Block, strap…five-pound dumbbells? Clear some extra space in your prop piles, yogis—sculpting on the mat is here to stay.
Although it’d be easy to write off classes that combine yoga and free weights as just another clever fitness fad (cat yoga, anyone?), especially given the practice’s spiritual side, yoga sculpt classes have become fixtures on the wellness scene. Particularly in Los Angeles, where you’ll spy it at hot studios (CorePower, Hot 8) and non-sweaty ones (Red Diamond, Revolution Fitness)—and at established destinations (Earth’s Power Yoga, YAS) as well as newer arrivals (Aura, Evoke). It’s also happening across the country…
So what’s big draw of adding light weights to your flow?
“Weights add a little bit of intensity [to a yoga practice]… and in LA, people are always looking for something that’s very challenging,” explains Brit Middleton, yoga director at Hot 8, a heated yoga studio with locations in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. Both locations offer a weighted sculpting class that promises to build lean muscle mass and boost metabolism (at 107 degree temperatures, no less).
Although sculpt classes are different studio to studio, they all blend traditional strength training moves with yoga postures—think bicep curls with your legs in crescent pose, or weighted squats in chair.
“Yoga sculpt classes provide an opportunity to work muscles that students need to have a strong yoga practice—as well as a safe yoga practice—that they might not work in a vinyasa class,” says Jen Regenscheid, national sculpt lead at hot yoga brand CorePower, explaining that strength training can reduce long-term risk of injury.
She says this kind of work is especially important for ultra-bendy yogis at risk for overstretching their muscles (yikes), a notion seconded by Chad Dennis, director of yoga at Wanderlust Hollywood.
“After they practice for a long time, lots of yoga students can fall into the realm of hyperflexible, and flexibility taken to an extreme can be unhealthy,” says Dennis. Wanderlust does not offer weighted yoga classes, but Dennis says he’s not opposed to them as long as they’re conducted safely and mindfully.
Of course, paying attention to correct form is crucial (something you should be used to in yoga class, anyway).
“If you aren’t executing good alignment in the yoga poses, adding weight to the posture only amplifies the odds of injuring yourself,” says renown yogi Kathryn Budig. “I would only do this in an advanced class with a senior teacher, or work with incredibly light weights.”
Regenscheid and Middleton agree: Instead of the number on the weight, you should pay more attention to the instructor’s alignment cues.
“There’s risk for injury any time we move our body,” says Regenscheid. “[Yoga sculpt] is a really nice way to balance out a yoga practice and maintain strong muscles and body awareness—both of which are really important at any point in your life.” Pass me a set of threes. —Erin Magner