As a longtime yoga teacher, I remember when part of my job used to consist of talking resistant people into trying it for the first time.
Then maybe they love it, they lose weight, look better, feel more awake and aware, their relationships transform, blah, blah, blah. But most never set foot in a studio, never take that first step onto a sticky mat, sure from what they've heard that they won't like it, or won't be good at it, no matter how in pain they are physically, mentally or emotionally.
Well, I'm done with all that.
Yogis are fond of saying, "save your breath to cool your porridge". And let me tell you, my pot o' porridge bubbleth over.
After 15 years of conversations with two types of people--those who crave personal growth, and those who don't, I have come to believe that for many people, there are some darn good reasons not to do yoga, beyond the obvious ones, like a body cast or a deep aversion to lycra.
If you fall into one of these categories, then you shouldn't ever let some chipper, well-meaning yoga teacher like myself convince you that yoga is the right choice for you.
TOP 10 REASONS NOT TO DO YOGA
1) You enjoy looking 9 years older than you are. After all, Joan Crawford is super hot--so bring on the crow's feet!
Researchers have just found that people who do just three 60-minute sessions of semi-vigorous yoga per week, were 9 years younger on average than non-exercisers.
These results showed much more than just a glowing face; Yoga changes you down to your DNA. The study found that these exercisers had much longer telomeres, or the aspect of DNA that acts as a marker for aging than people who did not move as much.
These results held for any type of exercise, but yoga goes a step farther than most, by detoxifying the body more efficiently, and stimulating and balancing the endocrine system, which among other things regulates aging, healing, metabolism and immunity. So, you'll look younger on the outside, as well as inside!
Have you ever seen the body of a longtime yoga practitioner? Here's one of me.
I'm 38, but people regularly mistake me for 25. It's quite the burden to bear, but somebody has to do it.
Try my free Anti-Aging Yoga video!
2) You embrace those heavy metal toxins building up in your body as a badass homage to your Kiss concert days. Rock on!
When we walk, jog, Jazzercize, kickbox and whatnot, we gain the endorphin release and calorie burn. What we don't lose, however, are many of our toxins, which build up in our fatty tissues, blood and organs. From mercury to dioxins, free radicals and pesticides, though they might sound like up-and-coming indie bands, they just aren't cool.
The way to really cleanse your body, besides being careful of what you eat, drink and slather on your body, is to support your lymphatic system to do its work. In order to do this, it's helpful to breathe deeply, and be upside down. Many of the yoga poses are specifically designed to aid in detoxification of your body, even as they sculpt and stretch it.
Check out the Yoga Detox Breath you can do anywhere!
What's more, yoga is one of the only exercise forms that usually includes an inversion (or more) in every class. This clears your legs and hips, areas that aren't usually elevated over the heart.
FOR MORE: To watch my Yoga for Detox videos, try these:
3) Your marathon time is just fine the way it is. No need for more speed.
When you stretch your body properly, and strengthen opposing muscle groups in balance, you increase your range of motion, and can move more quickly through space. For example, the space betwen the start and finish lines.
The yoga breath has been shown to increase endurance in marathoners by twice the distance in just one session!
For a cool case study I did with my brother, as I've done with hundreds of New York City Marathoners and casual runners alike, check out this article from Runner's World
In addition, when you add a holistic form of exercise like yoga, you get less stress and strain building up from the one-way, repetitive movements like running, cycling and walking. Adding in a counter-practice will keep you doing that other exercise or sport you love for longer.
Try my video: Yoga For Runners, Cyclists...and You!
4) You firmly believe that the junk in your trunk needs more company.
Alan Kristal, associate head of the Cancer Prevention Program in the Public Health Sciences Division at the Hutchinson Center says, "In our earlier study, we found that middle-aged people who practice yoga gained less weight over a 10-year period than those who did not. This was independent of physical activity and dietary patterns. We hypothesized that mindfulness - a skill learned either directly or indirectly through yoga - could affect eating behavior."
Her research found no correlation between mindful eating and other forms of exercise like cycling or running.
Not like I need a study to tell me this. I lost 40 pounds when I switched from the gym to yoga, and I've kept it off for over a decade. I see hundreds of clients transform from soft to svelte every year, and stay that way.
Unlike the tendency of other exercise to make you hungry so you tend to stabilize and plateau in your weight loss efforts, the brilliance of yoga is that it balances your hormones so you're less likely to suffer from uncontrollable cravings, and it teaches you mindful awareness, so you're more likely to choose that salad over the salami.
See my Yoga for Weight Loss video:
5) You hate yoga.
And I don't blame you.
There are so many teachers and styles out there, the odds of finding one that you like is greater than your next blind date turning out to be Brad Pitt.
The yogier-than-thou attitude of some studios, coupled with pretzel poses and tendency to quench the thirst you have from chanting for 20 minutes with all the twig tea you can drink, can create an off-putting, too-strange atmosphere for regular people just looking for a lot of workout and maybe a little Zen.
However, whether you love the classical vibe, or you want a straight sweat session, are seeking a gentle class or a boot camp, no Sanskrit involved...there is a style, and an instructor for you.
I promise, if you ask like-minded friends, read teachers' bios, try out a few classes, and remember that not all of us recoil from steak or glass of Pinot in horror, you will find that yoga is something you can deal with, and maybe even love.
Coming in my next post: Yoga Styles Demystified! Check back soon.
6) You think of the hospital as a cleaner, more specialized Club Med, and don't mind staying there more often. The food isn't as good, but the staff sure is attentive!
In a study of health insurance statistics, yogis and meditators showed hospitalization rates that were 87% less than non-yogis for heart disease, 55% less for benign and malignant tumors, 30% less for infectious diseases, and 50% less for out-patient doctor visits.
7) There is no way you'd rather age than to experience a slow mental decline.
The practice of yoga often includes a meditation component, and if your teacher is aware, he or she will teach you how to transform your physical poses into a moving meditation.
As you become adept at turning your mind inward, being present and focused, you'll keep your mind toning up on the mat, along with your newly buff body--so both will function properly your whole life long.
The cerebral cortex of the brain is your friend as you age, since it powers thought, sensory perception, language, and emotion. It can begin to deteriorate as you get older, thought to be one cause of slowing down mentally as we age.
Researchers have found that cortical regions were thicker in meditators than in controls. In older participants (aged 40 to 50 years), only the meditators showed cortical thickness that corresponded to that of younger participants (aged 20 to 30 years) in a region that carries out higher mental, emotional, and behavioral functions.
I don't know about you, but if anything in my brain (besides my choice of men, or my nightly cravings for a Taco Bell fourth meal) can remain 20 instead of 50...I'll take it.
Check out my Easy Meditation video:
8) Your family loves you wound tighter than a ball of rubber bands. It's endearing when you slam the phone down, mutter and swear at your invisible boss.
Let's look to Harvard for help with your short fuse.
Preliminary research out of the Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard's McLean Hospital found that healthy subjects who practiced yoga for just one hour had a 27 percent increase in levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that boosts mood and lessens anxiety compared with a control group that simply sat and read for an hour.
But you don't have to do an hour of yoga to gain instant benefits. Just a few minutes can turn your whole day around. Sometimes, instead of slamming that phone or reaching for a cigarette or Cosmo after a hard day, try busting out a few easy yoga moves, and unwind that stress ball a healthier way.
Here's a Chair Yoga Sequence you can do at your desk!:
9) Chronic lower back pain isn't really that bad, when compared to other things...like Swine Flu.
That chair you're sitting on right now? Muchas crappy for your back.
Most likely, unless you're a yogi or a dancer, had a posture-obsessed mom, or, like me, have discovered the Balance Ball Chair, you are spending a lot of time flattening out your lumbar spine, (low back curve). And this will destroy your spine as surely as if you lifted refrigerators for a living.
There's a great article over at Men's Health that illuminates the seriousness of this habit most everyone has, and how we're all careening towards lower back tragedies sooner or later. Lest this all sound depressing, take heart:
Exercise, and yoga in particular, can not only erase back pain and lighten the stress on your spine, it can re-structure your body so your lower back curve is supported, healthy, and strong. What's more, since yoga lengthens your muscles as well as work them, you won't end up with a super strong, but too-tight back, another common cause of lumbar problems.
Sitting up a little straighter now?
Here's my Wake Up with Yoga video to help your poor stiff back release:
10) Sleeping is for wussies.
I know you love nothing more than watching QVC at 4 am, actually considering the Obama commemorative dinner plate set because once again, you're wide awake.
But if you'd ever like to get in your bed at night and still be there, well-rested in the morning, naturally, and easily, then yoga is one of your best bets.
Yoga breathing, regular or fancy calms your brain waves down in about 30 seconds.
Many yoga poses are designed to reset and balance your adrenal system so you're instantly less anxious, focus your mind so your thoughts don't get the best of you and create a more balanced central nervous system, you stop fighting or flighting, and can drop off into slumber.
For more ideas about getting to sleep naturally, read my 5-Steps to Sleep here at Huffington.
Before you take that Ambien, bust out the following moves, and begin the road towards mastering your beauty rest.
Yoga for Insomnia video