The Iron Yoga Warmup Sequence is designed to awaken your muscles and prepare your body for the invigorating workout that follows. Most important, this sequence will help you connect with all the muscle groups of your body. Developing a steady breathing rhythm and synchronizing the movement with the breath are the essence of Iron Yoga. The foundation pose for this warmup is one of the most basic yoga poses— Mountain pose. Mountain pose improves your posture and focus. Chair pose, which you’ll also be doing in this sequence, generates heat and warmth in your body. After 8 breaths in this pose, your legs will be screaming! The biceps are one of the easiest muscle groups to feel and connect with, and that’s why I’ve included the High-Arm Hammer Curl in this warmup. This exercise will be your first opportunity to perform a static contraction. Learn, understand, and feel what it’s like to engage the muscle and create a peak contraction for the muscle with your breath and powerful mind-muscle connection. You’ll be returning to Mountain pose many times throughout the Iron Yoga practice. This strong standing pose will allow you to refocus and reconnect with the breath, especially after an intense pose or sequence of poses. If you get tired or need a break during the practice, you can simply return to Mountain pose.
Mountain/Dumbbells at Side
Stand at the front center of your yoga mat, holding one dumbbell in each hand, with your arms comfortably at your sides. Place your heels slightly apart and your big toes together. Spread wide the rest of your toes. Feel the four corners of your feet firmly press into the mat. Lift your kneecaps to activate your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Draw your navel up and in toward your spine to engage your core. Release your shoulders down and back away from your ears. Keep your torso tall, your chest out, and your head neutral. Soften your face, and gaze at a point directly level with your eyes. Hold for 2 to 4 breaths.
Mountain/Dumbbells over Heart
Lift the dumbbells to your chest. Rotate your palms to face your body and gently press together both dumbbell heads over your heart. Softly close your eyes and begin to connect with your breath. Create a meditative state of mind and body. Use your breath to ease your mind and relax your body. Focus on the yogic style of ujjayi breathing. Remember to keep your mouth closed and breathe only through your nose. Initiate the breath from the abdominal region, feeling your belly, rib cage, and chest expand on your inhale and contract on your exhale. Establish an equal timing and rhythm of your inhalations and exhalations. Feel and hear your breath. On each exhale, press together stronger both dumbbell heads. Pressing together the dumbbells creates continuous tension and activates the muscles in your upper body. Begin to develop a mindmuscle connection for your upper body—shoulders, arms, chest, and back. Breathe in positive energy and exhale out all negative energy Hold for 4 breaths. Softly open your eyes.
Rotate your palms downward so just the top dumbbell heads are pressing together. The goal for each movement is to flow with your breath and maintain continuous tension through the full range of motion. Prepare to make a mindmuscle connection with every muscle group in your upper body. Remember to keep your legs active and your core engaged while performing all the upperbody weight-training exercises.
Engage your pecs, inhale, and press the dumbbells straight forward, keeping your arms at shoulder height while pressing together the top dumbbell heads.
Engage your lats, exhale, and pull back the dumbbells to your chest, keeping your elbows up and out to the sides while pressing together the top dumbbell heads.
IRON YOGA SEQUENCES
After completing the Warmup Sequence, your body should feel ready to begin the main part of the Iron Yoga practice. This chapter includes all of the Iron Yoga sequences—I call it the heart of the practice. As you move through these sequences, remember to apply the principles you learned in the exercise above. To practice Iron Yoga correctly, you need to make the connections between your mind and muscles—so pay particular attention to the static contractions. Those movements require quite a bit of concentration, but when done correctly over time, you’ll really see great body sculpting results. Again, if you don’t have time to complete all the sequences in this chapter, make sure you do both right and left sides of any particular sequence.
TREE SEQUENCE RIGHT LEG
Before balancing on one leg in this sequence, it’s helpful to give your legs a rest from the muscle burn you created in Chair pose during the warmup. So this sequence begins in Mountain pose with a Wrist Curl. The wrists and forearms are often neglected in a weight training program, but development of these body parts is essential—especially for the more challenging upper-body poses performed later in the Sun Salutation. Wrist curls are also excellent for preventing and alleviating carpal tunnel syndrome and other wrist injuries. Tree pose is the primary yoga pose for this Iron Yoga sequence. In nature, a tree’s roots grow deep, and its branches reach to the sky. As you perform Tree pose, keep that image in mind. Your legs and feet represent strong roots; your torso, the trunk; and your arms, the branches. Tree pose is an excellent pose to create symmetry in your body. It requires tremendous mental focus and concentration and is extremely challenging, even without holding dumbbells. Tree pose helps increase lung capacity by expanding your breathing. It also improves steadiness and balance. At first, you may have trouble balancing. Your mind may wander and lose connection with your body. Plus, the extra weight of the dumbbells adds another challenging dimension to the pose. Don’t allow yourself to get frustrated if you have difficulty holding the pose and balancing. Try starting in one of the modified positions; with consistent practice you will improve. As you progress, your nonstanding foot will lift higher up your leg, and strength will increase in the foot, ankle, calf, thigh, and glute of your supported leg. Your body is meant to naturally be in balance. Use your breath and the power of your mind to help you through this sequence.
Stand in Mountain pose, pressing together both dumbbell heads over your heart.
Place your elbows tightly into the sides of your torso, lower your forearms till they are parallel to the mat with your palms facing upward, and press together the bottom dumbbell heads. Let the dumbbells roll down to your fingertips, so your palms are open and your wrists are curled down.
Engage your right wrist and forearm flexor, inhale, and squeeze the right dumbbell into your right palm. Curl the right dumbbell up and rotate your right wrist back. Exhale and rotate the right dumbbell forward and down to the start position (#2).
Inhale and repeat #3 with both dumbbells while pressing together the bottom dumbbell heads. Hold the movement at peak contraction. Exhale and then inhale to enhance the peak contraction. Exhale and rotate both dumbbells forward and down to the start position (#2).
Firmly plant your right foot into the mat, pressing into the four corners of the sole of your foot to evenly distribute your weight across the ball of your foot and heel. Think of your heel as the root of a tree. Take a moment to establish this strong foundation because it will greatly assist in your ability to balance. Slowly lift your left knee and press the sole of your left foot against the top of your right inner thigh. If you want, place both dumbbells in your right hand and use your left hand to help lift your left foot into place. Apply equal pressure with your left foot and right inner thigh to create equilibrium in your lower body. Open your left knee out wide. With your right leg active, core engaged, torso tall, and hips and shoulders square, press together both dumbbell heads over your heart. Feel the pressure of both dumbbell heads as strongly as the pressure of your left foot against your right inner thigh. Gaze at a point in front of you that is at eye level. This will help you focus your concentration and steady your balance.