Tony Takes a Yoga Class – Part II

Share This:

For those who missed it, yesterday I rehashed some of my (admittedly early in my career, albeit I still agree with 95% of it) thoughts on yoga.  And, what’s more, I left everyone in a bit of cliffhanger, stating that I did, in fact, attend my very first yoga class this past weekend.

To recap:

1.  Much of my “beef” with yoga is how it’s incessantly marketed towards women as the end-all/be-all of health and well-being.  It plays a part, but some of it’s claims are grossly embellished.

  • Long, lean muscles?  Sorry, but unless you’re Professor Dumbledore (which would be awesome) and can somehow change the attachment points of a muscle on a bone, you’re not lengthening anything.
  • Getting less fat?  Probably.  Lengthening a muscle?  Muhahahahahahaha.  That’s a good one.

2.  Given what most (not all) women are looking to accomplish with their bodies – lower body fat levels, increased bone density, increased LBM, to name a few – strength training trumps yoga in every aspect.

3.  I’m a strength coach, and as such, I’m going to advocate that people strength train. Well, duh!?!  Still, I’d be remiss to turn my back on the many benefits of yoga, and I’ll come to a compromise and state that it’s a component of a well-rounded routine……..

…..but not a whole.

4.  While I didn’t state this originally, I’d like to point out that as much as I may poo-poo on some aspects of yoga, much of the same can be said about any realm of fitness – whether we’re talking about massage therapists, manual therapist, strength coaches, or “celebrity” trainers.

There are plenty of personal trainers out there who don’t know their ass from their acetabulum that have their de-conditioned clients jump around on a BOSU ball.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

5.  And finally…….WTF! I took a freakin yoga class!  That’s saying something, right? I mean, there are plenty of internet warriors out there not using their real names who talk a big game while sitting in their parent’s basement that never do or take part in whatever it is they’re trashing.

I don’t want to be one of those people.

Today, to change the pace, I’d rather steer clear of any bashing or anything else that may be misconstrued as “anti-yoga.”  Instead, I want to discuss – in an informal and conversational manner – my overall experience taking a yoga class.

A little back tracking is in order, however.

In a lot of ways a large reason why I took a yoga class in the first place was because my girlfriend, Lisa, happens to be a member of the website Groupon.com.  For those unfamiliar, it’s essentially a website that offers discounted “groupons” from local restaurants, taverns, spas, etc.

In a nutshell here’s how it works: a local restaurant offers a $25 “groupon” for $50 worth of food.   Assuming “x” number of people (group) purchase it, the deal is accepted, and everyone walks away happy.

We’ve used Groupon.com (as well as sites like LivingSocial.com and BuyWithMe.com) to eat at numerous restaurants around Boston we otherwise would never check out.  Likewise, last fall, Lisa jumped out of a plane and went sky diving using a similar service.

I skipped that one.

Nevertheless, one day Lisa saw that there was a Groupon for ten Yoga sessions at a local yoga studio.  She looked at me, hesitantly, and asked if I’d be interested?

I remember an article Dan John wrote awhile ago on how he and his wife took a yoga class every Sunday.  He loved it.  In addition, he noted how amazing he felt and how it was something that he and his wife looked forward to doing together after a stressful week.

“Sure,” I said, while thinking to myself, “If Dan John can take yoga classes, I can too.”

Besides, much in the same vein, it would be an excellent way for the two of us to do something different and “active” together other than just going to the movies or making a cameo appearance at Target.

Upon further reflection, though, it’s not like I’ve NEVER done yoga before.  Speaking truthfully, many (if not all) of the movements we include in our dynamic warm-ups have their foundation in yoga.

So in a sense, I have done yoga – albeit indirectly.

That said, like everyone else, the holiday season was chock full of parties, social gatherings, and being dragged – sometimes kicking and screaming – shopping.  So, up until last weekend it had been a challenge to find the time to actually go to a class.

Early last week, though, we checked the schedule online and noticed that there was a vinyasa class at 10 AM Sunday morning.

We marked the calender, committed ourselves (ie: Lisa bribed me with an omelet brunch afterwards), and waited for Sunday to arrive.

Sunday Arrives

With my testicles cupped in my left hand, Lisa and I walked 20 minutes to the studio.  Once there, I took this picture before heading up.

If there was ever a time I felt like I was going to shit a yoga block, this was it.  I was completely out of my element.

At the top of the stairs, Lisa and I turn the corner and are immediately surrounded by a raging fume of estrogen.  Not that it was a bad thing, I was just the ONLY dude, and felt like a bull in a China shop.

Comparing by contrast, I couldn’t help but think to myself that this must be what it feels like for women to walk into a weight room full of dudes who smell like rotten Ax Body Spray grunting, breathing heavy, and making any number of innumerable noises.  To say I was a wee bit intimidated and outside my comfort zone would have been an understatement.

Where do I put my shoes?

Am I supposed to grab a mat?

Do we have to pay for it?

What happens if I sweat all over the place? 

Am I going to be judged?

Jesus christ…..where do I put my hands!?!?!?!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  *jumps out a window*

Lisa slapped me across the face (actually, that didn’t happen), told me to chill, and to just follow her lead.

We walked into the studio and I observed that most of the women were lying on their back, feet together, with their heels up towards their tushes and arms spread out to their sides.  Lisa mentioned to me that this was called the Goddess pose.

Needing to elevate my testosterone levels in some fashion, I jokingly referenced the movie 300 and said “well, what’s the Sparta pose?”  She turned, gave me the look of death, and I sat on my mat and did the Goddess pose.

We laid there for like five minutes before the instructor – a youngish, tall female – made her way towards the front of the room.

As I noted yesterday, she started the class by asking if there was anyone new to yoga.

I sheepishly raised my hand, and that was about the extent of her interaction with me.  But more on that in a bit.  She then proceeded to ask the class if there were any injuries she needed to be aware of, blah blah blah, so on and so forth, and class began.

What followed was, to my knowledge, your typical vinyasa class.  Unlike hatha styled classes – where you hold specific poses for an allotted time – vinyasa incorporates more movement and you learn to “flow” with your breath.

I have to say, I liked it!  I was glad that we weren’t just sitting there in one spot holding our poses while twiddling our thumbs.  If anything, and as I alluded to above, many of the movements we used I was vaguely familiar with.  We performed a TON of warrior poses, which are right on par with a few dynamic drills we like to use at Cressey Performance

Furthermore, one of our “home base” poses was very similar to what would be considered a goblet squat in strength and conditioning circles:

Of course, I avoided those poses I deemed either too advanced (for me) or simply knew my spine would throw me the middle finger if attempted them in the first place.

The wheel pose, for instance:

For me, the wheel is just asking for trouble and would turn any spine into a walking ball of fail.

The strength coach in me couldn’t help but observe how many of the women moved, and at the expense of coming across like a douche, that pose would have been the LAST thing I’d have any of them perform.  But I digress.

At one point, the instructor grabbed one of the other students to have her demonstrate some random pose that, while impressive, was equally as likely to make my eyes bleed. Not wanting to miss the show, I just held my goblet squat pose and observed.

As the class came to a close, the latter ten minutes were spent lying supine on our backs, breathing deeply and letting our thoughts drift while listening to some dude chant over the stereo. I was thinking about the omelet I was going to dominate, but nevertheless, it was a relaxing way to end things.

And that was it. The music was shut off.  The instructor got up, and the students followed.

All told, it was DEFINITELY worth going.  Shocker right?  I bet you didn’t think I was going to say that, huh?  I left feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to seize the day.

Moreover, I don’t think my hips have felt that “open” since I was like 23, as evident by the picture I took upon leaving class.

My only issue was with the instructor. And this is something that bothered Lisa as well.  While the class was well taught, as I mentioned above she didn’t acknowledge me ONCE. Not a “hey how are you doing?” or a “is there anything you need further explanation on?” or a “excuse me, but can you please put your shirt back on?” Nothing.

She walked around, correcting various students.  She corrected Lisa, who was seated to my right. And she corrected the random girl who was seated to my left.  Me? Unless I’m the world’s most baller yoga newbie, I was a little taken aback by her lack of interest given I openly admitted – to the entire class no less – that I had never performed yoga before.

I mean, how would it come across if someone walked into my facility and I didn’t give them one second of my attention whether it was correcting their technique on a deadlift or simply asking how they’re doing?

What would that say about me as a fitness professional? They’d probably not think too highly of me, and the likelihood they’d come back would be fairly slim.

Now, I realize not all yoga instructors are like that, and maybe my experience was just an anomaly and she wasn’t used to working with men. Either way, it was disconcerting to say the least, and I doubt Lisa and I will return to that specific class in the near future.

We WILL be returning, however.

And that’s saying something.

In the grand scheme of things, I lift heavy stuff upwards of five times per week. In addition, I work in an environment that immerses me in a vortex of constant stimulation – coaching, cuing, yelling, listening to Rage Against the Machine all……the……..time – and I’d be lying if I said that spending a solid hour every week just relaxing and being in the moment doesn’t sound blissful.

I’m going to attempt to make a yoga a weekly “diversion” for myself.  I still believe it’s an over-hyped phenomenon that caters to the fears and negative connotations that a vast majority of women have towards strength training; and I do feel it can put people into compromising positions that can be dangerous.

Concurrently, as it relates to ME, it would be ignorant to turn my back on the obvious benefits it has to offer.

So with that, all I can say is……….yoga doesn’t mostly suck anymore.

  • Eric Lagoy

    Love the before/after pics Tony haha

  • Susan

    Glad you enjoyed the class, and yes that is exactly how I feel going into a weight room!

    • Anonymous

      I thought that was a good analogy I came up with. Glad you agreed!

  • http://heyjoob.com Juliet

    Next up: Hot Yoga!

  • Matias

    I liked your observation of how you felt walking in and how a woman might feel entering a gym. Will it change how you welcome and work with ladies at CP?

  • http://rc3.org/ Rafe

    Good for you! I’ve been going to pilates with my wife about once a week all year. It’s something to do together, we’re good friends with the instructor, and it’s totally different than the weight training I normally do and it’s an extra workout I probably wouldn’t get in at all if I weren’t going. Cheers to trying new stuff.

  • Krista

    awesome post! My first love is lifting heavy sh*t. My second is yoga. I think they work well together. But I completely agree with you that unfortunately, it caters to women in a very negative way.

    Since you’re somewhat new to yoga practice, you might not find this as funny, but for those of us who participate regularly, it’s pretty damn hilarious

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMC1_RH_b3k&feature=youtu.be

  • Barath

    You should get better at yoga, open a studio, and target gullible women. If not anything, just your catch-phrase would be awesome: “Yogi Tony can tone your heinie” and you will become a PHENOM.

    On a more serious note, can you pin-point any of the movements you were taught that you enjoyed, and more importantly, why you thought they were good. (I do see the ones you DIDN’T like :) ). I am curious if there was something that you think could be morphed into a nice shoulder mobility drill.

  • Ali

    I think it’s interesting that you say people shouldn’t be doing the “wheel.” It kinda reminds me of how people “shouldn’t squat” but then you look at babies and that’s how they hang. True we don’t do a bridge/back bend/wheel, etc. in everyday life, but it was once a movement found regularly in TONS of kids (girls if you want to be totally stereotypical) on playgrounds and in gym classes on a regular basis! Pretty sure I did a back walkover every day for at least 10 years.

    Anyways, my point is… perhaps another great example of becoming more sedentary as we get older and loosing the physical ability to move certain ways that once were easy for a great many people.

    • Brian K

      How true! I was at a yoga class the other day and when we were in shoulder stand, the instructor commented that this was the kind of stuff we just did when we were kids. I recall being 4 or 5 and walking in a wheel pose/crab walk kind of position around the living room. Was it because I wanted to exercise? No! I just thought it was cool how different our house looked upside down!

      • Tim

        Anyone that wants to push the “wheel” envelope should check out Coach Paul Wade’s “Convict Conditioning”. His chapter on bridging is quite the eye opener.
        Great post Tony!

    • Anonymous

      I understand what you’re saying Ali, and I get it. That last point you made is the key, though.

  • http://itrainthereforeieat.com/ Stephanie

    Love this post, and love the before/after pictures! I agree that Yoga can be a Great addition to a program, and once a week is perfect for me. Personally, I love lifting heavy, but do have issues with hip mobility and my hips never feel as good as they do right after a hot vinyasa yoga class! I’m glad you finally decided to try it out, I’ve been reading your yoga bashing for a while and kept thinking that maybe if you just tried it, you could find something to like about it!

    • Anonymous

      HA! Well, I guess it only made sense that I would have to try in eventually. Now, I’m still not sold on it entirely. Like I said, the way it’s marketed makes me laugh. But, I can definitely see it helping my hip mobility down the road, and that’s never a bad thing.

  • http://twitter.com/jeffcubos Dr Jeff Cubos

    If I have a son, I’m going to consider naming him “Yoga”. That way when all the girls around the way say they “do Yoga”……

    • Anonymous

      Brilliant!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/MarshallRoy Marshall Roy

    Great post, Tony. Back in college, I had a few months of really productive training where twice a week after lifting I hit up a yoga class. Felt great. And just as powerlifters who neglect mobility are foolish, so are yoginis who neglect strength. I like to say: there is no excuse for strength at the expense of good movement–or good movement at the expense of strength.

    In other news: went to my first powerlifting meet on Sunday! Squatted 440 (15# PR), benched 275 (*just* missed 303, boo!) and deadlifted 507 (4# PR). Had a great time and can’t wait to do another one later this year. Thanks for fostering my sick love of pulling heavy things, Tony!

  • http://twitter.com/anthony_mychal Anthony Mychal

    Tony,

    Hate to bust your chops but you haven’t tried yoga until you’ve done “hot” or “bikram” yoga.

    • Anonymous

      Baby steps, Anthony. Baby steps……;o)

  • Browndog

    …”what’s the Sparta pose?”…

    Excellent!

  • http://www.jplightfoot.com/ Joe

    Nice post Tony!

    Question: If you had to design an hour session which took the good parts from Yoga such as focusing on stretching, relaxation etc, and avoided the bad bits (like bending your lumbar spine in half) what would it look like?

    Would love to hear your take on it.

  • http://twitter.com/DLM3325 Doug Mullendore

    Great read Tony. You are a brave man! I vowed never, ever to go to a group training class. 19 years ago I went with my wife to an aerobics class. I don’t have any rhythm – which was made plainly evident by the instructor struggling to control her laughter. Within 15 minutes of the start of the class I was banished to the back row. Therefore, I only do yoga in the privacy of my own den – shades closed & lights off – (just in case there is a peeping tom or something!).

  • Garrett Wheeler

    Hilarious post and an experience I shared over the holidays. My biggest concern was the number of poses that put the lumbar spine at end range extension. It’s pretty hard to do cobra pose or wheel without hosing your lower back. Or at least most of the people in my class were “finding” ROM in their lumbar over thoracic. I totally agree though, my hips were super limber after the fact. Pigeon pose is great.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Tony! When can we get you to take a pilates class ;)

    Sirena

    • Anonymous

      Whoa, Whoa, Whoa. One thing at a time. What’s next? Going for a pedicure?????…….;o)

      • Anonymous

        Well, when you’re ready hit me up ;)

  • Bienkowski Tomek

    Hey, having many injuries and problems, being stiff as hell I decided to become a regular yoga practicioner. Few thoughts:
    – just as you, I know which poses I can do
    – I go to “spine classes” which are safe and thought by cerified rehabilitants (in my studio). As in anything else – you realy need to find a good place to learn yoga and be minfull about your practice
    – I feel big difference in my knees and spine just after few classes
    – I prefer static yoga practice and I think it’s much safer especially for beginners and unhealhy people (easier to focus on proper technique just in your limits)

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for chiming Tomek!

  • Pingback: My Friday Five 1/19/12 @ Elevate Your Performance

  • Pingback: Shared Wisdom: Jan 15, 2012, Exercise Edition

  • Pingback: Cobra- You’re Doing it Wrong | The Dance Training Project

  • Jen

    One reason the instructor may not have commented on you is it takes time for the instructor get a feel for your body. But yes she should have been more engaged.

    It takes me at least a few classes before I am comfortable making suggestions to students especially with people new to yoga.