Give Yoga a Break and Do Something Else Already

Thanks freedigitalphotos.net
Thanks freedigitalphotos.net

Yes, we looooove Yoga and its framework for slow, methodical physical exploration is the one we prefer for many physical rehab scenarios.  But… some people seem to  think that once you start doing yoga it’s the ONLY mode of movement to do.  Why?  Well, one reason of many, is the widely-held belief that yoga can take care of all your physical and mental (and for some, emotional) needs.  Yoga is also a seductive alternative for those who may be intimidated by other types of exercise, since it is usually deemed as “safe.” People who take it for this reason falsely believe that things like running or picking up a weight might make them herniate a disk or explode a joint.  Yoga then becomes THE magical movement pill.  If you do yoga you can get fit, lose weight, perform better as an athlete, reduce stress, get better sleep, become a better person, have better sex…save whales.  Just kidding.  We want to save whales, but yoga may or may not actually help with that cause.

The problem is that yoga WILL NOT solve everything for you.  Why?  Because, no one movement modality does (and please don’t even try to bring up CrossFit).  Enough has been written in this post to start making some people uncomfortable.  These statements are made to disabuse many out there of the mistaken belief that yoga is all you need or should do.  If you want to dialogue/fight about this please leave comments below.  We invite dialogue.  To keep the structure of this conversation organized and less like a tangent several distinct points will be addressed succinctly:

dance
freedigitalphotos.net
  • Yoga can help me stay “fit,” “in shape,” “help me lose weight,”-  There is nothing wrong with wanting yoga-inspired fitness.  Indeed, some the schools of yoga are distinctly more athletic than others.  But one must be clear when using common vernacular such as “fit.” For now, let’s assume we are talking about keeping what most of society would consider an ideal weight and body aesthetic (see. we are hedging and using language very carefully here, because this subject already gets complicated and is sensitive for many, as well as subjective in nature).  In order to keep up this ideal there has to be a demand placed on the physical body to exert energy and there must be challenge that a typical and long-held yoga practice most likely will not provide.  There are many yoga classes that are now including jumping (plyometrics) and increasingly more physically demanding challenges in order to satisfy those who want to keep the dream of exercise through yoga alive.  Bravo!  Those classes are probably great, but also cross a fine line between what is yoga (which for us is a physical practice that allows one to learn more about the body and is less about performance) and what is an exercise class.  Again, it’s ok to want yoga-inspired fitness, as long as one is cognizant of when exercise is being performed to “burn calories,” or “keep fit,” “lose weight.” Once you’ve crossed that line one is no longer doing the methodical and focused practice that (should) characterize yoga. There are many inve$ted in keeping you believing this.  Yoga Journal even published a study proving that yoga can do this for you.

Bottom line: BEWARE the people who claim to help “raise your metabolism” doing traditional yoga.  If this is the line they are trying to sell they are either blatantly lying and don’t care or don’t know about current exercise science. so much to say here, but we’ll stop…email us for more details

Here’s an article we think validly talks about how yoga can help you lose weight:  No such thing as a stupid question… BUT…., by Anacostia Yogi.

  • Yoga has enough variety of movement to fulfill all my physical needs – This is NOT true if we are talking about a yoga practice defined by the canon of traditional asana or the typical way yoga classes are presently being taught in the United States.   Most yoga classes are taught in a very 2-dimensional way, literally.  Typically, students only get to explore movement that has them moving up/down and front/back through space.  There is not much (if any) concentric movement that include all the 3 planes of space (up/down, front/back and side/side).  That’s ok, as long as students are aware of this missing movement they are skipping over in classes.  That’s when you can go do something else that creates that physical demand of 3-D spatial exploration like gyrotonics or dance.  Most of our joints move 3-dimensionally, so why would you not allow them to be used in such a way that would keep them balanced, happy and useful as you age???!  Sticking to only one form of movement also means placing limitations on theneuromuscular patterns the body/mind will have to choose from on a daily basis.  So if you also want to reduce your chances of degenerative brain diseases, like Alzheimer’s, variety of movement is the spice of life.  Many websites that discuss how to lower one’s chances of becoming a victim to this awful and tragic disease is exercise.  Of course, the obvious conclusion is the “healthier my body is the better that is  for me as a person overall.”  True, but also, it is becoming more and more understood that a key to brain health is also placing a learning demand that is varied. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s level of flexibility, which in part, has to do with how well we learn or recover from major traumas like a stroke.

Bottom line:  The more variety of movement you include in your physical demand repertoire the more movement choices available to you, which also keeps your brain healthy.  Flexible body/flexible mind and vice versa.

  • Stop doing yoga and get a fresh perspective! – Having a long-standing yoga practice can be a wonderfully enriching part of one’s life.  But it can also breed a familiarity with the movements that can be stifling to one’s exploration of the body.  Doing something, anything completely different can benefit your practice when you return to the mat.  When you give yourself a little space from yoga you can return to it with a fresh set of eyes and a new appreciation for your experience.  It’s good to practice with a “beginner’s mind,” a term used in Zen Buddhism.  There is no opportunity for learning if one knows it all.  Give yourself the opportunity to feel something new by stepping away from the mat. Also, the better you get at other physical activities the better you might get at the more athletic aspects of your yoga practice.  Learn how to do push ups well and your chaturangas may benefit from your additional experience and strength gained off the mat.So stop confusing yoga with exercise and go do something else.

 

Leave a comment