I wasn't an athletic child. Sure I played outside, got dirty, and worked off my adolescent energy, but I was never on a team or played sports. Not until high school did I take regular dance classes and even had a short stint as a competitive cheerleader (shhh! don't tell anyone). Other than dance I never really exercised. Yoga made its way into my life and I saw it as a form of cross training while I pursued dance in college. I eventually stepped away from dance, yoga become my only physical discipline, and I was into it.
However, as I've gotten deeper into my yoga practice I've had an internal dilemma with calling yoga my workout. Yoga stopped being my workout years ago. No doubt yoga can be a workout, but the mental clarity, focus, and calm state of mind I gain from my practice outweighs any physical benefits. This new revelation became even more solidified when I started doing high intensity interval training. (What up, FFR?) Throughout the years I've tinkered with barre classes, indoor cycling, etc., but nothing has hooked me like HIIT. It took turning 30 for me to realize I love lifting heavy weights and I throughly enjoy working so hard I think I might lose my breakfast. It's barbaric, I know, but I'm totally into it.
Since I've committed to cross training with HIIT classes, my yoga practice has taken on a new, more meaningful shape. My yoga practice is no longer where I do Chaturangas to work my arms or hold Warrior II until my thighs burn. Of course I still (occasionally) work my body hard in my asana practice, but I've started to soften up a bit. Through this transformation I've cultivated a deeper awareness of my whole being. It's not just about the placement of my feet in a High Lunge. It's about the quality of my breath, the contents of my thoughts, and my overall wellbeing in a High Lunge. This process has also effortlessly moved me into a more consistent pranayama and meditation practice.
Although my practice has slowed down and soften up over the years, I always have the option and ability to push myself physically in my practice if I so desire. Lifting heavy weights and running sprints at an incline have no doubt helped my asana practice. I'm stronger and have more control over my body. The tricky stuff like Handstand and various hand balances are less daunting even if I haven't worked on them with consistency. Not to mention I've increased my cardiovascular capabilities and can hang longer when a practice is all about a constant flow.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, cross training has filled my time with something other than yoga. Over the last eight years all I have known is yoga. That might sound great, but some times it's depressing. All day long I talk to others about yoga. In my spare time I'm doing my own practice or writing or reading about yoga. Now, for four or so hours a week, I shut down the yoga and push my mind and body to the edge. It's been quite freeing to realize there's truly more to me than Erin, the yoga teacher.
So, yogis, how do you cross train? Of course, there's nothing wrong with only doing yoga, but perhaps your yoga can take on a new life if you introduce another physical discipline. Do a boot camp workout (CPY Bootcamp, anyone? Many start next week!), enroll in a martial arts class, start rock climbing (something I've slowly been dipping me toes into and love!), sign up for a 5K, join a kickball team, find something that speaks to you. At the end of the day yoga isn't actually something you do. Ultimately the yoga is always happening. Even when you're trying to kill your two minute burpee record. ☺