I have taught yoga for so long now (almost exclusively) that not everyone knows that I also have a long history of teaching aerobics, weight training and was a personal trainer too. And people are surprised that I teach kettlebells because kettlebells seem like such a powerlifting, loud grunting, gung-ho fitness regiment that it doesn’t appear to go along with the peace-loving, laid back, ‘Oming’, flexibility & mobility training lifestyle that people think yoga is.
But honestly, I think they go together beautifully! To understand why, first, we must answer some questions.
What else is there to yoga besides exercise and meditation? Most people don’t have any idea that Yoga isn’t a fitness routine, but in reality, it’s a lifestyle, an entire program for living a moral and ethical life, about becoming the best version of yourself.
Yoga, at its heart, is a practice of mindfulness and awareness. It encourages deep concentration and focus while engaging in the Asana Practice. Asana is the seat of yoga, literally the word means ‘seat’, and it is the exercise part of the 8 limb path that is yoga. Yoga as only an exercise, or physical fitness program is great but that’s not all it is and that’s something for another post, but here in the western world we have taken yoga apart, like puzzle pieces and we picked the ones that suited our culture best and left the others. Yoga as a lifestyle isn’t just about a healthy body, but about a certain morality of life. Its about learning who you are, it’s about finding your sense of Self.
Yoga means union, to yoke together, from the root yuj, which means to join.
It means to bring together the aspects of ourselves that were never divided in the first place.
It means harmony.
What does all of this have to do with Kettlebells? Well I’m glad you asked. You see I believe any type of exercise can be Asana. Ok for all of you who think I just committed some sort of blasphemy, for all of you who think if it’s not a Sun salutation or a freakishly gumby like pose, it’s not yoga, please hear me out.
I believe that keeping your body healthy, in whatever way works for you, is one small part of yoga. Maybe you are a runner, or you’re a backpacker, or you like weightlifting or crossfit or Zumba, any physical exercise can be Yoga. Walking, dancing, Pilates, and yes kettlebells, it doesn’t matter the modality, what matters is your mindset, your intention. And your approach to that modality. Remember that Yoga at its heart is about mindfulness and building deep awareness, so if you approach your physical fitness mindfully and you concentrate and focus on it in the moment, then aren’t you doing an Asana practice? Kettlebells as an exercise program at its heart is about simplicity of movement(s), about being focused and aware of your form. It, like yoga, marries breath with movement, it has a precision and complexity that your Yoga Asana practice has, but both have at their core, movements that are simple. And while yoga tends to help you gain mobility and flexibility, a Kettlebell workout tends more towards getting stronger. Both Asana and Kettlebells are about functional fitness. Both ask you to be more present, both move you across multiple joint actions that increase your stability and functional strength, both build deep core strength and awareness, and both are about the mind, body, and spirit connection. They complement each other, a yoga practice can help you activate more flexibility that enhances your kettlebell program, and swinging kettlebells around helps you build strength and endurance that are essential to the time you spend on your yoga mat.
So, now you know that yoga (Asana) and kettlebells are not mutually exclusive; together they provide a potent recipe for holistic health and dynamic fitness.
From Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras
Sutra 2.46 Sthira Sukham Asanam
The posture (asana) for Yoga meditation should be steady, stable, as well as comfortable
sthira = steady, stable, motionless sukham = comfortable, ease filled asanam = Seat or pose