That Time Teacher Eric Paskel Gave Up Yoga for the Gym...

5 lessons one teacher learned from his adventures in cross-training. The most important? Yoga still rocks.
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5 lessons one teacher learned from his adventures in cross-training. The most important? Yoga still rocks.
yoga teacher Eric Paskel

My name is Eric Paskel, and I have the privilege of being a yoga teacher. While 2 million people were hashtagging #yogaeverydamnday, I took 90 days to check out the “fitness” world. For you asana-goers, that means the G.Y.M. When I told my editor at Yoga Journal, she asked, “What did you find out?” Here it is, yoga community. Learn just what over-dosing on studio classes opened my eyes to. From abs to adrenaline, the gym’s got nothing on asana man.

Spinning is Soulless

Spinning. After spin class I was still "spun." After 60 minutes of pedaling my ass off while listening to someone shouting, “Harder!” “Higher!” “Faster!” “Longer!” I felt like I was in bed with a partner I couldn't please. Yes, the class worked out my legs and butt, but what about the other parts of my body? My core and arms were forlorn, neglected. Now it was the bad lover I was reminded of...

Lesson Learned:

Spinning left me sweaty and searching for some spiritual takeaway.

Crossed Up or Crossfit?

A big part of my adventure was spent taking cross-training or circuit-training classes; now called CrossFit if you’re cool. Much like spinning, these total-body-toning teachers seemed focused on some false promises. Repeatedly, I heard that whatever I was doing in the moment would continue to burn calories when I wasn’t working out (HUH?). And apparently, the new thing is making the class duration a convenient 45 minutes but claiming that’s the optimal workout length? Bull$#!! If you are athletic—or ADHD!—these classes can challenge and engage you. But I am both...so what was I missing?

Lesson Learned:

I long for community. In yoga, there is a signature undercurrent of empathy: Come as you are, leave the negative behind, here’s the loving touch you didn’t find today.

Kicked Around.

Kickboxing wasn’t new for me, but it had been a while since I punched and kicked my calories away. And let the record show that I think martial arts are powerful, beautiful and can be evolutionary for development. But this wasn’t the zen-inducing archery-esque class I was hoping for. Instead I wound up putting faces on the punching bags and reinforcing my own resentment toward a slim few.

Lesson Learned:

This kind of blood-boiling bag-beating only leaves me exhausted mentally and emotionally.

Barred.

Barre, Shape, Sculpt classes by any variety of branded, creatively named moniker, left me feeling emotionally misshapen. Despite the need to go back to redefine my currently decent—by adult male and yoga standards—shape.

Lesson Learned:

Sculpting my a$$ didn't stop me from being an a$$. And none of it helped to shape a better life for me.

Asana Man's Assessment

If you are looking to get a work out and work your issues out, there is still only one class for all of us. One-stop shopping for your mind, body and intellect? That's a dynamic, button-pushing, badass yoga class, of course.

Want to get more out of your yoga? Here are some tips on how to get a meaty, deep, emotionally and physically challenging class that’s slightly less chaotic than cross-fit-sculpt fusion.

1. Find an instructor who isn't there to be liked.

2. Try a few classes and pick the one that makes you feel like a better person when you walk out of the room.

Meditate on this: We have such limited time in the day, spend it on what's most important to you. Being fit is up there, but is it worth sacrificing the calm, serenity and sweetness a yoga class provides? I'll give up some tightness in my arms, so I'm not such a tight ass. I will most happily sacrifice burning a few more calories, so I can learn how to not burn myself out any longer.

Lesson Learned:

Yoga still rocks.

Eric Paskel is founder and owner of Yoga Shelter and a presenter at Yoga Journal LIVE!