Iron Yoga: Mind Over Muscle
Multitasking in yoga class: While you're balancing on one foot, why not do bicep curls, too?
WebMD News Archive
You think yoga is difficult? Here's a new twist. It's called iron yoga, and
it's not for lightweights.
In fact, we're talking about yoga plus light weights. That's right,
balancing on one foot while doing bicep curls -- that kind of thing. Go ahead,
try it! If it sounds hard, doing it is even harder.
Yes, multitasking has infiltrated the ancient art of yoga.
The Heart of It
About a year ago, Anthony Carillo -- triathlete, marathon runner, and former
CPA -- started teaching iron yoga classes in upscale New York City health
clubs. He hatched the concept of iron yoga while striking a traditional yoga
"I was doing the Warrior II pose -- legs separated, extending my arms,
working my upper body," Carillo tells WebMD. "I could feel my legs burn
out faster than my upper body."
The arms, shoulders, chest, and back were just along for the ride. What were
they contributing to this workout?
Carillo picked up a set of light dumbbells. A few bicep and tricep exercises
later, he had invented a new breed of yoga class. "With the weights, you
get extra upper body work and challenge," he tells WebMD.
Mind Over Muscle
With iron yoga, you won't bulk up. These weights are three-pounders, five at
the most. "Eight is too much," says Carillo. For big muscles, you can't
eliminate weight training. But iron yoga can improve your "mind-muscle
He's taken 25 traditional yoga poses and created 30 different iron yoga
exercises. For people used to traditional yoga class, this is way
different, he says. "They're holding weights and adding movement, so a lot
more focus is required -- and a lot more strength. It's been a lot of fun, and
I've gotten a lot of positive feedback."
His iron yoga classes are 60 minutes long; some poses require weights,
others don't -- to give students a break.
"People ask me, 'When does it get easier?' It doesn't," says
Carillo. "As you're getting stronger, better balanced, you're continuously
working harder. If you need more challenge, you'll move to a heavier dumbbell.
But you never want to use a weight that's so heavy that it compromises your
form, breath, or balance."
For those who want to bulk up, iron yoga does offer benefits, he
People who work with weights often just "throw the weights around,"
Carillo tells WebMD. "They're not using them properly. What's nice about
iron yoga is that every movement is controlled with the breath. You're doing
deeper and fuller breaths, slower movements, so you achieve shaping, toning,
"Back in the weight room, you find yourself focusing better, controlling
your movements and your breath -- all of which improves your weight-lifting
workout," he says.
In fact, iron yoga helps Carillo and other athletes better deal with
overexertion during marathon runs. "Athletes have very short, shallow
breathing. In yoga, you practice deep abdominal breathing. When you run a race,
there's a point when getting your next breath is a challenge. Yoga has opened a
new oxygen source for me through breath awareness."