This post is written in response to Eric Paskel’s experiment of giving up yoga in place of the gym. His article was featured in Yoga Journal online. Take a gander here
So, this pretty admirable yoga instructor named Eric Paskel recently gave up yoga in place of the gym for a 90 day experiment. His revelations? He writes,
“If you are looking to get a workout and work your issues out, there is still only one class for all of us. One-stop shopping for your mind, body and intellect? That’s a dynamic, button-pushing, badass yoga class, of course.”
Can’t argue with that.
As an LA yoga instructor myself who practices nearly #everydamnday, this is an affirmation that I can totally get on board with. Yoga changed my life. And regardless of age, sex, ethnicity, physical or mental ability.. it has the power to change yours too. For the practice of yoga isn’t just the physical expressions of poses on the mat, but rather a total mind and body approach to living a more grounded and spiritually connected life.
But his whole article wasn’t just an ode to the benefits of the ancient postures. Eric’s experiment led him to write that spinning was soulless, Crossfit lacks community, kickboxing was mentally exhausting, and barre left him emotionally misshapen.
And that is what prompted this rebuttal:
Before I was ever addicted to yoga, I was an avid Classpass enthusiast, hitting up the likes of spin, Crossfit, and pilates classes on the regular. While my attendance has waned off, I still occasionally book a non-yoga workout class to reap the benefits of cross-training. And I have some revelations of my own to share with you.
1. SPIN. I personally feel profoundly changed by my yoga journey, and it affects every single aspect of my life. So it is no surprise that when I hit my spinning groove, I can usually find that meditative sweet spot. I am so inspired by the motivational speeches of the Cycle House instructors, and I truly feel connected to the entire class as we ride the beat together, pushing for the finish line. And even if we don’t say namaste at the end of our workout, I feel it, and I put it out there in the universe for anyone who needs it or cares to reciprocate. So to say spinning is soulless? Well, I couldn’t disagree more.
2. CROSSFIT. If Eric had said Crossfit doesn’t compare to yoga because it causes joint damage and raises your cortisol levels through the roof, well, then maybe he’d be onto something. But to say Crossfit is lacking a community is outrageous. They train together like family, helping and spotting one another, pushing and challenging, checking in and tracking progress. And don’t even get me started on the Crossfit games! I still love dropping in for a plyo class at Brick Crossfit Gym in Los Angeles. The classes start out stretching in a circle while the instructor lists off the upcoming community events. Sometimes the members get together and volunteer, sometimes for happy hour, and other time it’s a day trip outside the city. During the class we’re always paired up in groups and encouraged to inspire and push our ‘teammates’. This is a community. Not Yogaworks, where we silently enter the class, stick to our mat, then silently leave.
3. KICKBOXING. Why is kickboxing more mentally exhausting than Iyengar yoga, where you’re holding a pose until all sorts of emotions and mental blocks flood your mind as you fine-tune your form? And isn’t it beneficial for us to flex our mental capacity and to sharpen our focus? For me, holding pigeon pose is more mentally exhausting than a class like kickboxing, which provides an active and immediate release.
4. BARRE. A proper barre class improves your flexibility, tones your core, corrects your posture and relies on anatomy cues. A great barre class teaches you how to be present. Yet Eric wrote that his ‘lesson learned’ was “Sculpting my a$$ didn’t stop me from being an a$$. And none of it helped to shape a better life for me.” Well I argue that to center myself for an hour of precise total body sculpting, in fact, does help me shape a better life. For me, the physical and mental challenges are rewarding, and I always leave standing a little taller.
…And so on, and so forth.
What is the over-arching theme? Whatever you bring to your workout is what you will get in return. Go in with a positive disposition, find your zen, challenge yourself, and reap the benefits. I used to attend yoga classes and be frustrated if they were too slow or easy. Now, I go to every class with an open heart. I truly believe that the universe will give me the exact yoga class I need on that particular day. And if I feel squeamish and my flow is off, well that means I need to work on something internally, not that there is anything wrong with the class. I try to apply this principal to every aspect of my life, in and out of the ‘gym’.
Eric knew his audience, yogis reading Yoga Journal online. But, I’m arguing that these are just the people who could benefit from cross training. Test your body in new ways, experiment with weight training, lose yourself in a dance class! Flexing your mental and physical capabilities will only make you a better yogi, just as being a yogi will only make you better at these new classes.
Eric, as a fellow yoga instructor, namasté. I totally, and completely, appreciate and admire you. I respect your opinion and I hope you are not offended by my rebuttal of your perspective. At least we will always have our kindred passion for yoga to unite us, right?!
In closing, yoga is not just the practice on the mat, it’s one of Patanjalis eight limbs on how to reach Samadhi, or ultimate oneness with the universe and the divine. The practice of the postures was only created to help one sit in meditation undisrupted by physical limitations of the body. Whatever physical path you take on your quest for actualization (or maybe you’re just trying to get abs?), let your heart guide you, for there is no wrong answer.