Yoga & Gym: a non-duality practice.

Via Tobye Hillier
on May 30, 2011
get elephant's newsletter

I started going to the Gym. I’m about three months into a weekly regime and I’m loving it.

When I first started yoga, I didn’t want to go to the Gym. Boring place full of knuckle-draggers, TVs, loud music and stuff. Yoga was something I wanted to try because I saw it as not just exercise of the body, but exercise of the mind.

It called to me and I answered, fell deeply in love and within 6 months I was training to be a teacher with Ruth White, one of the UK’s top teachers, Ruth has been teaching for over 25 years. Having spent years learning with BKS Iyengar, she went on to set up the Karuna yoga school (of which Iyengar is still the President). Karuna yoga takes an angle of Iyengar yoga in a similar way to Anusara yoga, but holds to the philosophy of Advaita (non-dualism)

I love my personal practice. Love teaching and learning and I love the self-inquiry of yoga.

When I was working, I was going to 3 or 4 classes a week, every week without fail. With the loss of work and the credit crunch, that became a problem. As well as the fact that I’ve been pushing ahead setting up my own teaching.

Having plenty of time on my hands, I started swimming. The first thing I noticed was the price. Nearly as much as a full 90 min yoga class (with me) for a swim in the pool with no guidance or help, so once a week was the most I could afford.


But then I became a full-time student and I get student rates… 10 euros a week for the use of everything, including help from a personal trainer. That’s pretty much the same price as one swim a week… I was in like Flynn!

I’m not going to give a full break down of my regimé and how much I bench etc, although I will say I’m using free weights and working on toning, stamina and cardio. I’m loving it though and going 4 to 5 times a week.

But here’s the thing. The gym and the yoga make perfect bedfellows for me. I wouldn’t have been able to stand the gym before I started yoga. With the influence yoga has on my practice, I’m disciplined, not distracted by the background noises and able to work out exactly how far I can push my body and when exactly I need to rest. Like for example; I do 2 sets of 12 burpees using two 16lb dumb bells and in-between I rest in Vajrasana and bring my attention to my breathing.

And the gym has benefited my yoga practice no end. I’m stronger, leaner and more flexible than before.

The other thing is you see, I’m the archetype Kapha Dosha. I need to work hard, to sweat and end up in an exausted heap! I can do that with yoga, but for me I don’t want to lose the meditative part of my practice and I found that happening as I tried to push myself.

For the first time in my life, I’m feeling energetic for the most part. Slightly more Rajasic than before, which is why I need to work with pranayama and meditation along with the yogasana. But I was way out of balance with kapha and dominantly Tamasic most of the time.

I read a lot of stuff on Elephant, little derogatory comments about the gym and the people that frequent gyms in general. It’s understandable, I had the same opinion for a long time. But I really have grown to love the gym and it’s changed my yoga practice for the better.

I do get some weird looks from the knuckle draggers and rugby players, down the back in the free-weights section though, when I’m doing my yoga practice as a warm down. I’m hoping they may take some time to ask me about some of the stretches as well. There’s certainly a lot of injuries waiting to happen with the lack of warm-downs and body awareness in general!


About Tobye Hillier

Originally from England, Tobye Hillier has lived in Ireland for over 17 years, living in a small seaside town called Greystones 20 miles south of Dublin. A qualified Karuna yoga teacher (RYT 500), Tobye also plays a pretty darn funky 5-string bass guitar and likes to sing in other peoples' showers. Empathic and intuitive, He likes to bend Yoga to suit people and not the other way around.


34 Responses to “Yoga & Gym: a non-duality practice.”

  1. Colin wiseman says:

    Nice one! Am the opposite, I sweat at the drop of a hat lol!

  2. yogi tobye says:

    Oh no, completely the same here! I was teaching a vinyasa class last thursday and had sweat dripping off my nose, but was still able to talk and teach.

    Nothing wrong with a good sweat out at all and in the gym I always finish up looking like a drowned rat… love it!

  3. Arne says:

    Nice one, Tobye. Great article.

  4. Ramesh says:

    Many great points here, YogiTobye. It all about knowing when to apply some rajasik energy to get us out of a slump, and to coast to higher realms into sattva. For me the raja comes from daily hikes (I live in the woodlands) and some weight lifting, too Thanks for bringing the yoga and ayurvedic philosophy down to the gym level! .

  5. yogi tobye says:

    Sure it's all one right Ramesh?

  6. John says:

    I go through phases. I've done both gym and yoga and then dropped the gym and my yoga improved. I started lifting people a lot and my yoga improved. Maybe I'll go back to the weights some day and it will improve again. I do get tired of the 'not like the gym' comments – they're like the 'just gymnastics' or (a recent favourite) 'yoga is tough, it would be easier to do kick boxing' comments. I reckon they come from a secret gnawing insecurity about the fact that most yogis have a pretty rubbish physical practice in comparison to say gymnasts. Full credit for refusing to join in and picking up some weights.

    At the same time – IMO if yoga doesn't give you what the gym does it's an incomplete practice. Either the gym or a different yoga practice will sort that. I do find that teachers who do yoga and X tend to teach a class deficient in what they get from X (well, bad teachers just teach X and call it yoga) whatever sport X is.

  7. Maria says:

    I have to say – I actually like the gym, well the cross trainer – that machine is the biz! There's a re-furbed city council pool & gym near work, so I've dropped in a few times, and I also get the funny looks when I do some of my "yoga streches" afterwards!!
    I'm a believer in if it works for you, then do it.

  8. Patheya says:

    I agree! The gym is yoga if you want it to be.
    I used to train athletics before I discovered qigong. It helped me calm my agitation and I kept training at the gym and started yoga and think they are wonderful ways to balance out asana practice. Thanks for giving the gym a green light. Baron Baptiste is also a famous yogi who lifts weights.

  9. Hi, Tobye. Great article.

    I do a lot of tennis-specific weight training. My first contact with Yoga was when I took it up at my tennis club to improve my flexibility for tennis. Like you, I've found I have adopted a very yogic approach to weight training, and to tennis in general, for that matter (See ).

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W. Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  10. yogiclarebear says:

    Great perspective and personal story Tobye. I'm a gym "junkie" too. I belong to the local YMCA and it is also my main venue of teaching yoga, as well as being the first place I ever tried yoga! So it holds a special place. I love the people, it is a wonderful community. Like you, I can understand the aversions, but I feel blessed that my "gym" is such a positive place.

  11. yogi tobye says:

    A strong yoga practice, for me anyway, makes me want to better myself physically as well as mentally and emotionally. A regular workout in the gym is part of that. Although yoga helps with fitness, it's not the ultimate goal, but it certainly makes me want to be stronger, faster and younger!

    Thanks for the great comment John!

  12. yogi tobye says:

    Oh yeah, lovin' the cross-trainer…. low impact cardio, can't beat it!

  13. yogi tobye says:

    Everything is yoga with the right approach! Didn't know Baron uses weights. Paul Grilley has quite a unique kettlebell workout as well.

  14. yogi tobye says:

    Brilliant, thanks Bob!

  15. yogi tobye says:

    Thanks Yogiclarebear :o)

  16. Claudia says:

    Great to hear you found what works for you!, how wonderful!, to me it is very difficult when i have to do yoga in a gym because of what you mention about the music, good you can tune it out, amazing!

  17. Glad you came back around and are having a good experience and spreading good words. I had thought, once you go yoga, you could never go back (to the gym). Thanks for opening my mind!

  18. Lisa Mack says:

    This is cool to hear you articulate, Tobye. I have been teaching Kundalini Yoga in the US since 2000- and got way into "fitness" subsequently around 2003 I've been a certified Personal Trainer since 2008. I also have a background in Dance. Accessing the relationship I have with my body (as a spiritual being) through yoga FIRST makes everything I do more powerful. I also find that I can use my awareness of energy to work through blocks in the body through traditional exercise (my favorite is running)….and yes I LOVE warming down with Yoga afterwards!!! What could be better?!? -Many Prosperous Blessings with all your endeavors!!~Peace~

  19. Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    (Judging from that picture of you in the middle of the article there, it looks like you're overdoing it a little.)

  20. Teneal says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for saying this! I've been a sporadic gym fanatic for many years and have struggled to reconcile the two practices – but also being a typical kapha I NEED the gym. You inspire me to relish the differences between the two but to also find the connections between. Hari Om Tat Sat!

  21. yogi tobye says:

    Lol! He's slightly more pumped than me, but similiar physique alright 🙂

  22. Charlotte says:

    Nice perspective. I don't practice asana for fitness. I practice it to unwind my body and prepare for pranayama and meditation, so I much prefer a brisk walk or some hard work in the garden for my rajasic practice. I do think it's important to balance rajas and tamas, but i prefer my asana practice to be about mindful movement rather than kicking butt.

  23. yogi tobye says:

    Completely agree Charlotte.

    I used to be a Greenkeeper on a golf course and the manual work complemented my yoga practice…walking 7 miles at the start of every day was just the first job. I realised I had to replace that and the gym does it for me perfectly!

  24. yogi tobye says:

    Yes, thank the Lord I can tune out, because I did notice they keep playing the same banal songs over and over! 🙂

  25. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Bob W. Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  26. […] Yoga & Gym: a non-duality practice. […]

  27. Jesse Eker says:

    I was the opposite in the way that I started yoga from certain effects from the gym. I have been working out consistently for the last 9 years at least 4 times a week and only being 23 years old. I started to feel the effects of lifting heavy weights and zero flexibility. I was told that yoga would cut me up and decrease my soreness from the gym and consent battle with injury. Its been over a year of practicing all types of yoga and mixing in the gym and this is the perfect duo!! Great post thank you.

  28. Diane says:

    I started a gym routine too, and I am loving it. And I hear you on how it benefits the yoga practice–my side planks could last the live long day! LOL!

    *slapping own wrist*"Bad yoga devotee! Bad!"

    Have fun and keep us posted 🙂

  29. yogi tobye says:

    I heard that Arnie (The Governator) had a yoga practice back when he was body building, to help with flexibility. So yeah, good work Jesse, keep those muscles strong and long!

  30. yogi tobye says:

    Oh yeah the side planks! I have to admit to being a bit of a show-off myself when it comes to those in the gym! lol

    Thanks Diane 🙂

  31. The gym (and the trail depending on the weather) and yoga are a good pair in my book as well. In the same way that yoga balances the physical and the spiritual…running and swimming have a very meditative quality for me as well. Nothing like cranking up the ipod, shutting down the monkey mind and running until you have nothing left! I am Pitta (dosha) incarnate though so a swim or even a few slow vinyasas make a necessary cool down.

    and yes – Burpees = awesome.

  32. Kip Devincentis says:

    They are great it was a great deal I have uase them and it all work on other them the phone these small shewdrive atr gre o anything small