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Shameem Akthar shows how practice with ankle weights can increase stamina and muscle tone

Sand bags can be a useful yoga accessory to increase stamina and muscle tone. Instead of these, however, we can use ankle weights. I have a few sand bags but filling them up with sand is tiresome. This modern-day substitute is easier—and you don’t have to worry if you have put the right amount of sand in each bag!

Ankle weights come with Velcro fittings, so they strap on rather neatly. If you are not used to intense activity, you may want to avoid them. But if you buy a smaller weight—say half or 1 kg—these are negotiable. Later on, depending on your ability you can increase the weight. But as even a 1-kg weight on either ankle can be challenging, phase their use over several weeks.

Initially, you may want to start with simple leg raises. If you have lower back issues, you can either fold the other leg or keep a cushion at the back to protect the spine. Later on, you can use the weights in variations of the cat stretch (marjariasana) or tiger pose (vyagrasana). The latter can be rather intense. You can up the ante by doing many of the leg variations, but these can be very intense. You can also use wrist weights (or strap your ankle weights at the wrists) for arm poses, like the seated mountain pose (parvatasana) and shoulder rolls (skandachakrasana). The latter has many variations where these work rather well.

The benefits of using these weights are many—this is low-grade strength training and, as any doctor will advise you, it is the best way to build bone stamina. You get faster toning of muscles and add to the aesthetics of the body in a very short time. It builds your core because of the overall challenge it provides. Interestingly, because of the challenge involved, it makes advanced poses like the crow (kakasana) and headstand (sirsasana) easier to negotiate by teaching the body to resist gravity. That said; you should avoid weights if you are new to exercise, have severe joint pains or are prone to easy fatigue. Otherwise, the intensity of practice through their use can be exhilarating and positively addictive.

Kreeda yoga

Urdhva hastena palayanam (race with lifted arms)

The participants stand in a row with raised hands. When the whistle is blown, they run with their hands raised till they reach the finish line. The first to reach is the winner. Depending on the ability of the participants, it can be speed running or speed walking. Our arms offer us a sense of balance—lifting them up while moving is challenging as it confuses the body. This game cultivates speed, stamina and arm strength.

Yogic moves

Tiger pose (vyagrasana)

Wear ankle weights and go on your fours. Keep your palms under your shoulders, spine neutral. Look ahead. Fold your right leg at the knee, throwing the heel towards the head. Inhale; exhaling, draw the knee down, simultaneously lowering the head to either reach or attempt to reach the forehead to the knee. Inhale; lift the head back, while raising the folded leg back up. This is one round. Initially, do five rounds. Rest. Repeat for the other leg. You can increase the number of each set to 10 after a few weeks.
Benefits: The benefits of this pose include improved immunity, better thyroid health, balanced metabolism and spinal tone. Additionally, owing to the weights, the hips and legs get very toned. As this is a physically challenging pose, mental and physical stamina is built up.

Shameem Akthar is a Mumbai-based yoga acharya. If you have any queries for her, mail us or email at
(Please consult your physician before following the advice given here)

Photos: Haresh Patel
Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
September 2017