"1. Yoga Mostly Sucks
I can only imagine how much hate mail I’m going to receive after saying what I’m about to say, but it has to be said. Ready?
Well, it doesn’t stink entirely; it just mainly stinks. Guess I just blew my shot at ever dating a yoga instructor.
Women are fascinated with yoga. Given the claims the majority of yoga “gurus” tout, it’s no wonder all these women are under the assumption that yoga will do everything from help them lose weight and get stronger to bringing sexy back.
The fact is, when it comes to general fitness and body compositional goals, most females want and/or need the following:
Decreased body fat
Improved daily/athletic function
Increased bone density
Lets break these down one by one and compare yoga to resistance training:
- Decreased Body Fat
In order to decrease body fat, you have to provide some sort of caloric deficit either through dieting or through increased caloric expenditure from physical activity (or some form of both). I’m going to leave the dieting component alone for now (I think women tend to drastically under-eat as it is), but I do want to elaborate on the latter component.
Yoga doesn’t cause a high (or acute) or post-exercise calorie expenditure, which is one of the main factors in fat loss. Many people equate sweating to burning a lot of calories. Sorry ladies, but just because you sweat a lot while taking a class in a 105 degree room doesn’t mean you’re burning a lot of calories. You wouldn’t say you’re burning that many calories sun bathing on the beach would you?
How many calories do you think you can burn standing or sitting in one spot for an hour, which is essentially what you do in a typical yoga class? Numerous studies have shown that resistance training elevates EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) for upwards of 24 to 48 hours after you’re done training.
Simply put, not only will you burn more calories during one hour of resistance training compared to one hour of yoga, but you’ll also burn more calories even when you’re not in the gym. More calories burned equals more body fat lost. I’ve yet to see one study which shows yoga does anything to increase EPOC significantly (if at all).
Additionally, yoga doesn’t provide resistance sufficient enough to increase or preserve lean body mass (LBM), which is directly correlated with metabolism and thus the rate at which you burn calories.
Yes, beginners might see transient increases in LBM in the beginning, but that’s mainly because most women who go from doing nothing to participating in yoga classes are so de-conditioned that their body weight elicits enough of a stimulus to cause a slight change.
- Increased Strength
As Vladimir Zatsiorsky states in his book, Science and Practice of Strength Training, muscular strength is defined as “the ability to overcome or counteract external resistance by muscular effort; also, the ability to generate maximum external force.” (1) In order to generate maximum force (get stronger), a trainee needs to incorporate one of three methods:
Maximum Effort Method: Lifting a maximum load (exercising against maximum resistance).
Repeated Effort Method: Lifting non-maximal load to failure (albeit still taking into consideration the rule of progressive overload. Relying on one’s body weight will only take you so far).
Dynamic Effort Method: Lifting a non-maximal load with the highest attainable speed.
The fact is, yoga isn’t easily “modifiable” to facilitate constant adaptation for strength gains, unless of course your girlfriend wants to gain weight (highly unlikely). Yoga will in fact develop strength to a point, but soon thereafter you’re just training strength endurance. If bodyweight is constant, then progressive resistance isn’t possible without adding an external load.
- Increased Bone Density
This is especially important for women because they’re at higher risk of developing osteoporosis compared to men (especially if they’re Caucasian, Asian, or slight of build).
In terms of stimulating new bone formation, what’s needed is something called a minimal essential strain (MES), which refers to a threshold stimulus that initiates new bone formation.
“A force that reaches or exceeds this threshold and is repeated often enough will signal osteoblasts to migrate to that region of the bone and lay down matrix proteins (collagen) to increase the strength of the bone in that area.” (2)
Furthermore, physical activities that generate forces exceeding the MES are those activities that represent an increase in intensity relative to normal daily activities. For sedentary or elderly individuals, this might be where yoga could be enough of a stimulus to cause an MES and new bone formation (bodyweight exceeds the threshold).
However, you still have to take into consideration the rule of progressive overload (bodyweight will only take them so far) and for younger or more active people, higher intensity activities such as sprinting, jumping, and heavy resistance training will need to be included to exceed MES.
Regardless of one’s training history or lifestyle, it’s clear that the activities chosen to increase bone density need to be progressive and weight bearing in nature. Yoga doesn’t do this.
- Improved Daily/Athletic Function
During a yoga class, you’re sitting and/or standing in one spot for 45 to 60 minutes. This will not equate to better efficiency or performance in daily life or on the athletic field. As an athlete your time is better spent elsewhere.
- Increased Flexibility
This one I’ll concede to yoga. It does help to improve flexibility, which is a good thing (sort of). Unfortunately, it tends to promote flexibility/mobility in areas of the body where it doesn’t need it!
I’ve worked with many clients with extended histories of lower back pain who start participating in yoga classes through the recommendation of a friend or worse yet, an uninformed physician. Their rationale: “All you need to do is stretch out your back.” Quite possibly the worst piece of advice to give.
As you can see from above, the lumbar spine (lower back) generally needs to be trained with stability in mind. Many of the poses in yoga promote hyperextension of the lumbar spine, which is the last thing it needs.
Most back issues are extension-based, which just means that an individual is getting more ROM (range of motion) at the lumbar spine due to lack of ROM at the hips. Essentially with yoga, you’re promoting more ROM (and thus instability) in a place where it needs less ROM (more stability).
Furthermore, what good is it to have all this extra mobility or ROM if you can’t stabilize in that range of motion in the first place? Having excessive ROM (in the wrong places) without the strength to stabilize that ROM actually predisposes people to injury.
So while yoga does enhance flexibility and mobility, resistance training actually facilitates movement through that range of motion, and provides the dynamic control to allow you to utilize the range of motion safely.
Commence the Hate Mail
I realize that what I wrote above is going to rub a lot of people the wrong way, but like I stated in the beginning, it had to be said. While yoga is an excellent modality to help improve the mind-body connection, and it certainly is a valuable tool in the “overall fitness toolbox,” it doesn’t hold a flame to resistance training as far as what the majority of women want/need from their time in the gym.
A good rule of thumb most women should follow would be to train three times per week while incorporating a healthy dose of soft tissue work and dynamic flexibility. Once all of that is met, then she can incorporate yoga into the mix."
Just some food for thought.