Modern times have left many of us seeking more fulfillment. In the past, it seems people dwelt less on their state of mind. They had less information, resources, and perhaps desires. Societies back then inadvertently focused on many of the factors now proven to increase happiness.
People interacted with smaller communities. This fostered intimate and meaningful relationships. They immersed themselves in work just enough to support their lives. Once they met their needs, they had leisure with family and friends. They got plenty of sun exposure and had no electronics and artificial light to disrupt their circadian rhythms. They ate minimally-processed foods. They lived closer to the lifestyle that formed throughout most of our evolution.
Many things have improved that make today’s world safer and filled with more opportunity. However, our chaotic lives contain fewer experiences to connect us strongly with others and to survive as our bodies and minds came to expect. Yoga has grown in part because it addresses some of these needs.
The origins of yoga draw from Hinduism in India along with other eastern philosophies and religions. It involves holding and transitioning between postures or poses, with meditation and proper breathing throughout the process. It served to unite the body, spirit, and mind. It aimed to relax, calm, and liberate you. Many find this theme attractive given our hectic lives. It has grown popular for other reasons as well though.
Yoga encourages group training which maximizes leverage. This allows owners and teachers to make more money for the same amount of time. You can charge less per person versus working with a single client. Studios and other locations that host yoga have grown lucrative.
Yoga requires only basic equipment, just some mats and space.
Teachers are cheap and easy to find. They face no regulation from the law, just like personal training, for better or worse. Many instructors lack an understanding of anatomy and physiology, relying instead on the traditional knowledge of the school that certifies them.
The spirituality, like any religion or mysticism, have no basis in science. As science has exposed the lack of literal truth behind it, so has this cost us the joy associated with belief. It could unite and inspire people in their societies.
Disciplines like yoga can still serve to uncover and satisfy human needs. They may have boons that science explains later. Yoga has proven benefits but provides nothing uniquely.
Although yoga presents an appealing combination of exercise and meditation, it lacks much intensity to provide worthwhile exercise. Many may feel eager to attain that feeling of peace and hope or at least to feel close to other people that also engage in yoga. This could just as easily come about through other forms of exercise and relaxation along with activities outside of fitness though.
Most importantly, yoga relies on unnatural movements and positions. Even if you improve, you develop toward dysfunction. It fails to match normal actions that our bodies came to expect during our development. These include pushing, pulling, squatting, bracing, and traversing with a walk or run.
Everyone will differ in their consequences, but those with certain joint structures, which unlike muscles cannot increase their range of motion much, will fare much worse. The toughest poses may look impressive but carry the most risk, and consider that those capable of achieving these feats could tolerate them best in the first place.
The worth of yoga can come about through other more vigorous and safer forms of exercise. You can practice meditation and relaxation without an exercise component. Maintaining flexibility seems reasonable, but yoga develops it too greatly. Consider these reasons to avoid yoga.
I’ve got nothing against true healing. We all need it. But it has nothing to do with doing our work and it can be a colossal exercise in Resistance.
– Steven Pressfield
- Flexion and extension of the spine harms it.
Touching the toes and allowing the spine to round harms the lower back. Lying prone and pushing your trunk off the floor by hyperextension places shearing forces upon it. Several poses in yoga promote extreme hypertension or flexion of the spine. They then require you to hold that position for a long time. Combine this with sheer repetition and you have a recipe for disaster.
Some poses have you contort at the waist. You should never bend laterally or rotate at the core under a load, regardless if that load comes from your bodyweight.
- Some poses prevent normal breathing and circulation.
Compressing your torso against the floor or with your body parts can constrict the airways. The vertebral arteries can get choked with extreme hyperextension of the neck. This could at worst lead to a stroke or at least cause other problems associated with constricted blood flow.
- Joints enter and stay in extreme positions.
During yoga, you enter positions your body never adapted to handle. Extreme movement exists only for repositioning and not to bear loads. Any great deviation from the middle of a joint’s range of motion can bring problems.
Cross-legged positions strain the hips and can cause immobilization and pain.
Hyperextension of the wrists, while placing all of your bodyweight on them, can harm you.
Some poses rest your bodyweight on your neck, which risks trauma to the head. These can pinch nerves and reduce mobility. As mentioned, they can limit blood flow in some areas.
Both too little and too much flexibility can harm you. Possessing great flexibility does not have a protective effect. Instead, the elastic tension created by your connective tissue and muscles, that should brace you during a fall or a similar event, act weakly. This forces the joints to handle the stress.
We do not all have equal potential for flexibility. For example, some people have immobile hips based on their structure. Consider that most men could never match the average woman in flexibility here due to the need for childbearing.
Most trainees round their lower back if they squat too low with too narrow of a stance. The limitation exists within the joints and not from tight muscles. This sort of restriction can never be overcome. Competition that comes about naturally during yoga classes to match peers can harm the participants. Some will never match the capabilities of others due to their genetics.
Injuries can occur in time as opposed to suddenly. Not feeling any discomfort or pain today may only conceal damage that has developed. You pursue extremes at your own peril.
- Head and shoulder stands will harm you.
Handstands or anything like them require an overhead position which causes shoulder impingement. The tissues in our heads did not adapt to pump blood against gravity. They have trouble pumping blood away from the head when you place yourself upside-down. This inversion can put strain on the heart as well.
If you lose your balance, the impact can hurt you.
- Extreme heat can harm you.
Certain branches of yoga promote using hot and humid rooms. This risks dehydration and nausea. The body can adapt to operate in poor weather conditions, but this is unnecessary and harms peak performance. Too much heat stresses the cardiovascular system and excessive sweating carries no special benefits.
- It cannot replace other forms of exercise.
Although easier forms of exercise such as walking do have value, yoga often claims to be complete. Yoga develops no great strength or endurance. Exercise in other forms carries the same mental benefits along with greater physical ones too.
- It associates with alternative medicine.
Due to its nature derived from spirituality, some make absurd claims for the healing powers of yoga. They recommend it as treatment for serious issues such as cancer and cardiovascular failure. Any improvements that come from exercise take place in just about any form though, and these remain small in the worst stages of any disease. Prevention always works best.
This really looks no different than seeking the treatment of the local shaman, an unfortunate relic from our past that should have no place in our day and age. The placebo effect explains any good effect that may come about from such an act.
Live well and seek medical advice to address your health problems.
Yoga has many branches. Just like those that teach others to lift weights, the worst offenders fail to represent the whole. Some studies have shown injury reductions from yoga. A session focused on simple stretching, meditation, and deep breathing could achieve some good. This approach seems rare though if it exists at all.
Many take up yoga to attain a practitioner’s physique, just like those that swim to gain lean muscles. Avoid assuming that you too can develop an equally attractive body if you match what others do. This ignores an essential factor: genes.
Fitness today has shifted toward making exercise fun. I would suggest avoiding this direction. Exercise fulfills a survival need but always acts as stress. In the right amount, it will boost your health, appearance, and performance. Too much leads to overtraining and reverses progress. Creating a sense of community should take place through other activities beyond exercise.
Keep your exercise rooted in natural actions. This already maintains the ranges of motion our bodies need. Any activity, regardless of how popular, that fails to match normal activities your body developed for, at least when handling a load, can harm you. The truth may seem restrictive, but you deviate from it at your own risk.