Yoga and Kettlebells…The Perfect Blend

When it comes to exercise, I’m fairly selective. As a friend and colleague in the wellness
industry pointed out to me, my preferred form of movement is rooted in a thousands-year old
spiritual practice. As a yoga teacher for the last thirteen years, I’m interested not only in
working efficiently and effectively, but in learning from teachers who are as passionate about
their work as I am about mine. I want to work with instructors who haven’t simply memorized
routines to push blindly on whomever shows up, but who can see the individual bodies in the
room and guide them safely into their fullest potential.

I started practicing at the Charleston Kettlebell Club in March of 2016. I didn’t have any real
goals other than to move dynamically again. As a yogi, I have a good bit of mobility, as well as
decent strength in certain areas. My balance is pretty solid, even when I’m standing on my
head. I simply missed the feeling of being strong and explosive. As it turns out, the Club has
helped far beyond what I knew I needed.

In the first few months of classes, I immediately began to feel a capacity to tap into hidden
strength. With Mike, Brett and Chelsea’s guidance, I also began to find functional ways to
support some of my hypermobility, and those changes have influenced my yoga practice in
beneficial ways. Many of the cues I was given to help me swing better were useful in my daily
life. “Do less,” everyone kept telling me. I have a tendency to try to muscle through everything
rather than work with the circumstances. In other words, this yoga teacher still has control
issues, and breaking that habit through the bells has been great for me.

The real turn of events came as we began to discover that my lats have been essentially
dormant – especially the one on the right. I’ve experienced a noticeable – but only occasionally
problematic – asymmetry, manifesting as tension in the right side of my neck, my shoulder and
through my right arm to my wrist. The imbalance bothered me, but it didn’t cause much pain
at all, and my body had learned to compensate. I can’t begin to guess how many hours I’ve
spent stretching that shoulder, arm and wrist, trying to loosen them up.
If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that the body’s intelligence goes much deeper and is
far superior to cognition. My body knew that in order to be safe and stable, I needed to build
the underlying strength of my lats before it could release the pattern of support I’d cobbled
together in my shoulder. As I’ve begun to turn my lats back on again, I’m feeling more
symmetry than I ever have. They still fight me sometimes, but Garrison has been
(compassionately but relentlessly) cuing me in classes so that they fire up properly in each and
every exercise.

Kettlebell training is a great complement for yogis – from the powerful pop of the hips to the
strength of the grip, and in many other aspects of technique and approach. But training at the
Club is in alignment, rather than in contrast, with yoga in many ways as well. The team
encourages body awareness, accountability, and use of breath. The emphasis is never on the
numbers, but on integrity in every aspect of the movement practice.
The Charleston Kettlebell Club is my school of strength because they are committed to making
sure that what you learn makes you a better, more adaptable human. Yes, it’s fun to swing
heavy and kick butt in the gym, but it’s really about getting out there and being able to live as
large as possible for as long as possible – and that’s a mission I can get behind.

Ashley Bell