A confession, an argument, and an annotated1 essay
1 The annotations should be taken with the appropriate grain or multiple grains of salt – but not too many. And no soy products, or carbs. They should be taken mostly with raw vegetables, meats, fruits, water (preferably flavored with lemon) and cold showers.
Let me begin my saying that Cindy Tseng, a coach at the outstanding gym All Out Effort, is a very nice and extremely knowledgeable person.
Her likeability, her integrity, her talent for motivating and bringing out the all-out-effort in all of us, has never once been in question. I am certain she wants me to live the healthiest life that I can, and her concern is both deeply noted and deeply appreciated. So the following argument is not an attack on her character. What this is, is a polite questioning of her methodology, which I believes she calls “yoga.”
I believe there is a very strong case that the suffix “torture” should be appended to her definition of “yoga.”
This is an appropriate addition for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Webster’s Dictionary2 happens to define “torture” as “the simultaneous contortion of one’s legs, arms, hands, torso, glutes, head, in fact everything even remotely attached to the spine, into positions that are impossible under the given laws of physics on Earth.”3
When I stumbled upon this definition, I too, was surprised at its remarkable specificity. But who am I to question the dictionary-writer? Whoever wrote that definition clearly had first-hand experience with these mysterious methods. I also realized that this constitutes a fair amount of time that I've spent with Coach Cindy. So, in fact, I am paying a goodly sum of money to be instructed on how to twist into shapes that would make M.C. Escher blush.4
Cindy tells me that this is helping “open up” my body, helping me become more flexible and stronger. In his seminal paper, The Long-Term Effects of Yoga on Russian Swimmers, Dr. T.I. Fezbomotov writes, “this argument is pseudoscience.”5 He argues, in true Eastern European sports fashion, that “what really makes one more flexible and stronger is an extensive steroid regime.” I am not – not – suggesting that I should begin doping. I am merely saying that yoga’s benefits do not appear to be worth the suffering.
To be fair, Cindy does utilize more traditional lifts, like endless cycles of kettlebell swings, cleans, presses, and push-ups.6 And these, while not easy in themselves, are a welcome reprieve from the yoga-hell. In a recent study, 100 percent of All Out Effort clients were happier when not doing yoga-torture.7 Certainly the prisoners should not run the asylum, but I do think that if not Cindy, certainly Sam, should consider the long term effects of yoga-torture on overall client approval ratings, which could sink rapidly, and then manifest themselves in Yelp reviews that are, let’s call it, not as stellar as they should be.
I am aware that my protestations, no matter how full of documentary evidence they might be, will be ignored. And frankly, that’s probably for the best, because I am a writer and not a trainer. Also, and probably not coincidentally, I’m in the best shape of my life, and getting better.8 I am kicking further and throwing harder and running faster than ever before.
1. I hate Yoga.
2. I will see you Wednesday.
2 Oh yeah, I went there. I pulled the “dictionary defines as” card, a staple of all terrible papers.
3 You just have to trust me on this.
4 MC Escher, upon viewing yoga positions, is reported to have tried incorporating yoga positions into his art,
and eventually, in a whiskey-drenched despair, told his assistant, “fuck it, this is impossible.”
5 The Long-Term Effects of Yoga on Russian Swimmers. Fezbomotov, F.I. 1971.
6 See, Alex’s workouts since forever.
7 See, AOE Client Poll/For Sam Yang’s Eyes Only/Destroy After Reading. (how I got my hands on this poll, you will have to trust me that I have and I cannot reveal sources.)
8 Eg., Alex of 2011-12, v. Alex of 2012-13.