Yoga is not exercise.

There’s a yoga class at my gym. I am aware that this should cause me to find a new gym immediately but I have my reasons for staying. I hit the gym mid-morning so I can get it done for the day and not have to wait to use the squat rack. There are only a few of us in the gym that use the squat rack and most of those guys are around before or after work.

(Indecently, if you go to the gym but you don’t squat then you don’t go to the gym as far as I’m concerned. And my concerns count, man.)

Mid-morning is also the time when the yoga classes are scheduled. The class is made up of women, gay men, and older guys who haven’t exercised for their entire lives but are panicking now that the edge of mortality is beginning to creep its way into their vision.

I think that the old men in the gym who are only there because they are afraid to die is the saddest sight of all, sadder even than the post 40 Botox brigade. These guys are all flabby and frail, and they each enlist a personal trainer to help them through the process. Most of them go for one of the female trainers for obvious reasons, which makes the spectacle even sadder. Hitting the gym for the first time in your life in your mid-sixties is probably one of the greatest trials of futility imaginable.

It would be somewhat understandable if these guys were following a true strength building program, like the Starting Strength program or the five by five. But they’re not; they’re either following the dinky-dye bullshit weights program that the personal trainer give them, or they’re doing yoga.

Yoga is not exercise. Period. If done correctly, and nobody in a gym is doing yoga correctly, yoga is exercise for the mind. I practiced yoga for about five years back in the nineties so I know what I’m talking about. It has its benefits but it is not exercise. At all. Not even a little bit.

If you don’t sweat from exertion or pant from fatigue then you haven’t been exercising. Walking down the street is more exercise than doing an entire yoga class. And yet these guys come out of the class flushed with satisfaction that they are doing the right thing. That they have got the old ticker beating just that little bit faster. That maybe, just maybe, they’ll be able to see the grandkiddies hit puberty.

Sometimes I briefly consider saying something. I could point out to them one of the true strength training programs that would actually make a difference. But they wouldn’t believe me and even if they did it would just piss off whichever clueless personal trainer was working with them. Fuck me the trainers are useless. I see people in the gym all the time who have the most terrible form and yet these trainers just breeze past without a second glance.

Or what about the obvious new guy in the gym? You know the one; he’s barely eighteen, scrawny as all get out, and has decided to “get in shape”. So he comes at a quiet time so he doesn’t feel too self conscious and he spends an hour wandering from machine to machine with a confused look that is so obvious due to his attempts to hide it. He’ll sit at the cable row and do a few pulls, and then he’ll wander over to some leg press and do a few little presses, and then he’ll wander here, and wander there, and pretty soon I just want to kill myself.

A few times I do speak up. I spoke to this young kid the other day. My opening line was, “You don’t know what you’re doing, do you.” It’s the best line because if they arc up then I know that I can stop right there and go back to what I was doing. This kid didn’t though. He looked sheepish and nodded. I told him to give me his phone and I found one of the sites that I mentioned earlier. “Follow that,” I said. I then named the one trainer in the gym that has half a clue and told him to see that guy for form issues.

The trainer thanked me the next week. Turns out the kid had signed up with him. But nobody who works at the gym was going to do it themselves. They’d just walk past this struggling kid without a second glance. And people wonder why their businesses fail.

As for yoga, if I see the kid in the class I’ll yank him out of there. If you’re going to dedicate time in the gym then make it count. Jerking off isn’t sex but it feels good and you can kid yourself into believing that it is. Same with yoga.

21 thoughts on “Yoga is not exercise.

  1. Yoga is also good for posture, flexibility and lower back problems. I reckon fitness has four quarters – resistance, cardio, flexibility and mind. Yoga is for the latter two.
    I was that skinny kid once. No one working at the gym helped me out. I remember trying to ask a trainer how to do something but he was too busy chatting up a female customer. I figured out form by looking at YouTube.
    My company has a free gym which is always empty when I go but no squat rack. My work-around involves dumbbells and a large backback filled with barbell weights. Convoluted but does the trick.

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  2. David

    I started Bikram yoga a number of years ago and I cant tell you how good it was for me, my cross country running performance increased immensely, my flexibility had me feeling like a young man, and I could feel the stretches targeting old injuries that had never quite healed. I now try to do a session a week with three days crossfit and one day running. To be honest I wish I had started it earlier than my mid forties.
    I think you are letting your prejudices decide this issue.

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  3. danno

    Gotta disagree. I went to a hot yoga class with the wife and thought I was gonna die. My fitbit showed a heart rate of 160 before the sweat gushing out from every pore of my body interfered with the monitor. I was thinking “I lift weights 3 or 4 times a week and do cardio the other days and I’m gonna die in a yoga class in front of my wife and a bunch of women who are 20 years younger than me.” (I’m in my 50s). Of course, I never really did yoga before and had no idea what the hell to do when the instructor called out a pose.

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  5. Bob Sutherland

    As a recent septagerian who has spent most of his life sitting behind a steering wheel or in front of a computer/TV I’m not so much into YOGA but GOYA (Get Off Your Arse). Walking and swimming have always bored the crap out of me but I’m finding a 5k daily regimen (yes, I’ve put the n on that last word) of stand-up paddling thoroughly beneficial. Recommend to anyone with a waterway handy.

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  6. Couldn’t agree with you more. And the worst time to see all the panicking pack-rats is the period of New Years Resolution–which lasts briefly(Jan-March) due to people’s unwavering ability these days to quit on anything worth doing– where the gym is just flooded with the double-hundo’s looking like they are about to drop a lung and a fart of defeat.

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  8. Good, thought-provoking article.

    I think many people over 25-30 would be in better shape if they did warm or hot yoga (Western or American-style, I don’t know much about true Indian yoga). Whether yoga qualifies as exercise or not, many people over the age of 30-35 would most likely be in better condition if they incorporated stretching, breath work, balancing and body-weight exercises into their week. Western-style yoga utilitizes all of these things.

    My exercise priorities are soccer, weightlifting, swimming, biking (for transportation), basketball and yoga. When my body feels out of wack (I’m in my early 40s), I use the foam-roller, do yoga or get a massage. But I would rather be playing soccer. For me, yoga 1-2x a week, weights 2-3x, biking 3-4x, soccer 1-2x a week is currently optimal.

    And I recently switched to low-weight power cleans. Sadly, my squat form never seems to be quite right and I keep tweaking a knee.

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  9. Jane Cook

    I am in my late sixties and was an arobics teacher I swam 3 times weekly . I have had 2 full knee replacements within the last 10 years all due to step arobics and daily gym workouts throughout my younger days. I now attend Chair Yoga and it is an excercise for the body as well as the mind. I sweat after my yoga and feel the muscles i have worked on. BUT watch out you Exercise “People” Ur in for a physical rough ride when older.

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    1. I have no clue what chair yoga is but I am reasonably certain that it is not yoga. In my article did you see the words ‘chair’ and ‘yoga’ together at any point? The reason that you didn’t is because I was talking about yoga.

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  10. Rex Ford

    I strongly disagree. I have worked out and played sport my whole life (I am 46 now) and picked up yoga about 2 years ago and it has enhanced my health and improved my other workouts in immeasurable ways. I am not much fitter than I was before and I give a lot of credit to yoga. I highly recommend it.

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    1. I heartily agree with that conclusion. Notice that every rebuttal regarding his slander of yoga draws the response “well that’s not really yoga.” Idiot indeed.

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      1. I’ve “slandered” yoga, have I? Oh my Lordy. I suppose I had better go out and get a good attorney so I can be ready for the moment when yoga sues me.

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