Before you yoga enthusiasts get your panties in a knot from the title of this post, I must disclaim: I’m not saying yoga isn’t difficult. And I’m not saying it’s not useful. In fact, I recommend people do yoga to improve their flexibility, and I don’t doubt it’s great for the mind and soul.
But if all you do for fitness is yoga, then chances are you are not fit.
The best way we have found to define fitness is to factor in the 10 general physical skills—basic physical skills needed for sports and for life. If you’re terrible at any one of the 10 general physical skills, you will suffer at some point.
For example: On the extreme end of things, if you lack strength, you might lose your confidence to lift anything heavy. If you severely lack cardiovascular endurance, you’ll probably find yourself feeling miserable as you walk one mile across terminals in the airport. If you’re flexibility is lacking, you might eventually have trouble sitting down and standing up, or even putting your arms over your head.
On the flip side, if you’re adequate at all 10 physical skills, you probably won’t have any major holes or weaknesses in your life.
This is our goal for our clients: To help them improve all 10 general physical skills, not to the point that they need to become elite at any one skill, but to the point that they’re adequate enough to flourish in life.
For the record, the 10 general physical skills are:
And here’s the thing about yoga: It only helps you with two, maybe three, of the 10 general physical skills: flexibility, balance and maybe some accuracy.
5 Reasons Yoga Doesn’t get you Fit
5. SPEED: Yoga Teaches you To move Slowly: Yogis move slowly and eventually become scared of speed. They spend their time doing an activity that demands you do everything slow and slower. This also means AGILITY—the cycle time between movements—is not acquired from yoga.
4. POWER: Yoga Doesn’t Teach Power: Because they have no speed, their power is also non-existent, as speed is a necessary function of power (force x distance/time). Get them to jump on a box and they’re afraid as they haven’t done anything explosive is years. If a house was on fire, I wouldn’t put money on a yogi to be able to sprint down the stairs and escape in time.
3. STRENGTH: Yoga Doesn’t Get you Strong: Yogis always want to tell me it develops strength. From my experience, it helps a bit with bodyweight pushing and core strength, but that’s about it. I have rarely met a long-time yogi who can squat heavy or do a pull-up. If I needed a friend to help me move a couch or a dresser, I would never turn to my yogi friend.
2. ENDURANCE/STAMINA: Yoga Doesn’t Improve your Ability to Use Oxygen: Just because you’re sweating out 4L of water in an insanely hot room (if you’re into the hot yoga variety) doesn’t mean yoga requires cardiovascular endurance or stamina. A yogi always scores below average on a 400-meter ball run or a 500-meter row.
1. COORDINATION: Yoga isn’t technical: The definition of coordination is to string different movement patterns together to form one movement. Slow-moving stretching, and pretzel-ing your legs around each other, doesn’t involve a whole lot of coordination. While yogis tend to move well, which is why it’s incredibly valuable, they often have trouble wrapping their head around movements like cleans, which require a large degree of coordination (and speed).
Again, I repeat, I am not anti-yoga. I have tried Bikram and yin yoga a couple times, and the moment I walk into the room I know I am in for a physical and mental challenge. But I also know it’s not enough for me to live a healthy, fit life.
So, if you have ever thought to yourself, ‘Maybe I spend too much time hanging out on a mat stretching,’ consider other options to help improve your broad fitness. When you’re fit, your life gets better.