I have a confession to make.
I can’t keep it in any longer.
It’s a secret that needs to be told; I am a yoga teacher, and I lift weights.
Phew! Feels good to get it out there.
Even in the face of this weird, unwritten rule that if you teach yoga, then yoga is all you’re supposed to be doing. Right?
The truth is, I’ve lifted weights since I was 16 years old. When I started rowing back in high school, lifting was mandatory. If you wanted to get stronger, squats and curls or bust were a must.
Slowly I became addicted to feeling strong.
When yoga found me in 2006, it wasn’t long until it became a huge part of my life-.but not my entire life. I still felt the need to jog, lift, row, all while practicing yoga.
However, around 2010, yoga slowly became my whole world. I had moved to Toronto - a veritable yoga mecca with a studio on almost every major street corner. Heaven! Yoga started to squeeze out my other activities. I loved how it made me feel inside and out. I loved how it made me look. I loved my yoga teachers and the calm atmosphere of the studios.
I was so in love with it that I started to cheat on my lifting sessions with yoga. My old lover, the dumbbell, now seemed dumber rather than something that could ring my bell.
And then something unexpected happened. My practice started to plateau. My right shoulder, the one I’d had stabilizing surgery on, felt unstable again. I didn’t have enough juice in me to do the things I really wanted to do.
My old lover, the weight room, was calling me back and welcomed me with open, bro-filled arms. It took a bit of adjusting. The testosterone in the air was palpable, and my 12 pound weights were far from intimidating. But I didn’t care.
I secretly enjoyed the looks on guys faces when I proceeded to use low weights while doing high reps, and then busted out a one armed push up just to freak them out.
Ego-driven move to be sure, but still kinda fun.
Plus, thanks to an amazing weight trainer I had during my rowing days, I knew what I was doing. The weight trainer’s name was Molly, and she was the kind of lady who would flip monster truck tires down the entire length of a football field -- while 6 months pregnant. Bad ass.
As I got back into lifting, the physical aspects of my yoga practice started to improve. I felt safer in my body. I trusted myself more and felt stronger. I began to appreciate my “bro buddies” at the gym.
After all, we were both chasing the same high: That lifter’s burn that goes deep into the fiber of the muscles. It is that addictive feeling lifters love to hate.
Students sometimes ask me what I do to get stronger in basic yoga postures like downward dog, plank or chatarunga - deceptively hard postures that seem simple at first but once you start doing them you realize “Damn this is tough!” I share with them the truth: I lift weights 3 to 4 times a week on top of practicing yoga, as well as a healthy dose of cardio, be it walking or elliptical, almost everyday.
In order for me to feel sane, I need to move in a variety of ways everyday.
Over the years, I’ve met yoga teachers who are offended at the thought of lifting weights. I’ve even heard teachers mock people who lift. This never jived well with me. I started to follow teachers who did alternative forms of movement.
Anatomically wise, and other-exercise-oriented yoga teachers who realized that yoga couldn’t, and didn’t fix everything. Teachers who acknowledged that yoga can sometimes cause injury if not done properly and in tandem with things like pilates, lifting or resistance training.
As our knowledge of the science behind exercise grows, the practice of yoga is growing with it. Teachers everywhere are realizing, yes yoga is wonderful - but it is an enhancement. It is a practice to be done that improves quality of life. Yoga may be a way of life, but not in the way we might think.
“Yoga Everyday” isn’t just asana a.k.a the physical practice. It involves mindfulness, breathing deeply, meditation, and being kind to self and others. We often forget that the asana practice is just 10% of it. The tip of the iceberg so to speak. The other, deep and satisfying 90% of the practice is hiding below the surface of the water.
A part of being mindful is listening to the body, and then giving it what it needs. Mine was asking for weightlifting to be a part of its life again . So I caved, and then benched. And dude, bro - I’m so glad I did. (fist pump)
Written By: Jelayna Da Silva
Jelayna is a well certified, passionate yoga teacher and writer living in downtown Toronto. Her love for yoga takes her across the GTA to teach at several studios and to multiple clients. With a background in Psychology and College Athletics she infuses her classes and writing with mental and physical awareness, not to mention a healthy sense of humor. Whether leading at a large outdoor events, in a classroom, or in the home of a client her philosophy for teaching is simple - teach with love, empathy, patience and humility. Yoga is a journey, not a destination. www.jelaynayoga.com