5 Myths About Yoga
Updated: Nov 22, 2020
Yoga Is A Full Body Workout
Yoga is marketed as a great full-body workout, but there is one large part of the body that yoga misses. The Back (and biceps). There is simply no way in for yoga movements to target the lats, rhomboids, traps, rear deltoid or external rotator cuff muscles in a way that would cause the muscles to grow or get stronger. The anterior upper body gets a lot of work between chaturanga push ups, hand stand practice, inversions, and isometric work. Pushing the body away from the earth requires a lot of force, but there is no way to pull the body towards the earth. Our society has a big problem with being anteriorly dominated. The chair at our desk, the couch in our living room, and the seat of our car all keep our hips in flexion. The laptop on our desk and our phone in our hands round our shoulders forward. Everything we do rounds our body forward and we have to take extra precaution to ensure we train the backside of our bodies. When the asanas of yoga were first developed, they did not account for 21st century technology and work habits.
“If you want shoulders that aren’t chronically broken down and pissed off, you better hammer the backsides of your shoulders.” - Dr. John Rusin.
Front-side shoulder pain is now the most common shoulder pain in the active population. He also adds that we should train the row pattern 3x as much as we push to account for our daily posture habits. This means pull-ups, deadlifts, seated rows, DB rows, reverse flys, and band work for shoulders. It means training these 3x more than we train push-ups, shoulder press, and chest press. The secondary muscle group of the biceps will also be targeted in these movement patterns which is beneficial as well since yoga has no way of training the biceps. To bring this full-circle: Yoga is not a full-body workout because it fails to target the back in the same way it targets the chest, triceps, and anterior deltoid. Because of this and the posture habits we have as a society, it is crucial that yoga is supplemented with back and rear shoulder work in the gym to stay healthy and balanced.
Handstands and Flexibility Are Indications Of Being Good At Yoga
What does it even mean to be good at yoga? In order to be good that means that someone has to be bad relative to your goodness. However, yoga isn’t about competition with others. Yoga is about self-study. The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj, means to yoke or bind, and is often interpreted as "union" or a method of discipline. Sri K Pattabhi Jois, a South Indian yoga master, wrote that yoga has several meanings. Among them are: relation, a means, union, knowledge, matter, and logic. In the yoga sutras, Patanjanli states that yoga is an upaya, a path. The idea of upaya is linked with the sense of relation to self. Which brings me to the point that yoga is about our own relationship with our body, breath, mind, emotions, and sense of purpose. Through self-awareness and self-study we gain more self-confidence and comfort with who we are. It is NOT about doing handstands and being able to touch your toes to your head. Those images are cool and they show someone that might have good body awareness, but it fails to grasp the benefits and true value of yoga.
"Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” –The Bhagavad Gita
It is a path and journey unique to you.
Meditating Is Religious
Meditating has a stigma rooted in mysticism and religion. The first image that pops into my mind is of someone crossed-legged on a mountain top, sitting still with their thumb and index finger touching. As meditation has gotten more popular as a way to help with mental health, society is starting to accept it as a great tool to stay healthy. I like to think that meditation helps my mind the same way a foam roller or massage helps my body. The dictionary defines meditation as thinking deeply or focusing one's mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation. Meditation’s root word in latin is to “meditari,” which means to ponder. Other synonyms of pondering are contemplative, rumination, study, reflect, or muse. Whether you are religious or not, meditation can be used to help you focus the mind and stay present. Being present with your thoughts or breath is a great way to center someone dealing with mild depression or anxiety.
Yoga Is A Great Way To Build Strength
Strength is a relative term which is why we see this sentence thrown around. Core strength is different than squatting 500lbs. And even then, I’d rather do farmers walks with kettlebells than use 1,000 minutes of planks to practice stabilizing my core. Saying yoga is a great way to build strength is a lot like saying walking is a great way to travel. Sure, walking is a great way to travel across the street. But if you are looking to genuinely get stronger and lift heavier weight and increase power, yoga is about as good at building strength as walking is when traveling across the country. Can you do it? Sure… I guess. But there are more efficient ways to build strength. In yoga you are limited by the weight of your body. To properly strength-train, you have to increase the intensity of the exercise. This is most commonly done by increasing weight. If you lift 50lbs consistently, the body will adapt and you will need to lift 55lbs in order to keep growing. The only way to progress in yoga is to do more push-ups (chaturangas) or more lunges. But nobody has time for 1,000 push-ups in a class. Therefore, strength will plateau relatively soon if you only practice yoga.
Yoga Is Feminine
Type in “yoga” into a Google images search and you’ll see 90% of the images as women. Humans are susceptible to marketing. That’s why every business has marketing teams. That’s why we all own iPhones. It’s understandable that men would feel apprehensive towards yoga. It has been marketed in the West as something that skinny women do. It’s been marketed as something mystic and accessible only to those capable of doing the splits. I described what yoga really is earlier in this article. It would be naive to say that yoga isn’t mainstream when companies like lululemon and Alo decorate the legs of a majority of women going to the gym and the men’s line for lululemon is growing rapidly. However, there is a difference between people wearing athleisure that is tied to yoga and actually practicing yoga. The most recent data shows that for every 10 yoga practitioners, roughly 3 are men. I would argue that the 3/10 number gets smaller when you dig into frequency and when you extrapolate practicing yoga vs stretching for ten minutes with YouTube videos. Yoga has a stigma around it, but in reality it is something that a lot of top athletes practice is some form or another. There are numerous people that work with professional athletes every day that teach some form of yoga or breathing. Check out the work of the below: Dana Santas the “Mobility Maker.” Jana Webb of Joga. Dean Pohlman of ManFlowYoga Kent Katich of AllSportsYoga. You can listen to my podcast I did with Audrey Sutton-Mills who has worked with MLB and PGA players. There are also numerous articles calling out the different athletes and teams that utilize yoga for their athletes recovery and performance. Ten athletes that practice yoga via stack.com USA today article on football players. SI.com article on the NBA and yoga.
It’s important that these myths are debunked because they prevent people from enjoying the benefits of yoga and understanding where yoga needs to be supplemented. If more people practiced yoga, meditated, and felt it was more accessible the world would be a better place. If more people understood the limitations of yoga, they would be able to try better alternatives to building a stronger and healthier body.
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