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Iron Yoga: Mind Over Muscle

Multitasking in yoga class: While you're balancing on one foot, why not do bicep curls, too?
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Mind Over Muscle continued...

For those who want to bulk up, iron yoga does offer benefits, he says.

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, and sculpting."

"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."

It's All Good

"Yoga, strength training, and aerobics are good, but one does not replace another," says Sal Fichera, an exercise physiologist, owner of Forza Fitness in New York City, and spokesman for the American Council on Exercise. He offered to comment on Carillo's program.

"There are benefits specific to every modality of exercise. Granted there are benefits that do overlap," he tells WebMD. "But normal weight lifting and doing 60 minutes of iron yoga will produce different results, because they have different effects on the muscles. With light weights, you'll definitely feel a burn. But it won't generate the same results as if you used heavier weights."

Tony Sanchez teaches yoga class at the San Francisco Yoga Studio and has been practicing yoga since 1976.

Sanchez trained in India, where a weight-lifting room was available for people who couldn't do certain poses -- to help them build strength. "If someone is very flexible, it's not unusual that they don't have very much strength," he tells WebMD. "But the two [disciplines] were separate."

"I see some benefits to iron yoga, but I also see some dangers," Sanchez says.

There's the danger of getting hurt -- falling over or straining muscles, he points out. "Especially if you're doing the Warrior or Sun Salutation poses -- extending postures -- they require a lot of balance, a lot of concentration, alignment and weight distribution. When you incorporate another element into the pose, it becomes much more difficult to maintain the posture."

Bottom line: You could lose your balance. Like that never happens in yoga class.

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