I began my regular yoga practice in 2001, long before yoga became the incredible trend that it is today.
Like most, I started my practice for the physical benefits. I wanted long, lean muscles and the “yoga butt,” but what it gave me was glimpses of quiet and calm during a time in my life that was full of chaos.
I struggled for many years with body image issues, and I found that when I practiced yoga, I did not focus on what my body looked like; I focused on what it felt like. What it felt like to move, listen, and really respect my body. For the last 12 years, I have now had a home and studio practice and recently accomplished a long time goal of completing 200hr Yoga Teacher Training.
Combining Yoga With Strength Training
When I met my husband in 2003, he introduced me to the world of strength training. He was a former natural bodybuilding competitor, and I was looking to “tighten and tone,” so I thought I would give it a try in addition to my already dedicated yoga practice.
I found that I loved it, and the intensity was a great compliment to my yoga.
In 2010 my husband decided to come out of retirement, and re-enter the competitive world of natural bodybuilding. The day I first watched him compete, I knew I wanted to try it. It was a “bucket list” item for me to compete someday with him in one show. I did that 1 show, and now 5 more.
I really enjoyed the training and discipline of the sport, but it did not leave as much time for my personal yoga practice. Because my focus was on contest prep for the competitions, a part of me felt that I could no longer consider myself a “real yogi.”
What I discovered is that I have 2 passions (yoga and strength training) and there was no one (except me) telling me that I had to choose one or the other.
My Own Program of Yoga, Meditation, Mindfulness, and Strength Training
In January 2014, I decided I would compete in one last natural bodybuilding show. I wanted this one to be done “my way” regardless of what the results may be. I had no coach helping me this time, and my self-created program included 3 days a week of yoga and meditation, as well as living mindfully in all of the decisions I made.
I wanted to ensure this time around I was really listening to my body, and honor it when it told me I needed a rest day or when I really shouldn’t push myself any further.
That was my very first injury free contest prep (out of 6), and I firmly believe that I can thank my consistent yoga practice for that. I think it was both the physical stretching and elongation of the muscles on my “yoga days” and the compassion for myself and my body everyday.
The Relationship Between Strength and Flexibility
As a new yoga teacher, I wanted my students to learn compassion for themselves. We all work really hard - whether it’s in the gym, at the office, at home with our families - we are a society that feels a bit uncomfortable with being kind to ourselves for having any downtime.
Not only does yoga benefit in strength training, but strength training can benefit a yogi’s practice as well. The super bendy yogis need to build strength around their joints so they do not unconsciously push their body too far into a pose (and encounter an injury).
Ideally, you want to find a balance between strength and flexibility in your yoga poses. Whether you have strength without flexibility, or flexibility without strength, the individual will likely end up injured because there is a lack of balance.
In my mind, we can all benefit from learning and achieving the perfect balance between strength and flexibility—not only on our mats, but off the mat as well.