Saturday, April 9, 2011

Yoga is not a synonym for stretching!!!!

I have a bunch pretty fit friends who bike, run, hike, swim, run marathons, compete in triathalons, rock climb, kick box, ski at a competitive level, lift heavy weights, you name it. When I told them I've switched from mix martial arts to yoga, to them I sound like I've gone from an abled-bodied person to a wheel chair- bound granny. I notice they way they see look at me, they manner they talk to me have subtly transformed. Some of them would gingerly ask me, "Is yoga enough of a work out for you?" When I replied "yes", that seemed to only confirm their suspicions that I've dropped 10 fold in my fitness level. It seems like they longer have common topics to chat with me. I've "gone to the dark side". To make me feel better, when I meet up with some of these friends, they would tell me, "Hey, I did some yoga this morning. It felt great!" Or, "I try to do some yoga after my gym workouts now; I can see it's good for me."

What the heck am I supposed to answer? Yes people - stretching is good for you - especially in the morning and after exercising. But just because you did a few stretches that somewhat resembled some sort of yoga poses (and I bet you probably held them for less than 5 breaths.. did you even breath while you stretched?) does not mean you were "doing yoga". Even if that's about as much "yoga" as you're ever planning to do, fine. But please don't assume that simple stretching is all I do in my yoga practice.

There was a guy who told me he would like to try a yoga class with me but he's afraid he would get bored. Hmm.. I've never heard of anyone who died of boredom from ONE yoga class. When I asked him why he would feel bored (if he thinks the poses would be too easy - if he has zero attention span and canNOT manage to focus on his breath), there was no clarification. Fine, I won't force anyone to endure the hardship of boredom if one feels so strongly about it.

Then there are those who tell me yoga is boring stretching that does not even count as a warm up, but, hey, they've heard of HOT yoga - now THAT's something challenging! Yes yes, hot yoga is great for type A sporty people who are scared of stretchy peace-talking chanting meditation yoga. Why don't you actually try one class out? I'll even suck it up and go to a Bikrams class with you! And no, hot yoga is not the best type of yoga for improving flexibility, because your flexibility only temporarily improves in the heat -- try Yin and Ashtanga! And you need to stick with it! ONE class will not open up your hips permanently!

Can you tell I'm frustrated today? :P  Guess I'll keep on working on my utplutih, where I noticed observable improvements in my arm strengths over the past year, versus the crap push ups I've been doing with my friends for years which got me so far but didn't help me do proper chaturangas when I first started yoga.

Inhale... breath in fresh air and happy thoughts. Exhale.... let go of anger and judgement. I feel better now, thanks for asking :)


  1. People ask me all the time what I do to stay in shape. Often, when I tell them I do yoga, they don't believe me (like I'm keeping some super fitness secret to myself) or they choose to believe that I must be one of those "naturally toned" people (because I couldn't POSSIBLY be this healthy and strong due to hard work and dedication).

    Don't let your friends' dismissive attitude toward yoga bother you. Just let them keep admiring your toned shoulders, six-pack abs, and steady mind. Eventually, they'll come around.

  2. I'm currently in a yoga teacher training program. People ask me all kinds of odd questions, moreso than when I was just a student attending classes. So much of it has to do with how yoga has been sold and marketed - and how the popular programs have mostly stripped away all the spiritual and turned it into an exercise routine.

    I write about this stuff on my blog sometimes. And sometimes I get pissed. And sometimes, I indulge the questions about fitness. And sometimes I say nothing.

    The thing is, people are going to misunderstand no matter what you do. I'm also a Zen Buddhist, and just saying the word Zen brings all kinds of garbage with it.

    In the end, I try to educate those who seem open, and leave the rest to do and think as they will. But mostly, I just keep practicing and living all of it as best as I can.

  3. I get that all the time too, and it may be a little worse for me when it comes to ribbing and jesting. Even the girls snicker. I tend to ignore most of it now since I'm first and foremost happy with my myself; their judgements don't matter there. I also ignore them when they whine about pulling/tweaking something and/or "needing more strength."

    Which reminds me: I really need to get to swimming when it gets warmer. I haven't even done spin since February!

  4. @Megan, thanks! I think I need to work on that steady mind even more than toning my muscles!

    @Nathan, you're right. The word Zen probably does bring up some unwarranted preconceived notions, much like the word "yoga".

    @Jethero, I need to be more like you an be content with my lifestyle choice, and thanks for the reminder. My friends do pull/sprain muscles quite a lot :)