In defense of yoga

I’ve been doing some level of yoga for about seven years now. If you care about how I got from then until now, check out this post.

In no way do I consider myself a yoga expert. In fact, I’m lucky if I make it to two classes a week. I’m not someone who wakes up and does yoga every morning — or even once in awhile — at home. But, I am someone who gets a little antsy if I have to miss out on a class for more than a couple weeks at a time. I am someone who knows the meaning of — and craves — the yoga high. And I am someone who will proudly defend yoga to anyone who says it’s not a workout.

Last week, I was headed to yoga and stopped at the salon for a little brow wax action. Upon leaving, the waxer asked if I wanted a free make-up application and I politely refused, saying I was on my way to yoga and I’d just sweat it off anyway. She looked at me quizzically and said: You sweat in yoga?

This isn’t the first time someone has said that to me. Usually, I don’t think much of it and go on about my business. But, this particular time came on the heels of another incident.

A couple months ago, I had a routine doctor’s visit. He asked how much exercise I get and I told him that I try to do cardio a couple times a week and that I try to get to yoga once or twice a week.

He replied: Is yoga really considered working out?

It was all I could do not to launch into a tirade. How is it that a legitimate health professional doesn’t understand that yoga is indeed exercise?!

So, between the waxer and the doctor, I’m feeling a renewed sense of defending the sport I love. Most of my friends are cardio junkies — they love running and biking. I sometimes feel like they turn their noses up at yoga. After all, isn’t it just stretching?

Well, yes, it is. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a series of movements that require you to use your own body as resistance. In essence, for me, it’s 60-75 minutes of weight training with a 125 pound weight.

It’s a whole different kind of bench pressing. In 90+ degree heat.

After all, take this pose. It looks pretty simple, right? The model looks all calm and peaceful. But, what you’re not seeing is how this pose feels as you balance on one foot and throw the other one as high as you can in a fight against gravity. Sure, it’s a hamstring stretch. But, in addition to stretching, you’re using every leg, core, and arm muscle you own. And typically, you’re doing this pose midway through a yoga class that has already worked your glutes, quads and core to the max.

But, you’ve got to do it and you’ve got to hold it for more than a second or two. Most likely, you’ve got to hold it for 3-5 deep breaths, unless you’re in the middle of a Vinyasa flow, in which case you may get out of it after one breath, but you’ve got to transition to another pose, like this one. Which also looks relatively easy. But, again, you’re not seeing how it feels. And the alignment issues that you have to take into consideration while hoisting your arm and leg in the air. Or the sweat that’s pooling on your mat, making it nearly impossible to stay upright — much less balanced — without slipping. And those leg, core, and arm muscles that are literally screaming at you to stop what you’re doing and go have a brownie.

I may not be able to run a marathon or bike 100 miles, but I sweat when I work out. In fact, I sweat more while doing yoga than I ever have while doing cardio. I sweat to the point that it’s rolling off my face in buckets, dropping in puddles around my mat.

I also burn calories. In a one hour class, I burn the same amount or more calories than I do after 30 minutes on an elliptical. And of course, I tone muscle. I won’t lie, I’ve got a pretty sexy bum. If I could get to class with any regularity, I’d probably be able to find my six pack. And the definition in my arms continues to grow with every push up I do — because, yes, we do push-ups in yoga.

Now I’m not saying that yoga is superior to running or biking or any traditional exercise out there. But I am saying that yoga shouldn’t be dismissed as a legitimate form of exercise. I definitely believe that I need to work on endurance so that I can run longer than two minutes without wanting to die. But, I’d also tell my runner friends — and my waxer, and my doctor — that they’d be surprised by yoga. That not only would it stretch their weary legs, but it’d give their weary legs (and arms and abs) a kick in the glutes.

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9 Comments

Filed under peeves, rambling nature, rants, Y is for Yoga

9 responses to “In defense of yoga

  1. Your DOCTOR said that? That astounds me. I’ve heard most of these arguments as well, mostly by cocky men who spend 3 hours at the gym, but a doctor? Wow. That would have pissed me off. I have started getting a little crabby every time someone says “well isn’t it just stretching?” because honestly, a lot of them would struggle in their first few yoga classes. They might have the strength but they might not have the flexibility and the balance.

    I took my Mom with me to a yoga class a few weeks ago (slow flow). She had never been and was in shock at what a work out she got. I bet a lot of people who don’t see it as a serious exercise would have the same thing happen to them. It’s a lot harder, and much more fulfilling, than they think! Plus, you leave feeling amazing.

  2. My doctor is not a yoga fan too. She said it was not cardio based or do anything physical for me. I defended it too but now that thought is ingrained in my head.

    • A Super Girl

      It does all depend on what health/exercise outcomes you’re striving for. But it should never be discounted as something that’s good for you!

  3. I have just started doing yoga after years of traditional cardio and weight training, and even with my relatively high level of fitness it is a major workout! I love how much it challenges me and uses new muscles all the time. I also love how yoga uses more natural movement to tone muscles – I kind of hate that people think the best way to tone their arms is standing still doing curls – have you ever seen someone move like that in real life? Or a sumo squat? Seriously? You know that yoga works for you and there are plenty of knowledgeable people out the who do to – maybe you should take comments like that as an opportunity to inform people about the major benefits of yoga?

  4. ria

    i adore yoga, it’s hard. just has hard as running or biking in it’s own way. people who’ve never tried it are ignorant

  5. I think anyone who mocks yoga or even questions it has never tried it or never done it correctly. I do think it offers different benefits from pure cardio. But, it’s most definitely exercise, without a doubt!

  6. There are so many misconceptions about yoga, especially from people who have never done it and know nothing about it. My biggest pet peeve is when people who know nothing about a subject like to make judgements about that subject. I’d like to see those folks try some of those poses in 90 degree heat and then hear what they have to say about it 🙂

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