Last week I published the first part of an email conversation between local yoga practitioner Anna Shearer and me. This is the second half of the conversation, in which Anna asks me questions about my recent experiences working with her on the yoga mat. While I’ve done yoga before here and there, the one-on-one practice I’ve started with her has been the most consistent yoga I’ve ever attempted. So she had a few questions for me about that…
Anna: What preconceived notions did you have about yoga before you started practicing it?
Jason: Probably the most important preconceived notion I had about yoga before I started practicing with you was that I don’t enjoy it. And before I make it sound like I’m yoga guy now decked out in Lululemon from head to toe, I should say that I still have moments of panic on the yoga mat. I don’t “enjoy” it the way I do strength training.
But what I’ve realized as I’ve gotten more serious about my own pursuit of strength over the last year is that yoga can be an integral part of getting stronger. And I almost hesitate to say that out of offending anyone who sees yoga more as a spiritual practice. But practically speaking, I’ve felt better in my body since I began practicing yoga with you, and the numbers in the gym indicate that it has helped me get stronger. That sense of efficacy is not one that I anticipated at all. I mainly expected to just feel uncomfortable.
Anna: What advice would you offer to people who want to begin a yoga practice?
Jason: I think having a good teacher is probably more important in yoga than it is in strength training. What I do is fairly intimate, but not nearly as much as yoga. I know really good coaches who approach strength training with clinical precision, and you really can get stronger and leaner with an approach like that. But I think yoga necessitates a sincere bond between teacher and student. So I think it’s paramount that people try out one of the myriad studios or teachers in the area. It seems to me that in yoga, the “better” teacher might not necessarily be better for the individual if the vibe isn’t right.
Anna: What has been your favorite part of your practice thus far?
Jason: I have a fairly big insecurity around letting go completely. You and I were talking about this recently, but I’ve never been a big drinker or drug user, not because of any moral aversion to stimulants, but because I’ve always been worried that if my inhibitions were lowered enough that the “real” me would come out and people would hate that version of me. I try to stay fairly “held” in my work as a trainer, in part because I don’t want my reactions to things to elicit any sort of shame or guilt on the part of a client.
That sense of holding onto my own self, not revealing too much, can be incredibly limiting. I’ve found that yoga allows me the opportunity to try to be completely open in a way that is safe and encouraging. I can channel rage and aggression under a barbell, and I ‘d go so far as to say that rage and aggression can be necessary at certain loads under a barbell. And that’s definitely a part of my humanity.
But I think yoga has forced me to reckon with another honest part of my humanity too, which is to say vulnerability. And it’s quite possible this has nothing to do with yoga itself, but in surrendering in a sense to the guidance of a teacher I trust. But if I had to guess I’d say it must have something to do with the practice itself. At the end of each practice, in the calm and still room, I feel a sense of accomplishment. And that feels good. But I also feel a sense of calm in those moments that I rarely allow for myself. That’s a pretty powerful thing, but I have a lot of work to do to give myself permission to feel that more often.