I’ve written in this space before about the false choice between strength training and yoga. Today I want to report back that I’ve been putting my money where my mouth is. Yes, I’ve been on the yoga mat with some regularity lately. I’ve been trading strength training sessions for yoga sessions with local teacher Anna Shearer, who offers one-on-one private yoga at my gym. (She also teaches classes around the Dayton area.)
We’ve been talking about what we’ve been learning from one another, and because we thought it might be a good idea to capture some of those discussions we decided to interview one another for this space. Here’s the conversation, conducted over email this week.
Jason: How have you had to change your eating and recovery strategies since you started lifting weights?
Anna: This is such an interesting question for me! As I started making some big time shifts in my life I dreamed of teaching yoga full-time and what that lifestyle would be like. I imagined having the time to be connected to the ritual of eating…to be present and connected as I made myself a nice, healthy breakfast in the morning. When I started really getting into the thick of teaching I found myself eating in much the same way as I had prior…quickly, on the run, and while multi-tasking to complete other obligations. When I began strength training the increased intensity the weights put on your body required me to really think about consciously fueling. I found myself planning my meals so that if I was away from my home all day I would have the nutrition on hand to help me recover after a session. More importantly, I found myself taking the time to be present and connected – making and enjoying a full breakfast rather than running out the door with a meal bar. In a way, my strength training efforts brought me closer to that yoga lifestyle I was envisioning! I’ve also created space for more sleep and I work with foam rollers, acupressure mats, and massage with essential oils…I’m feeling better than ever!
Jason: What would you want someone who only practices yoga to understand about strength training based on your experience?
Anna: Before I stepped on the training floor I was assuming a strength session would be full force exertion almost continuously for that hour. The sessions are much more strategically geared with points of effort and points of rest. The balance of the two is in line with my yoga experience and I felt right at home.
Also, in terms of the physical postures of yoga, we can only put so much time/effort toward a posture before we succumb to the law of diminishing returns. Take handstand for example. There’s only so many times you can effectively kick up into the posture while keeping key areas engaged and maintaining good alignment…and a well-rounded practice, of course, doesn’t consist of only practicing handstand. So what we can do to supplement our practice is to work with strength training moves that isolate key areas of the body, ones we want to specifically engage in particular postures, so that we’re finding body awareness in those areas outside of actually being in the yoga posture.
Jason: What has been your favorite movement or exercise thus far?
Anna: It’s difficult to narrow it down…as with yoga, there is so much variety and everything has its own uniquely appealing energy. In my experience so far I definitely have a top three.
1. Turkish Get-Ups – they’re like a beautifully choreographed dance and as I moved through the different segments of this exercise it felt familiar like the flow of a yoga sequence.
2. Dumbbell overhead press – this one feels natural in my body and as I work through the reps and sets it becomes almost like a meditation through movement.
3. Medicine ball slams – this one initially felt awkward because it requires some really fierce/aggressive energy…but after settling into a rhythm I came to love the intensity and all out brute force!
Jason: What I’ve found particularly interesting about training Anna is that she does everything beautifully. Her thousands of hours on the yoga mat have given her a body awareness that few people possess.
Next week, you’ll see my answers to Anna’s fascinating questions.
Anna Shearer holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing and international business from Ohio University and has trained for and run multiple Tough Mudder races along with a half marathon. She is a graduate of Indigo Yoga Dayton’s teacher training program and you can find her teaching classes a various studios in the Miami Valley. Sometimes you can find her lifting progressively heavier things in the Oregon District. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.