Along my journey towards greater health I have tried many fitness modalities. Initially, running inspired me. I suppose it was the most accessible to me at the time -- requiring only a good pair of shoes and the motivation to step outside! Once I had some level of cardiovascular fitness, I embraced outdoor group training and enjoyed hitting PB’s with long distance running. I regularly participated in fun runs, and completed 3 half marathon events within one year. Needless to say, I felt pretty damn good and my energy was soaring.
With this new found love for fitness I was drawn to becoming a personal trainer, and very quickly discovered a world of bodybuilding and aesthetic gains; it fast became my mission to sculpt the perfect set of abs. I tapped out pretty early from the bodybuilding game when I discovered an umbilical hernia, which manifest as a result of lifting heavy weights coupled with a weak core.
Prior to the hernia incident I’d been practicing yoga in a one-on-one setting with a woman who worked at the studio, and when I could no longer lift weights or do high intensity training I continued with this gentler form of movement.
One thing led to another and yoga had my heart. Over time, my personal practice developed and I had less and less time for running or weight training. Eventually I had to make the call - I was a yogi. This was great for a few years, while my enthusiasm stayed strong. Some days you couldn’t tear me off the mat! I was fitter, stronger, leaner and more centered than ever before. Not only did yoga strengthen my physical form and leave me with a positive glow from the inside out, but it also connected me to my spiritual self, something which had been dormant since childhood.
Despite all of these wonderful effects, in 2016 I lost my yoga mojo (gasp!) I no longer wanted to hop on the mat, and this caused immense feelings of guilt, shame and confusion. I identified as a yogi, heck I even taught yoga, yet somehow the thing I once loved now felt like a chore.
So, what did I do? N-O-T-H-I-N-G!
I was a yogi you see, not a runner, not a gym rat but a yogi...I just needed some time off to recharge that yoga mojo. Plus, my weight lifting days had jaded me - too many superficial people and potential hernias, I couldn’t go back to that. And running, I couldn’t see myself pounding the pavement again; to think of how much fitness I had lost was enough to cause a mild panic attack. Clearly this act of avoidance did not serve me at all, and it coincided with a 4 month long depression.
I needed time to experience the polarity between happy/depressed, fit/unfit, strong/weak and so on. Eventually i’d had enough of feeling awful and it really didn’t matter what I did, I just needed to break a sweat doing something! So I picked up some weights and also started running again, which didn’t phase me at all. In fact it didn’t take long until I had regained much of my strength, and with this vigor came happiness and a desire to practice yoga again!
Due to some rigid beliefs that I unconsciously held around what it was to be a yogi, a runner or a bodybuilder, I was unable to experience the joy of either options. I can clearly see how past experiences had skewed my perception of things which are, by nature, totally meaningless. It is up to us to apply meaning to life, and how liberating it is to have this choice! Now if you ask me what I am I’ll tell you that I am ‘un-label-able!’ Sometimes I like to sprint, or lift heavy things, or breath deeply in a juicy downward facing dog - ahhh.
I am cautious to apply too much meaning to my chosen form of movement, so long as it is coming from a self loving place then I know it’s good for me. In the past I had used exercise as a way of changing things that I did not like about myself, now I move my body from a place of nurture. I understand the purification that can be achieved through sweating, twisting, breathing and so on. I also realize the effect that movement has on one’s mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Lifting weights can be a spiritual practice, if you do so out of love rather than fear.
I believe that any exercise is good exercise, but it’s important to approach it with positive intention. Moving our precious bodies daily is so important, and it’s up to us to use our internal guidance system to determine what that movement ought to be.
We can be our own worst enemy or very best friend, the choice is ours. At the end of the day it’s as simple as pursuing what excites us the most. Feelings of inspiration, motivation, joy, passion, enthusiasm, pride, etc all lead to enhanced well-being and mental clarity. Feelings are not words, beliefs or judgments, so our mind cannot interfere with our actions when we are truly plugged into our hearts desires and moving forward from a place of love.
Steph Baron is a Yoga teacher from Melbourne Australia with big dreams to teach and share her love for wellness and yoga around the globe. Interested in collaborating? Steph would love to connect: