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Shameem Akthar shows how medicine balls can rev up strength training

The use of sandbags as weights was a common practice in yoga. Even today, traditional schools have cloth bags filled with sand, and a handle to hold them with, to build strength in the arms. However, as this is a bit elaborate, you can resort to the more readily available medicine balls. If you are a newcomer to the idea of strength training in any form, choose a low weight, such as a 1-kg ball. Progressively, you can upgrade to a more difficult weight after a year’s practice or so. You will surely find innovative ways to use this prop with the rest of the practice. Here we show you the simple wood-chopping pose for starters. However, the ball may be used for arm circles and even leg lifts once you realise how easy it is.

The benefits of strength training cannot be stressed enough. Yoga has its own module to do it—the bridge pose (setuasana), upward plank (purvottanasana), wheel pose (chakrasana), all arm balancers, and stamina builders like the down-dog pose (adhomukha svanasana) and four-limbed staff pose (chaturangangadandasana) are just a few. Strength-building makes the muscles stronger, helping them support the bones and the joints in a powerful way. Also, the muscle has to be stressed in a positive way to make the bones dense. Dense bones are very crucial for your overall health because bones are live and a vital part of your health. They manufacture red-blood cells, store important nutrients, host cells that remove waste/dead or bacterial cells from around the body, and release immune cells.

Avoid the use of these balls if you have weak wrists, and always consult an expert before trying new exercise props.


Wood-chopping pose (kashtha takshanasana)

You may do this pose in the traditional way, by squatting on your feet. But this may be tough for many people. Other positions in which to do this pose are either seated with legs apart or standing with feet lightly apart for balance. Hold the ball firmly with both hands. Inhale; raise the hands high (initially, you may have to bend at the elbows). Exhale; lower the hands down. This is one round. Initially, do only five or 10 times. This would be one rep. After that, you can do three reps. Build stamina over a period, slowly. Once you have become comfortable with the movement, you can try to keep your arms extended and straighter and raise the hands higher. This may take a while. Benefits: This pose builds stamina and tones the arms. It boosts breath capacity and is good for the heart, if done gently and with breath awareness. If done in a squatting position, it is a complete body workout.


Kupi puranam (filling the bottle with water)

This is a group game. Split the number of players into two teams. Keep a bucket of water at one end of the room and a small glass in the other. The team starts with one person in the group dipping both hands into the bucket, scooping up enough water to hold in the palm and walking across carefully to drop the water into the glass. Each member of each team does it. The first group that successfully fills the glass wins. Points to note: Take care that members do not run to prevent any fall/slip while playing the game. Also, make sure the floor is not too slippery. If there is a lot of spillage owing to people not being able to hold the water, use different props for the game. Use a small scoop instead of the palms and keep a small mug to fill up. It still involves the members being calm and ensuring the water does not spill!

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)

Photo: iStock
Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
March 2017