Increase Load Capacity: 4 “Weighted” Yoga Poses
The term “load” is used to describe physical stresses that act on the body (either internally or externally). As we add more load, our bodies increase their capacity to withstand more load.
When you lift weights at the gym, for example, your body builds a tolerance to the lighter weights, and eventually, you can add more weight to your exercises.
The same is true in our yoga practice. The more load we bear, the more load we are then able to withstand. But in yoga, we typically only work with the load of our own body weight.
However, while yoga is obviously different from weight lifting, we can apply similar principles in our yoga practice. Once we’ve long tolerated the load of our own body weight we can get creative with adding weight in challenging shapes.
How to Increase Load Capacity with Weighted Yoga Poses
For these variations, you will need a block (ideally a cork or wood block for more weight) and a thick, heavy yoga blanket.
1. Crescent Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana) With Block Overhead
The simple addition of a block overhead adds weight to this pose to make your arms work as hard as your legs.
- Start in Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana) with a block near the top of your mat.
- Step your right foot forward and place it next to your right thumb.
- Lift your left heel and kick it firmly toward the back of your mat, placing it on your mat so that you’re in High Lunge Pose.
- Rise to your fingertips and lengthen your spine by stretching the crown of your head forward.
- Take hold of your block in one or both hands.
- Energetically scissor your legs toward each other and root into your right foot to lift your torso and stretch your arms toward the sky.
- Hold the block widthwise between both hands and wrap your thumb and index finger around the bottom corners of the block. Release the rest of your fingers outward as if giving a “high five.”
- Energetically squeeze your hands in toward the block and press the block upward toward the ceiling.
- Energetically scissor your legs together and draw in around your whole waistline to activate your core.
- Hold here, breathing deeply and actively squeezing your block, for about 30 seconds to one minute. Then, switch sides.
2. Weighted Warrior III Pose (Virabhadrasana III)
The added weight of the blanket (which might be heavier than you think!) in this pose challenges your legs and hips with more load to build more strength and stability.
- Start standing in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) at the top of your mat with your blanket nearby, folded in half, and then in half again.
- With an elongated spine, fold your torso forward halfway until it is roughly parallel to the floor. Place a yoga block on its highest height setting under your face and rest your hands on top of it. If you have two blocks, it can be helpful to place them shoulder-width apart and place a hand on each one. Alternately, you could place your hands on a coffee table top or the seat of a chair.
- Focus your eyes on one, nonmoving point on the floor in front of you and keep your gaze locked there to stabilize your balance.
- Shift your weight into your left leg and rise to the ball of your right foot.
- When you feel stable, lift your right foot off the floor and kick it straight back behind you.
- Drape your blanket over your right thigh to add weight to your lifted leg and then kick back with more force than you think you should.
- Level off your hips and point both frontal hip points toward the mat.
- Either rest your hands on your block or your hips or draw them together at your heart or reach them forward in front of you to frame out your face. If you’d like to add even more load, you can hold your block in your hands as you reach them forward.
- Hold and breathe deeply for about 30 seconds to one minute before switching sides.
3. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana) With Block Reach
This challenging variation of Triangle Pose intensifies the weight in your side body and back to build strength and stability in these tissues.
- Start in Downward Facing Dog Pose with a block near the top of your mat.
- Step your right foot forward and place it between your hands.
- Spin your left heel to the floor and turn your toes to face roughly toward the long edge of your mat, so that your foot is angling slightly toward the top of your mat.
- Root down firmly into your feet to draw your torso up so your shoulders stack over your hips, and windmill your arms out into a T-shape, facing your torso toward the long edge of your mat.
- Straighten both legs as much as you comfortably can and then lean your torso laterally toward the top of your mat.
- Once you’ve reached as far forward as possible, release your right hand to your leg, a prop, or the floor and stretch your left arm up toward the sky into a traditional Triangle Pose.
- Cinch in around your whole waistline as if tightening a corset to really activate your core and energetically squeeze your legs toward each other to find stability in your base.
- Sweep your left arm over your head to reach toward the top of your mat, so that your upper arm is next to your left ear.
- Take your block in your right hand and then reach your right arm toward the top of your mat, so that your upper arm is next to your right ear.
- Hold the block lengthwise between both hands and wrap your thumb and index finger around the bottom corners of the block. Release the rest of your fingers outward as if giving a “high five.”
- Energetically squeeze your hands in toward the block and press the block forward toward the top of your mat.
- Spiral your chest open toward the sky.
- Hold for about 30 seconds to one minute before switching sides.
4. Weighted Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)
This simple addition of weight on your pelvis in Bridge Pose will challenge your glutes, hips, and hamstrings as you lift.
- Start lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor, roughly hips-distance apart with your heels under your knees.
- Drape a folded blanket over your pelvis to add extra weight before you lift up.
- Relax your arms by your sides with your palms facing up toward the sky.
- Root down firmly into your heels and, without movement, energetically drag your heels toward your pelvis to activate the backs of your legs.
- Energetically hug your legs into the midline of your body and, at the same time, energetically draw your feet toward the outer edges of your mat to activate your entire pelvic girdle.
- Ground down evenly into your feet and your shoulders, and lift your hips off the floor.
- Lengthen your tailbone toward your heels to engage your glutes even more and breathe into this weighted Bridge Pose for about 30 seconds to one minute.
Vary Your Yoga Practice
Variety is the spice of life. Variability offers flavor, creativity, and change to our day-to-day routines, including our yoga practice.
Variety isn’t only good to mentally move us out of the mundane, it’s also really healthy for our physical tissues to build strength, stability, flexibility, and load capacity.
So change up your practice from time to time. Incorporate more props. Try new positions. Add more weight. Or try some of the aforementioned yoga pose variations. Because the more you build up the load-carrying capacity in your body, the more agile, strong, and safe your practice will become.