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Isn’t Yoga Just Stretching?

“Isn’t yoga just stretching?”

Short Answer:  Nope.

Long Answer:  As a yoga instructor I am asked this question quite frequently and it has become my least favorite.  The truth is that a large portion of yoga does include, require, and improve flexibility, but there is far more to this form of fitness than just that.  It’s hard to believe yoga can do anything beside help you bend when most photos feature women bent in half backwards. The contrast between that and ripped dudes lifting 400 pounds over their head can make it seem like yoga doesn’t do anything for your muscles.  There are many things we need to address. Women can lift 400 pounds too, men can bend over backward, and yoga is more than just stretching.

When I think about yoga practice I often picture a highly repetitive routine with a lot of hand standing, arm balancing, back-flips, blood, sweat, and tears.  I suppose it’s fair to say that not everyone thinks the same things that I do. I consider it a responsibility to explain that yoga is a really challenging practice.

I suppose, what I want to say is that you don’t need to lift weights to get ripped (nor do you need to get ripped to be strong, but that’s another topic).  And getting ripped isn’t the only thing that is important.

“What is yoga good for anyway?”

Short answer: Everything

Long Answer: Yoga improves virtually all forms of performance attributes and promotes wellness.  To be specific, yoga lends itself to four very specific performance attributes: Strength, Balance, Mobility, and Flexibility.  Performance attributes are commonly referred to as the skills needed to be an athlete, but the truth is that each of these are ways you can strengthen the body and make daily living a little simpler.

Yoga requires an incredible amount of core control and coordination; it requires to stand on one foot until your foot cramps so much you can’t walk; it forces you to reach your triceps past your ears and increase your end range mobility; and most of all, it gives you the ability to touch your toes.  Yoga is an all-around killer form of fitness.

“Do you teach traditional yoga?”

Short Answer: Yep

Long Answer:  There are many different styles of yoga to suit the many different bodies of practitioners.  But yoga, more than any other form of fitness, is rooted deeply in thousands of years of practice.  If tradition is the transmission of customs or belief passed down from generation to generation then yoga is just that.  I cannot speak to every teacher, but I can tell you exactly why my yoga looks the way it does. My teachings derive from Sri Pattabhi Jois, who codified Ashtanga.  Most all my sequences are modeled after Barron Baptist who practice under Jois. But the truth is that all yoga is traditional.

When asked, the word ‘tradition’ is used to say “not aerobic” or “not cardio”.  But yoga is aerobic.  The founding principal and ultimate energy source of yoga is the breath. And depending on whose teaching it could be fast or slow pace.  Sometimes slow paced means laying on the ground for an hour with 20 props. Sometimes fast means that you will be sweating, and it will burn, and you won’t be able to do all the poses.  Remember that all forms of yoga are valid, and simply because a class doesn’t match what you’re looking for doesn’t make it any less of a yoga class.

“Isn’t yoga easy?”

Short Answer: You, clearly, have never taken a yoga class.

Long answer: There is yoga that will kick your butt.  There is yoga that will challenge your cardiovascular endurance.  There is yoga that will make you sweat, test your stamina, and your willpower.  There are sections of yoga that have handstands and arm balances scattered throughout the sequence.  These practices are geared toward building fire. These are practices where asana (poses) are aggressive and forceful.  There are forms of yoga where you will not be able to do every pose. And you should know that this form of practice is just as traditional as sitting in a pretzel among a cloud of incense chanting “Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu”.

“Why should I do a million forward folds?”

Short Answer: Because repetition is the mantra of the Body

Long Answer: ASCEND is an all-around fitness hub.  Read the banner. We are here to give you the best experience of climbing, fitness, and yoga.  It’s always great to come out to the South Side and get in a couple of good climbs with some buddies.  We’re here to make that accessible to you.

But without proper training, you’ll start to develop muscle imbalances.  That is why we have plenty of fitness and cross training instructors here to kick your butt into shape and make sure you’re putting the work in.  They’re here to make sure that your training your body effectively and consistently to keep you from causing self-harm.

But without stretching you’re going to end up with Pumped-up Macho Bod.  You know what I’m talking about. Those guys who walk around the gym and can’t seem to put their arms down by their sides. That’s why we have yoga.  Our yoga instructors are all phenomenal. We treat the ASCEND Yoga Studio the same as (if not better than) other yoga studios. We are mindful of our students, their needs, and their injuries.

And these are just three of the categories we have.  Don’t get me started on our clubs!

Look.

Yoga isn’t just in the ASCEND tagline for fun.  And we didn’t put a studio in the gym just so you’d have another thing to sign up for.  We believe that yoga is necessary.  And yes, yoga will improve your climbing game.  It will increase your mobility making it possible to take crazy holds and reaches. It will increase your endurance and keep you from getting pumped.  But yoga is so much more than that.

Practicing yoga will improve your day to day living just like running or lifting weights or training or climbing.  And there are things you can get from yoga you simply cannot get from other forms of fitness.

Yoga is not just stretching. It’s a means of being well.  Still have questions? Come to class and we’ll tell you all about it.

 

-Levi Redcross