go of something that had not only been a part of my personal life for so long, but had also been my professional life. I had been educating people on the benefits of lifting weights for years and now I was going to JUST do YOGA?! My personal trainer friends thought I was nuts! One guy said to me, “Shouldn’t you supplement your triceps with some tricep curls?” I said, I’m not sure, but I’m going to find out …
I want to make it clear, that I chose to do this study with myself, because I was very bored with lifting weights and loved my yoga practice way more than my gym routine. I did not switch to yoga, because I wanted to change the shape of my body. I switched to doing just yoga, because I wanted to do a practice that would fulfill me on all levels, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. If I was going to work out 1-2 hours a day, I wanted to do something I loved, and not something that my mind and society told me that I needed to do to stay in “shape.”
After one month of just doing ashtanga yoga daily, I felt stronger and leaner than I ever had in my life. I have never lifted a weight since that liberating day over tens years ago! Over the tens year of doing just yoga, I have become vegan, quit drinking alcohol and caffeine and have lost ten pounds.
Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Power Yoga are all forms of weight bearing exercise. There is nothing more weight bearing than being able to press your own body weight!
When I started yoga after lifting weights half of my life, I thought it was very interesting that I couldn’t do one chaturunga (tricep yoga push-up) to save my life! This really made me question my old workouts: “Why hadn’t the weights prepared me to press my entire body weight?” Well, if you think about it, most weight lifting exercises are isolated to individual muscle groups in the upper body, such as triceps, shoulders, lats, biceps, etc. They do not focus on pressing the body as a whole, which is the way yoga works the body.
When people tell me they are going to start lifting weights, in order to get stronger for yoga, I just tell them if they want to get stronger for yoga, DO YOGA! Every form of exercise is sport specific, meaning tennis prepares one for tennis, and not for golf. If you want to improve in a certain style of yoga, practice that particular style of yoga, because even yoga can be “sport specific.” My ashtanga practice doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to be good at a Bikram yoga practice, make sense?
If you enjoy your weight lifting routine and it is still fulfilling and giving you the results you desire, keep it up. However for those of you who are ready to make the transition from weights to yoga, here are my suggestions:
- For four weeks, do Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga, 3-6 times a week, without lifting a single weight.
- I encourage you to walk briskly 30 minutes outside on your days off from yoga, if you are wanting to lose weight.
- REMEMBER: Food is everything, so be conscious of what you are eating, why you are eating and how much you are eating. Eating a vegan diet, no animal-products, meat dairy, eggs or fish, is VERY effective for weight loss.
Exercise Physiologist M.S.
Kansas City, MO