After a decade of yoga and fitness training, the kettlebell rocked me. It literally threw me off balance when I tried to swing it. I immediately realized how training with this tool could improve my endurance and stability. If you have never heard of kettlebells, they look like a sinister cannonball with a handle and range from 4 to over 100lbs.
The rigorous Russian Kettlebell Challenge offered an experience as profound as my yoga trainings. The advanced techniques of the RKC have reshaped my practice, my teaching, and my body. Here’s how:
- Swinging a kettlebell gets the heart pumping. Short bursts of intense intervals maximize cardiovascular conditioning.
- I became very strong, very fast. Suddenly, I could hop into a handstand with both feet together and easily toss my carry-on bag into a plane’s overhead compartment.
- My pranayama deepened. The swing requires a version of kapalabhati breathing. Pressing overhead demands specific diaphragmatic pressure. Full strength cannot be expressed without precise integration of the breath.
- Lifting heavy weights requires a well-organized skeleton. The exercise called the Turkish Get-Up requires the shoulders to anchor into the ribs and spine. The sequence flows like the sun salutation yet demands exceptional stability training.
- My hip mobility has significantly improved. I’m proud of my malasana or full squat these days (ya, know…. for a white girl.)
- Practicing new skills awakened my proprioceptive awareness. I found movement blind spots and learned to coordinate muscles that I didn’t know I had.
- Finding new awareness improved how I teach yoga. For example, discovering lattisumus dorsi activation refined how I cue the alignment of warrior poses.
- I redefined my core. My torso slimmed down but more importantly, kettlebells shifted my sense of the core. Specifically, it developed reflexive adomino-lumbar support that transcended my conditioning from planks.
- When maneuvering heavy loads, my mind remains focused. If not, I could easily hurt myself. I relish the sweaty, intense moving meditation.
- It’s grounding. Literally, my bare feet must root for the weights to budge.
- This practice humbles my ego. Like a marital art, I’m a perpetual beginner.
- Lastly, at kettlebell events there are a lot of dudes. I would not recommend enduring the Russian Kettlebell Challenge for romantic conquest. (Walking into your neighborhood bar would be significantly less strenuous.) The yang of the RKC is a refreshing shift from the yin of the yoga community.
I still flow through vinyasas, sink into restorative poses, and heal with yoga therapeutics.Yoga provides a lens to understand how energy moves through the body even if I move that energy with a kettlebell.
I suggest more yogis “get loaded” with kettlebells by finding a certified RKC instructor. Don’t assume they understand sanskrit or have a similar notion of the body. The yoga and kettlebell folks come from different tribes but have fascinating dances to teach each other.