Kettlebells and Yoga (or: Kettlebells AS Yoga)

I get a lot of questions on how I combine kettlebells and yoga in my personal and teaching practices. Usually, I explain that I do both throughout the week because it helps keep me balanced energetically and physically and that I encourage my clients to do the same. I imagine upon asking that some if not most people envision crescent lunges with a military press, or malasana (yogic squat) with kettlebell curls.  They're probably either somewhat disappointed or quite relieved to hear that I don't actually do YOGA with KETTLEBELLS.

Jelinek-016

Normally, my week has a total of 3-4 kettlebell training sessions 45-60 min, focused on heavy strength and high intensity conditioning, and 3-4 flow yoga classes with a focus on flexibility and keeping consciousness in my body and being present for each moment as it arises.  In all honesty - it's not always this balanced.  Sometimes my yoga practice is awesome... other times I totally bail on it because I'm sore or tired (or because I'm just punking out on the being present thing.)

But something happened the other day : I approached a double bell front squat (my nemesis) and my mind suddenly cleared. I felt every millimeter of ground beneath my active toes.  I could hear the depth in my breath.  It felt like the sun peeking from behind the clouds as I realized: my yoga practice had spread so completely through my life that it was now an integral part of my strength and conditioning practice.

As I thought about it (after my set of front squats of course), I realized that my yoga teaching practice had also crossed over into my kettlebell coaching methods. Most of my coaching energy is spent attempting to help people get into their own bodies: what level of effort feels appropriate, what stance/alignment is most effective, how to activate muscles,  and hopefully how to feel really good about themselves no matter what.

IMG_1895

So I think I have a new answer when people ask me WHY kettlebells and yoga.  Because kettlebells ARE yoga to me.  All that time I spend on my mat isn't about perfecting my handstand - It's about exploring my physical body, my emotional reactions and my thought patterns as challenges arise. And it's no different when I'm in the gym : I get to find my edge, develop a sense of quiet focus and be completely human in all its aspects of success and failure.

I tell my yoga students regularly to take their practice off the mat, and most people probably think it means being more zen in traffic or sitting up taller at their desk.  But what I really mean is : take the things you love - the things you REALLY love - and make them yoga.