When Fell posted a Bullshit! segment a while back, I provided some thoughts about the two episodes I had seen.

I just watched the yoga segment of their “new age” episode last night, and thought it was even worse. This is a really old episode and it might not make any sense to respond to it after all this time, but here it goes anyway.

First things first, they say that yoga is “just stretching.” They’re either being deliberately misleading here, or they didn’t bother to stay for more than the first 5 minutes of the yoga class they filmed (or they found a yoga class that was not representative of yoga classes in general).

ashtanga yoga

ashtanga yoga

(Pics swiped from Yoga Bhoga in Portland).

OK, so the pics above are relatively advanced (I believe they’re Ashtanga, aka power yoga, positions), but I think you can get the point – yoga is also about exercise using your own weight. Saying “yoga is just a fancy name for stretching” doesn’t hold water. Asking “does yoga hold up against other forms of strength training” is a valid question to ask. All I can say is that yoga (including “hatha yoga,” the most common, basic yoga) classes challenge my strength every time.

Neither does their claim that yoga is bogus because stretching a muscle longer than 30 seconds is not useful. I rarely, if ever, have been instructed to hold a stretch for more than 30 seconds. When a position is held longer it’s held for the purposes of strength, discipline, and/or relaxation. The exception is when you’re actually pushing a stretch further and further, which doesn’t found for “holding” because you’re actually advancing.

The other claim Penn and Teller make is that yoga is more expensive than other exercise classes. In my experience, it is not. Most of the gyms/health clubs in Portland offer yoga classes along with other exercise classes as part of your standard fees. I know that $15 seems to be the going rate for drop-ins at yoga classes in the Portland area, but I don’t know what the rate for other strength training classes are. (Yoga classes are cheaper when prepaid in advance or as part of a package deal, and there’s actually a free class at Liberty Hall).

It would have been more interesting to see P&T evaluate some of the other claims about yoga, such as improved immune systems, stress relief, etc. as compared to other forms of exercise, or even how yoga stacks up as strength training. But to dismiss it as overpriced stretching is bullshit.