I don't just do yoga. And to anyone who knows me personally this is no secret! Would I advocate strength training? Without a shadow of a doubt.
However, strength training alone was not what gave me my edge in a physical sense. Nor did it give me the rich psychological and spiritual benefits I uncovered. Am I an advocate of Yoga? Without a shadow of a doubt.
More importantly, can these two seemingly opposite forms of training co-exist harmoniously? According the the yogic principals of acceptance and non - judgement, of course they can. According to the picture below, well, let's just say they worked for me. It was taken in 2008 after I won the NABBA Miss Toned Figure category. I did yoga about 5 times a week throughout my training and I credit my yoga practice for giving my torso enough rotation to get into the pose you see here.
Most importantly, it made me feel fantastic. If I had been thinking too much and putting myself under unnecessary stress, I did yoga. After my practice, if by magic, my thoughts became much clearer and my emotions serene. Many times I actually struggled to remember why I was so upset in the first place. I also felt like I could breathe. Not just everyday breathing, but big expansive, invigorating, life-giving breaths that I would never have gotten had I not spent time in focused practice.
The more I did yoga, the more active and receptive I became in doing my own spiritual work and I gained insight into my life. I began to love the questions and question the answers. Perhaps it is simply because I am getting older, perhaps it has been because of yoga (although I suspect both) but if I could measure the level of fear I have harboured in the past on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the greatest, it has easily gone from a 10 to a 2. There will always be more to know, but some seemingly unanswerable questions I have had have indeed been answered.
'Ask and you shall receive, seek and ye shall find..'
They really aren't kidding.
I don't compete anymore. The more yoga I did the less competition I needed in my life and I started to let go. That is of course another yogic principle - non competitiveness. I did the show to simply prove to myself that I could. And I did. And I'm happy that I did. I don't quite look like that now but I still strength train. And the benefits I get from cross training with my yoga far outweigh any taboos.
As anyone involved in sport knows, our muscles can become too tight, which is a breeding ground for injury, as is too much flexibility. And for that matter, too much of anything isn't good for us. I have many friends who combine yoga with strength and sports training. On a recent training course I attended, I had a memorable conversation with a Bikram instructor from China. I asked him if yoga was his only method of training and he shook his head. "No, not at all, I lift weights too." My eyes lit up. "Really? Me too!" Cue a long conversation about how much better we both felt doing our strength training because of our yoga, and vice versa. If our bodies thrive in a constant state of delicate balance, it would be a little presumptuous to say 'one can only do this, or one can only do that.' Would it not be more sensible to say 'one needs to do what is right for oneself?' We can all adhere to general guidelines of healthy living but let's face it, there is some grey area here too.
I can't wait for science to start proving this.
In the meantime, I'll keep my hands to the mat and my feet under the squat rack and continue to reap the rewards of both. :-)