May 30, 2011

Yoga & Gym: a non-duality practice.

I started going to the Gym. I’m about three months into a weekly regime and I’m loving it.

When I first started yoga, I didn’t want to go to the Gym. Boring place full of knuckle-draggers, TVs, loud music and stuff. Yoga was something I wanted to try because I saw it as not just exercise of the body, but exercise of the mind.

It called to me and I answered, fell deeply in love and within 6 months I was training to be a teacher with Ruth White, one of the UK’s top teachers, Ruth has been teaching for over 25 years. Having spent years learning with BKS Iyengar, she went on to set up the Karuna yoga school (of which Iyengar is still the President). Karuna yoga takes an angle of Iyengar yoga in a similar way to Anusara yoga, but holds to the philosophy of Advaita (non-dualism)

I love my personal practice. Love teaching and learning and I love the self-inquiry of yoga.

When I was working, I was going to 3 or 4 classes a week, every week without fail. With the loss of work and the credit crunch, that became a problem. As well as the fact that I’ve been pushing ahead setting up my own teaching.

Having plenty of time on my hands, I started swimming. The first thing I noticed was the price. Nearly as much as a full 90 min yoga class (with me) for a swim in the pool with no guidance or help, so once a week was the most I could afford.


But then I became a full-time student and I get student rates… 10 euros a week for the use of everything, including help from a personal trainer. That’s pretty much the same price as one swim a week… I was in like Flynn!

I’m not going to give a full break down of my regimé and how much I bench etc, although I will say I’m using free weights and working on toning, stamina and cardio. I’m loving it though and going 4 to 5 times a week.

But here’s the thing. The gym and the yoga make perfect bedfellows for me. I wouldn’t have been able to stand the gym before I started yoga. With the influence yoga has on my practice, I’m disciplined, not distracted by the background noises and able to work out exactly how far I can push my body and when exactly I need to rest. Like for example; I do 2 sets of 12 burpees using two 16lb dumb bells and in-between I rest in Vajrasana and bring my attention to my breathing.

And the gym has benefited my yoga practice no end. I’m stronger, leaner and more flexible than before.

The other thing is you see, I’m the archetype Kapha Dosha. I need to work hard, to sweat and end up in an exausted heap! I can do that with yoga, but for me I don’t want to lose the meditative part of my practice and I found that happening as I tried to push myself.

For the first time in my life, I’m feeling energetic for the most part. Slightly more Rajasic than before, which is why I need to work with pranayama and meditation along with the yogasana. But I was way out of balance with kapha and dominantly Tamasic most of the time.

I read a lot of stuff on Elephant, little derogatory comments about the gym and the people that frequent gyms in general. It’s understandable, I had the same opinion for a long time. But I really have grown to love the gym and it’s changed my yoga practice for the better.

I do get some weird looks from the knuckle draggers and rugby players, down the back in the free-weights section though, when I’m doing my yoga practice as a warm down. I’m hoping they may take some time to ask me about some of the stretches as well. There’s certainly a lot of injuries waiting to happen with the lack of warm-downs and body awareness in general!

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