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Taking on the Yoga Question

Written on June 16, 2009 at 7:37 pm, by Eric Cressey

What do you think of…

I got the question again this week:

What do you think of yoga?

Don’t get me wrong; this newsletter isn’t going to be about yoga.  To be honest, I already wrote an article about my thoughts on yoga a while back.  Admittedly, I probably should have taken a more impartial standpoint, but I wrote it more for shock value to outline some of the fundamental problems with some practices that I felt were becoming universally accepted without question.

That said, with respect to this newsletter, the word “yoga” in the question above could easily be replaced with “lifting weights,” “static stretching,” “weighted balls,” “Chinese food,” “owning your own business,” or “curling in the squat rack.”

Lifting weights is generally great.  Deadlifting with a rounded back isn’t.  Doing 150 sets of pull-ups as fast as possible probably isn’t going to make your shoulders and elbows happy.  Overhead pressing two weeks after you had a rotator cuff repair isn’t a good idea.

Static stretching can be of huge benefit if you’ve got muscles that are legitimately short.  If you’re an individual with crazy congenital laxity on top of ten-years of gymnastics, then static stretching will probably chew up your joints really quickly.


Weighted balls have worked wonders for some of my athletes, particularly those who have already built a great foundation of velocity with long tossing and optimization of on-the-mound mechanics.  For others, they’re premature and inappropriate.

I like water chestnuts, but not mushrooms.  I guess the jury is out on whether Chinese food is good or not in my book, huh?  I never met General Tso, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Owning my own business is fantastic.  I get a lot of autonomy, set my own schedule, and have my name on a t-shirt.   I also get a lot of hours and the last paycheck of the month – for whatever is left over.

Curling in the squat rack is the most annoying thing in the world if you are the guy waiting to squat.  If you’re the guy curling, though, it’s a great way to impress your frat buddies.  If looking like a complete tool is your goal, there is no better way to do it.

Where am I going with all this? Yoga isn’t good or bad.  Some lifts aren’t appropriate for some people.  Static stretching can help or hurt.  There is good and bad Chinese food, depending on the person and restaurant.  Owning a business has its perks and drawbacks; it isn’t for everyone.  There are no absolutes.  Okay, maybe there is just one: curling in the squat rack is always dumb, but I digress…

One of my primary goals in writing over the past eight years has been to empower folks with knowledge.  in fact, it was the entire premise behind Mike Robertson and my Building the Efficient Athlete DVD set; rather than simply handing people fish and telling them it’s good for them, we tried to teach people how to fish.


“Dumbing things down” can certainly be valuable when dealing with clients (particularly those with no injuries).  However, as fitness and strength and conditioning professionals, it’s important to not do the same with our own education.  You can’t dumb something down until you’ve fully understood it.

That, I feel, is where the industry has gone a bit astray.  Resistance training research really didn’t even start up until the 1980s; there is still a ton we have to learn.  And, to be honest, there is much better information coming out of experimentation in the trenches than there is in any research lab out there. There are new methods to be discovered, and old methods that can better be leveraged in (or removed from) certain scenarios.

In short, this is a very dynamic field.  If things just keep getting dumbed down to “good and bad” and “just do this,” though, then we’re really selling ourselves short.

Or maybe I don’t know anything.  I guess it depends on who you ask.

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13 Responses to “Taking on the Yoga Question”

  1. Robert Loy Says:

    Good point. I get so tired of people who want to say “Yoga sucks” and leave it at that. It’s only been around for thousands of years, there must be something to it. (Although it was originally intended as a means of spiritual development not becoming bootylicious.)

  2. Nick Beatty Says:

    “You can’t dumb something down until you’ve fully understood it.” — well said


  3. Daniel Says:

    i think the spirit of the article is 100%. though the content is cliched.

    however i am impressed with the writing style most of all. the article was written very well.

  4. Phillip Kudlo Says:

    Nothing burns me like having to wait for some clown to finish up curling in the squat rack.

  5. John Thompson Says:

    Yoga is awesome and of coure there are bad yoga places out there. Are you going to quit driving b/c you got bad gas at one station? Of course not. If you can find a yoga place you like and you haven’t lobotimized yourself to the point you don’t recognize certain stretches you should pass on then there is no negative to practicing yoga especially for us older athletes who’s joints are constantly making arthritic adaptations.

  6. Greg T. Says:

    always find your articles entertaining… wise beyond your young years!

  7. bigdarkmad Says:

    very good article.
    thank you Eric
    I enjoy it

  8. Tony Ricci Says:

    “You can’t dumb something down until you’ve fully understood it.”

    Aside from the generally good commentary on the arbitrary nature of what is good/bad, etc., I thought that line out of the article was worth quoting. It is excellent, caught my mind, and it is a worthy truism that is applicable to medicine, firefighting, and military affairs in equal measure. Just my impulsive feedback 🙂

  9. Tim Says:


  10. Richard Bell Says:

    There’s a yoga studio on every corner where I train.

    Building the Efficient Athlete is a

    Great DVD set!


  11. Charlie Reid Says:

    People generally like to have professionals quickly tell them what to do, and most of the time, we are quick to entertain because it feels better for our egos to spout of about the pros and cons of squatting butt-to-ankles.

    However, wouldn’t a better question be to ask: “What are you doing it for?” or “What is your intention?”. Give ’em a little dose of critical thinking, and let them figure it out. If you want to squat 500 pounds, would doing hatha yoga 6 days a week be a good option for said trainee? When the goal is stated, the tools can then be selected. If you want to build a boat, your not going to get very far with a weed-whacker.

    In the case of chinese food, i’d go for the kung pao.

  12. George Says:

    The only thing worse than someone curling in the squat is that person curling without any plates on the bar and screaming out or grunting loudly for each rep. ;>}

  13. Andrea Says:

    “Although it was originally intended as a means of spiritual development not becoming bootylicious.”

    Actually hatha yoga, that is the physical practice of yoga which means the asana practice that most people think of when they say/hear yoga, is intended to tone and condition the body so that the meditation and breathing postures that form some of the spiritual aspect of the practice can be held for long periods of time. So hatha yoga is indeed about physical development, though with different criteria than most other physical practices.

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