Not So Different.. Anymore

I’ve talked about it a bit before, but ever since I started yoga, I’ve felt a conflict between my love of yoga and everything it has become for me, and fitness, or more particularly competitive fitness.

I started yoga after I competed back in November 2009. Competing was a wonderful experience, but there was also a lot I did wrong. After the shows I was definitely burned out and looking for something new. Whatever higher power you believe in must have been watching out because I stumbled into yoga, the type just right for me at just the right time. Two years later and I seriously can not imagine where I would be without it! Maybe that sounds melodramatic to some, but I know many of you know exactly what I mean. I can say without a doubt that it has made me a better person. It has made me more compassionate, caring, better able to deal with stress, self-confident, empowered, I could go on and on. Really amazing stuff.

So how can yoga, a practice that is both physical and spiritual, and all about non-judgement and not competing be anything like a sport where you push yourself completely to the limit, then get up on stage 95% naked, covered in spray tan, in clear hooker heals and get judge strictly on your appearance? Easy.. they both challenge me and make me a stronger person physically and mentally.. and I love them both. It hasn’t always been that way.. let me explain..

I ran across this quote in Meditations from the Mat and it completely hit home. What I’d been feeling lately, a connection and easy synch between fitness and yoga, was put into words..

Doing your best is taking the action because you love it, not because you’re expecting a reward. Most people do exactly the opposite; They only take action when they expect a reward, and don’t enjoy the action. That is why they don’t do their best. …

Our experience of life is like that of a trapeze artist–but instead of rings, we swing from one intense attachment to the next. We begin asana practice with an eye to the results. [When you start seeing results], a whole new world is presented to us. Why not hope for more of the same? Because it is in this hoping that we lose sight of the true beauty we have discovered.

We are finding that the only result worth achieving is being here now. All other positive outcomes are by-products of our present-moment awareness. To be attached to the results, be they a tighter bum or a better triangle pose, is to place the cart before the horse and to miss the point. Eventually we will find this striving unrewarding… The alternative–doing your best as an expression of your love for life.

For quite a while I thought that if I wanted to lift weights and compete that I’d be a “bad yogi.” And not going to lie, I got plenty of not-so-positive feedback (some in friendly conversation, some not as sought) from a couple yoga teachers. Yoga had won me over 100% and as I’ve discussed, I’m never one to only “test the waters.” I throw myself in!  So you can image, hearing negative feedback about fitness from people who I really looked up to created more than a little internal conflict.

What’s ironic is that I’ve probably experience more competitive people in the yoga studio than I ever have at the gym.

But let me back up. What I now see as fantastic similarities and connections between fitness and yoga has definitely not always been. Really it’s yoga that has changed how I approach fitness.

It’s Not a Lie.. It Really is the Journey

In 2009 when I was getting ready to compete, it was ALL about the end goal. I was training solely to get on that stage and check an item off my bucket list. When you focus your energy that hard on something, and have complete tunnel vision (like I tend to when I set my eyes on a goal), a lot of things tend to get sacrificed. With sacrifice, sometimes comes a bit of resentment. It didn’t seem like it at the time.. by hindsight ya know.. And when you realize what you sacrificed in order to reach that goal, then the end result becomes even more important. You (ok me) think, “If I gave up this and that and this and that.. then I better win, or none of those sacrifice would have been worth it”.. in the immortal social media words of 2011.. #fail! When it’s all about the end goal, the purpose starts to get lost. I even remember someone asking me why I decided to compete.. and I was at a loss for an answer. How can you put so many hours into something, spend a lot of time being hungry, a lot of money, loose and semblence of a social life and not be sure why? I know, I know..

So it took a couple years of being confused about the whole thing.. and a lot of down dogs..

The actually competition is such a small part of what fitness is all about for me.

Now.. I love yoga more than ever.. I love weight training more than ever.. I love being part of a team of amazing and inspiring women, and I look forward to competing again (FAP Lonestar), and may again (TX Shredder) and perhaps again (FAP Universe)..

The difference? The REALLY BIG DIFFERENCE.. it’s no longer about the stage. Getting on stage is just an added bonus during the process. It’s a fun weekend in Galveston and/or Miami. It’s not the goal, not at all. The goal is to remember each day I step on my yoga mat, each time I go to workout, and when I’m panting for breath during a functional workout (I must look hilarious and a complete wreck to anyone watching), that I get to. That I get to do that. That I’m healthy enough, that I have the time and money to get to workout, to play with new inversion, travel hours just to cheer for friends competing, and go to ridiculously amazing yoga events, and share it all with even more amazing people.

I feel so fortunate to have now found yoga teachers who are supportive of me in every way. And I think that’s helped me realize that these two “hobbies” of mine aren’t so mutually exclusive. At the same time I’ve met some of the most selfless, caring, loving and giving people I’ve ever known through fitness competitions. I don’t do yoga to be better at fitness or to be more flexible, and I certainly don’t lift in order to be able to hold a handstand longer.. I do both, because I love both.. that’s all that really matters.

*Added after Publishing Friday night:

It’s funny, today (Saturday) during yoga, the teacher said something along the lines of “isn’t it a miracle how people come into our lives just when we need them. They may not stay long but it’s a miracle that it happens.”

I laughed to myself and thought about what I had written and published in this post. I was feeling a little uncomfortable that what I had written may have come off not as positive as I meant it to. I am very grateful for each an every yoga teacher (and fitness trainer for that matter) that I’ve had, because I know that’s exactly what I needed at that time. I’m probably at such a great place with yoga & lifting because I took that break, and being exposed to different perspectives, whether I agree or not is something I value very much as well. Hope that makes sense.. Promise a not-so-serious, mostly likely recipe-post next  ;-)

Because why wouldn’t you do handstands in the middle of a hotel lobby, on a beach in Costa Rica, while wearing a halter top, after a couple margaritas.. ?! Yes yes, and after not putting enough sunscreen on that day…

5 Comments

  1. You are at the crossroads I was at with fitness shows, too. Before I even started thinking about them, everything was swayed by my yoga and my commitment to the practice and to all the off-the-mat stuff, too :) Weighing the competitive aspect, balancing it all…that’s why I did my show, glad I did, but I’ll never do another one. Yoga is where it’s at for me and I’ve found what works for me, for now. :)

    love the handstand pic!

    • Alyson
      Twitter: NourishedFit
      /

      Thanks Averie! I’ve feel like I’ve come full circle in a way. Loved lifting but it turned to a negative after ridiculous post-show rebound, then found and fell in love with yoga, then was unsure about how to do both, and now loving the place I’m in with both. Well and you of all people know how yoga is in AZ; the difficulty and quality of teaching is wonderful, but then there’s the clichey-ness (sp?). It’s so different here in Austin.. feel really blessed to have found a few amazing teachers and really positive community. :-)

  2. Sara Grambusch
    Twitter: SaraGrambusch
    /

    Really wonderful post, some great things to keep in mind on all our journeys. Thank you for sharing.

  3. AH, a fellow gymnast- yogi! It is incredible how mutually exclusive the two seem to be, at first perhaps. I am a college student, doing club-gymnastics and getting more serious about the yoga that I’ve been on and off for for the past few years. OH MY GOODNESS do the two have such opposite fundamentals! I was just mentioning your exact words to a friend the other day, how one is centered around a judgement-free environment where you can totally be yourself, while the other conditions you to prioritize appearance and literally be judged constantly. I had another conversation with my teammate (who is still very much in the “only gymnastics for me” mentality) about doing yoga. She was kind of judgey and mocked me a bit, which I took no offense at all, but it stood out to me how that is such evidence of what we are taught to do our whole childhood. Make no mistake, I am and may always be in love with the sport of gymnastics, but it’s challenging to know how strongly it opposes everything that is wholesome and healthy for our minds and bodies. A balanced world with the two is something that I am still trying to create. But kudos, and thanks for repping the grown up gymnast world. :)

    • Alyson
      Twitter: NourishedFit
      /

      Thank you so much! It’s definitely taken me a while to come to a happy medium of balancing yoga and fitness (which is like my new gymnastics, haha), and I’m sure it’s something that’ll always be evolving.. but that’s ok!

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