YOGA: The Good and The Bad

In my early college years, I used to think of Yoga as a large group of people in a hot room sitting on their own faces. After getting involved with Yoga and using it as a portion of my strategy to relieve back pain, I thought of it as the golden streets of heaven – a philosophy that could do no wrong. Several years later I now see Yoga as both a positive and a negative, depending on how well you listen to your body.

I’m going to make a bold statement and that is this:

There are no movements which are bad for the body, providing the body has the appropriate strength and flexibility to accommodate the movement.

Don’t take that phrase as creative license to contort your body in to strange exercise positions. Instead, use it as a caution that you probably need to build a better awareness of exactly what your body is capable of. Yoga is one-such philosophy that requires mind-body awareness to be effective.

The Good:

With enough mind-body awareness, any healthy individual can use a Yoga session as a good time to build flexibility through otherwise stiff joints. This can free the joints to move better and can usually help reduce pain in a body that is otherwise immobile at a desk most of the day. Increased flexibility is usually the first step toward gaining a healthier body.

The Bad:

The physical portion of Yoga’s exercise programming seeks to build as much flexibility around each joint as possible. In layman’s terms, Yoga makes all your joints loose. While many of us will never get to the point of sitting on our own heads, the human body was designed to be loose around certain joints and stiff/strong around others. That means that many people will do Yoga just long enough to make their stiff (or strong joints) loose, which results in pain. For example, the low back is supposed to be strong while the upper back is supposed to be flexible. Because of the intense and repetitive angles to the back during Yoga, many lower spines become overly loose and cause injury or pain. I would estimate that 90% of the Yoga instructors I know have chronic low back pain.

The Takeaway:

If you need to build flexibility, Yoga can be a good option providing that your instructor doesn’t force you in to positions and encourages you to listen to your body above all. Long-term Yoga without proper strength training or Yoga where the body must be crammed in to discomfort comes with a high risk of injury.

Schedule an assessment with a Train Better trainer to figure out exactly how your body is working and get started on a flexibility program designed for you!