August 11, 2009

Dear Yoga: I'm Sorry About What I Said

The Journal of the American Dietetic Society came out with a study this month, claiming that practicing yoga has been linked to mindful eating and thus to keeping fit.

Goodie, I thought. Now I can apologize properly to all the people who protested that yes, damn it, yoga really is exercise. Then I looked closer at the study.

Um... or maybe not.

I mean, come on.
It's a questionnaire.
28 questions.
300 humans: 90% female and 80% white

How the heck can I apologize based on this study? It's too small of a sample study for me to use it as the basis of anything. I agree 100% with the researchers that "Further evaluation in more diverse populations is warranted." (I've read a lot of studies and very, very few of them did not end with a similar sentence.)

So I'll apologize based on my personal experience. When science lets us down, we at Cranky Fitness go for anecdotal experience as a last resort. (At least, I do. Crabby has higher standards.)

In the spirit of the great Charlotte (of The Great Fitness Experiment), I tried my own fitness experiment. I followed the Element AM/PM Yoga for Complete Beginners DVD mornings and evenings for a period of three weeks. (Then I had to go do a road trip which did not allow enough time for an entire half-hour each morning and evening devoted to following a DVD.)

Because I want to sound like I know what I'm doing be more like the guys in white coats who get paid huge amounts of cash to post these studies, I put together a questionnaire.

My results are presented below.

Q:Merry, did you like doing yoga?
A: Not at first. But after I finished each session, I noticed that I was in a good mood. And the morning good-moodiness extended into my day at work, while the evening g-m helped me get to sleep more easily. (In itself, an amazing feat. I have me some probs with insomnia.)

Q: Merry, did you feel like you were getting a workout when you did yoga?
A: Again, not at first. Some poses, I had to let my arms carry a lot of my body weight, and hell yeah I felt that while I was in the pose, though not afterwards. But what I got from doing this was a sense that I was part of my body. And I think that I might enjoy a more vigorous form of yoga as well.

Q:Um... what do you mean you felt like you were part of your body? Is your head normally not attached to the rest of you?
A: Well, it might as well be unattached. Usually my mind is off thinking what I have to get done today, what's for dinner, why the guy in Accounting is being so annoying at the weekly meetings, what would I do if I won the Lottery tomorrow... things like that. My mind is rarely focused on the physical body that carries it around so patiently. Doing yoga makes me feel more integrated, mind-and-body united. I know that sounds kinda metaphysical, but it is fitness related. If I'm listening to my body, I'm much more likely to go out there and exercise rather than sitting at a computer playing Free Rice. Thus, my conclusion: if yoga isn't (strictly speaking) exercise, it is an aid to exercise and therefore to be recommended.

Survey details

The CFQ (Cranky Fitness Questionnaire) was distributed to one sample between June 2009 and July 2009, with an overall response rate of 100% (n=1). Participant was woman (100%) and Celtic (100%), and had a mean age of 17 um... 23 oh heck, 45±a few years. Multiple regression analysis would have been used to measure associations of demographic characteristics, obesity, yoga practice, and physical activity with CFQ scores if there had been more than one participant.

But hey! The results were 100%!

Have you performed any one-person research studies?

Woman on the Beach photo credit:


  1. Well I can't find one good reason to practice yoga. I think it's just hype. A quick 20 minute jog burns more calories than a yoga session. Gosh, I feel so profane.

  2. That's /exactly/ what I thought. SJ, if you click on the link to my original post "Is Yoga Exercise" you'll find a horde of people (luckily not carry pitchforks) who protest that it damn well /is/ exercise.

    Me, I think if it helps me get to sleep without sleeping pills or wine, then it's paid the price of being taken seriously. And if it helps me get through the workday without defenestrating one of my co-workers, it's paid the price twice :)

  3. Not a yoga person myself here. I'm with Slim Jim - With my limited time, I'd rather get a little more cardio activity in for my exercise dollar!

    I do like the one person survey concept - I use it all the time. . .

  4. Just as healthy eating is made up of variety, so is healthy exercising.

    You wouldn't eat just vegetables, and only vegetables, and expect to get all the nutrition you need.

    Exercise is sort of like that. Doing nothing but aerobic exercise would be like trying to live on nothing but vegetables.

    Yoga is exercise that fits into the flexibility, stamina, core strengthening, warm up and cool down variety. Like the fruits or nuts or dairy to complement the vegetables.

    We eat for more than just calories, we eat for vital nutrients as well. We exercise to do more than just burn calories, we also want to stay strong and flexible.

    If this does not make sense, forgive me, I'm sleep deprived again.

  5. You know how there's sometimes someone in your social network who is perfectly nice and everyone else thinks they're great and you keep thinking you SHOULD like them because all your friends do but somehow you just don't?

    That's yoga for me. I really SHOULD like it for all the good things it does, but I never want to invite it over for dinner.

  6. Hey, they have single sample analyses! I have never taken the course, so can't help you there but you could do it. If you had more magical time. Or energy. Or gave a rats behind :) Which, I don't.

    My yoga, have a hard time making time for it lately. But, once this week is over I will resume. Just to have some time for me to relax.

  7. mmm... Yoga is one of the best things ever for calming the mind when it's racing with stress! it gets me a stretched out calm energy, rather than a tight muscle energy, if that makes any sense... i really need to pull out the yoga dvd's again - when i have both dogs in their cages, the cat trapped somewhere, the baby asleep, and the husband out of the house. hmm... not looking very good today.

    and is it just me, or does the lady in the picture look like she's got ginormous lips? :) (i know it's her sleeve, but still!)

  8. I know it helps a whole lot of people, and I'm a bit envious of the resulting flexibility. However, I tried yoga for about three weeks, three times a week, and just never enjoyed it enough to stick with it. I have naturally short hamstrings and abductors, and I've spent a great deal of time trying to improve my lower body flexibility.

    But after a great deal of effort with negligible results, I just gave up! I stretch after exercise, but yoga? Feels like waterboarding to me.

    However, my other one-woman experience, cutting way, way back on sugar, was a stunning success.

  9. Im so with you Merry.
    now I need to be so WITH YOU.
    come over.
    make me do it.

  10. You guys over there are too funny!

    I don't do yoga but want to.. I am like a couple others, not going to give up my weights & rigorous workout cause it burns enough calories to let me eat more of my healthy food in a day plus a treat or more when I wan it BUT I do like the concept of calming down, knowing the bod, the stretching/flexibility/balance part of the whole thing which I need.

    I do confess that I have thought about that hard yoga stuff like in a HOT room might work me out. Unfortunately the time I like to work out, well, nothing is open!!!

  11. Darn you Merry - that Free Rice thing is addictive.

    As to the yoga - I was thinking the same thing that messymimi said, but I think she said it better - so ditto!

    And I have done experiments, but none of them seemed quite as official as yours, with your questionnaire and everything. :)

  12. I've been pretty dismissive of yoga as exercise, but darn it, Merry, you are luring me in with that whole "sleep better" concept!!!

  13. Good job on giving it a try! Now it's time to try some Power Yoga for the same experiment. LOL

  14. Crabby pretty much totally hit it for me. I feel like I SHOULD love it, everyone else says it's awesome.

    But people also say that about asparagus.

  15. Have I performed any one person research studies. LOL! Every day!

  16. I tend to do gentle yoga on my rest days. Like you said, it might not be a workout, but it is an aid to staying healthy, so I'll take it.

  17. I think yoga is good, cardio is good, gardening is good, only 24 hours in a day is bad.

  18. when i did a consistent iyengar yoga practice... it was awesome... some of the yoga teachers in fact.. on days when i took class with them.. trust me i didnt need to run that day :)

    gp in montana who cant seem to find a good yoga class here tho i do my own impromptu practice every now and then again

  19. I tried yoga... It's just too boring for me.

  20. Yoga is pretty much all I can do and I definitely consider it exercise. It's not all meditation and long, boring poses.

  21. I perform one person research studies on a minute by minute basis.

    Have tried yoga. It's okay. I need to take a class. My yogi name is "Synatho" which coincidentally, is also my word verification word. Must be a sign.

  22. You do a disservice to readers in making a joke of yoga. The physical, mental and emotional benefits are incalculable and not to be measured in calorie expenditures (and calorie-burning exercise has been pretty thoroughly discredited as a way to lose weight). In fact studies have shown that yoga alone can keep the practitioner physically fit. No, I'm not going to look them up. This isn't my blog.

  23. Making a joke? Naah, if I were making a joke about yoga, it would go something like this "So, these two yogis walked into a bar, and one said to the other..."

  24. (Just FYI, Slim Jim, a lot of runners practice yoga. They say it helps them run better. I'm not a runner, so I can't speak to that, but I CAN say, as a yoga instructor-in-training, that there are a lot of great hip opening postures that can help keep you flexible.)
    Anonymous, she's NOT making a joke of yoga. I don't know if you've read many of Merry and Crabby's posts, but while there is a lot of humor here, it's not making fun of anyone or anything (except themselves). In fact, it's just the opposite: a few weeks ago Merry wondered if yoga was actually "all that," and now she's saying that she really enjoys it and wants to try different kinds of yoga.
    And I agree with you: yoga is about so much MORE than the physical benefits, but, yes, just practicing yoga can keep you very fit and very healthy.

  25. Did you hear what the Dalai Lama said the the hot dog vendor?
    "Make me One with Everything."

  26. Hey, Azusmom, you're a yoga & fitness expert. Are there any good yoga jokes?

  27. HAHA - the backs of my marketing business cards say "You mom is not a valid test market" and your question about a one person study reminded me of this. Too cute.

  28. I totally agree with Anonymous. Not only that, it is disrespectful of all bears and Boo-Boo too...not just Yogi.

    What? Oh...never mind.

  29. Merry?

  30. Well everything isn't for everyone. I've tried yoga myself and it didn't really do as much for me as Tai Chi or basic cardio. But if it made a difference in your morning mood for the better, I say stick with it.

  31. Okay Merry, I'm not falling for that "Anonymous" thing. I couldn't get anyone riled up dissing potatoes, and now you're obviously inventing fake cranky yoga people to try to get some controversy going on the blog. (Not to mention creating a perfect foil for your Yoga jokes).

    I'm on to ya.

  32. Yoga videos put me to sleep (yawn) classes I love! :)

  33. We all, as a group, need to do more to promote the One Person Study. I feel that mine should involve chocolate somehow.

    (Word verification: porgola. It must be a porch with a pergola.)

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  34. Know where yoga originated?

    Naah, not India, silly. It was first practiced in... yogaslavia!

    What does Oprah's trainer say when he's trying to motivate her to work out?
    Yo ga, girl!

    What do you get when you combine a yogi and a -- what's that? I can stop already? Sheesh. People just don't appreciate good humor these days :(

  35. I would agree that yoga isn't great for losing weight. It is, however, really good for stretching. I will do a few quick yoga poses prior to going on my run or walk. Why would anyone post a survey that is so poorly done???

  36. Love the Dalai Lama joke up above. Hasn't anyone here done hot yoga? It's kinda gimmicky (yoga purists will say that, at least), but you'll definitely feel like you've worked out after spending 90 minutes sweating out half your body weight as you go through vigorous, challenging poses at a good clip. I do it in the winter because my apartment is freezing and so the warm room gives me a reason to keep on living. In the summer I mix up vinyasa yoga with my other routines of running, biking, lifting, etc. With those routines you work & train your muscles. With yoga you do the same, but you also get them all attached to your bones (and your breath and your mind!) in a good, healthy way.

    I have the AM/PM yoga DVD and I find it nice and mellow and meditative. But for an actual workout, try Rodney Yee or one of those perky gals on

    Great blog! Always love it.

    (Also, just sayin', but the word I need to 'verify' on this post is "viashil," which sounds vaguely dirty to me.)

  37. For people who cannot do high-impact exercise due to arthritis, for instance, yoga is a godsend.

    Just my 2-cents worth.

  38. Yoga makes so happy whenever I do it in the morning but if I do it in the evening it makes me super sleepy. Does that happen to anyone else? Regardless I think anyone can benefit from yoga.


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