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How to Do the Yoga-with-Weights Staff Exercise

The Staff is a weighted version of the traditional yoga pose of uprightness. The exercise builds a strong spine and back. The weights appear to exercise the muscles of your back and shoulders, which they do, but the main object of the Staff is to exercise your abdominal muscles. A secondary benefit is the work you do on your quads and hamstrings.

Don’t collapse your spine as you do this exercise (in other words, don’t slump). If you don’t keep your spine erect and your elbows square, you won’t work your abdominal muscles.

You need both hand weights and ankle weights for this exercise. When you’re ready, follow these steps:

  1. Sit on your buttocks with your legs straight in front of you, and roll the fleshy part of each buttock and thigh out from under your body.

    Pull your belly in, lean to one side, reach around your hip, grasp your buttock and inner thigh with your hand, and move the flesh to the outside. Do this for each buttock. After you finish, you’ll feel as if your “sit bones” are rooted downward a little bit more toward the floor. You’ll also be able to draw your belly in and work your abdominal muscles more deeply.

  2. Grab the hand weights and bend your arms, holding the weights at ear level with your palms facing forward.

    This is the starting position. Don’t shrug your shoulders; look straight ahead throughout the exercise.

    If sitting upright while holding the weights is too uncomfortable for you, try placing a rolled-up blanket under your buttocks to encourage your pelvis to release. This way, you feel the natural curve of your lumbar spine again, which helps you sit up taller and straighter. You can also bend your knees.

  3. Inhaling to a count of four, lift the weights straight up so your arms are extended.

    This action is what weightlifters call an overhead press. Engage your feet, flexing into all four corners to encourage you to tighten your abdominal muscles.

  4. Exhaling to a count of four, lower your arms to the starting position.

    Feel your shoulder blades pulling down in rhythm to your breathing. As you slowly lower the weights, feel yourself working against the weight for resistance. This action is what weightlifters call a back lat pulldown.

Focus on your belly as you lift and lower the weights; your belly muscles support your back and spine.

Repeat this exercise six to eight times, pause to rest, and then do six to eight more repetitions.

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