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XL to XS ?? Separating Yoga Facts from Fiction.

Posted Nov 18 2010 12:00am
I have been doing Yoga ever since I was a kid.My brother had to practice pranayam and asanas for his childhood asthma and I just copied whatever was taught to him.Yoga has made me happy,raised my body awareness.It is gentle and can be done anywhere.It always gives me a kick to be able to twist into a pose and hold it longer than anyone else.Over the years I have tried Power Yoga,Iron Yoga and in India where summer times soar to 45 degrees celsius, you automatically get to practice the Hot Bikram Yoga.My exercise of choice during my two pregnancies was Yoga.
My unalloyed enthusiasm for Yoga however dampened when devotion to Yoga made no significant dent on the post-baby flab.Moreover,holding poses for significant amount of time with a toddler and an infant indulging in some serious Yoga of their own led to very un-yogic chaos and mayhem.That was when I started getting more inclined towards shorter sessions of more intense types of exercise.
There was a period when I abandoned Yoga completely.But two years back I had severe knee pain- an osteoarthritis episode; and was incapacitated for months.My take home lesson was that I can not stair climb,sprint,deadlift and squat day after day without getting an overuse injury.During this period I did a lot of  mobility work,including Yoga.I discovered a lot of novel non-knee based exercises.Today, Yoga is back in my repertoire for keeps. Having tried it all,my stand on Yoga is thus: Yogic poses held for a minute or two are great for activating specific muscles prior to lifting.They are great for cooling down also.If done one after the other in a seamless manner for 30 minutes they provide gentle exercise to get the blood flowing.Incorporating relevant Yogic poses with your cardio and strength training sessions can make a difference in terms of injury prevention and quick recovery.But if you make Yoga a vehicle for weight loss or physique transformation,you are bound to be disappointed-if you are not bored blind first.Believe me I tried the hundred surya-namaskars routine and found it mindlessly pointless.Doing a whole body stretch 5-6 times is great; but doing it 100 times serves no purpose except getting spinal Hypermobility. All this brings us to the instigator of this post which is  a book "From XL to XS-" by a Bollywood Yoga trainer Payal Gidwani-Tiwari which raises hype to high art,carries celebrity endorsements and proclaims that following her special sequences of yoga moves would enable you to change the shape of your body.The book is full of non-sensical sentences like-"by working on your specific problem areas, you can change the structure of your body";" you can become a perfect ten with a perfectly proportionate body." Apart from the basic fact that such an obsession with how your body looks is total antithesis of the underlying philosophy of  Yoga  I want to address the unscientific poppycock of shape transformation. The Shape you Inherit. All of us have different lengths and thicknesses of tendons, different points where our tendons attach to bones.We also have different lengths of bones.All these are genetically determined.You can shed the fat covering your body parts through exercise.Intense exercise and anaerobic exercise will lead to greater fat loss than gentler forms of exercise. Fat loss also depends on sensible eating . Strength training especially body-building type training may help you to achieve muscular hypertrophy.Severe dieting or anorexia may lead to lose dramatic muscle mass and make you look emaciated.However no exercise can change your bone size or elongate your muscles or change you from a big-boned person to a petite damsel.Yoga does help to improve posture and a Tadasana works great for getting rid of the officegoers slouch.
Looking leaner, or thinner, or less bulky however comes through decreased body fat which comes from eating less and burning more calories.If you are using only Yoga to get rid of thick thighs you will probably have a long journey reaching your goal. Your lifestyle is different from Celebrity lifestyle. Remember Kareena probably spends a major part of her day prancing and dancing around the sets burning calories and eats for her size zero.Yoga is an add-on workout - not the only workout for her. Also the calming effect of Yoga are great for anyone facing arclights all the time. Contrast this with your  own lifestyle.I for example, spend the major part of the day on the chair,meditating on office files, and move significantly only during the designated exercise periods.I need exercise which would help me snap out of that sedentary mode-not an hour long session of holding poses.I would choose to do just as much Yoga as helps my mobility needs. Leave Obsession with Shape or magic moves;enjoy varied Workouts. All this talk of XL to XS seems to be a cheap ploy to feed on the inadequacies of people and make unscientific claims with the help of celebrity endorsements.Yoga is relaxing and great way to improve your range of motion,do make space for it in your fitness routine.But remember,the more varied your repertoire and the more you rotate between strength and cardio type activities to keep your body guessing,the more you will accelerate your fat loss goals.You will set yourself up for frustration if you think that following a magical sequence of Yogic poses will transform your body shape from XL to XS.
Psst: Most XS people I know can't even pick up their own toddlers over a flight of stairs.
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