That Ain’t Yoga

I love yoga, but this shit is getting out of hand. The “hot” yoga has been around for a while, and in an attempt to not be such a yoga princess, I tried it a few years ago. People gush about how the warmth makes your muscles stretch more easily and you can go much farther in a pose, which is sort of anti-yoga. It’s about “practice” people, not “finish.”

But whatever, I get it. Western culture generally has a super hard time just doing things for the sake of doing them, and if you don’t have a goal — lordy, well, you are totally doing it wrong. I can do my yoga next to you unperturbed by that idea, except if it’s damn hot. I’m used to doing yoga for an hour and a half, but 45 minutes in, I hit the heat wall and had to lie still on my mat. I felt like you do sometimes on a hot humid summer day when the heat is so oppressive all you can really do is drink cold alcoholic beverages in the shade until you can drink more comfortably later in the day. Also, I’m a sweaty person, so even before I hit the wall, I was slipping around on my mat like a kid on a Whamo-O Slip ‘N Slide on said hot summer day. Not ideal for engaging my core, but a perfect way to pull a few very warm muscles.

Then someone asked me if I heard of goat yoga. I thought they were making fun of me. But, no, it’s an actual thing. I won’t call it a real thing, cuz that ain’t real. It’s just another obsession around entertaining ourselves. Seems like it started in California. Because, of course it did. Need I say more? Hey,  yoga is great and all, but this down dog needs a little, I don’t know, pizzazz, a little razzle dazzle. I know! Let’s add goats! Yes, I need some little goat headbutting my ass while I’m trying to extend my spine, stretch my legs, and turn my triceps toward each other with my hands planted. If you need goats to do yoga, then maybe you need to try something else, like artisan goat cheese making or exotic animal farming. I’m sure there is another activity for you. Just stay away from my yoga, deal? 

So, how can you top that, right? Well, I just got an email from a yoga studio where I took the hot yoga class — I really need to unsubscribe. They were promoting the “Wim Hof Method,” and there is a photo of a white (of course) man sitting cross legged, eyes closed, with the ocean in the background. I love yoga, but the teachers can have weird names, and they love to invent new kinds of yoga and name it after themselves, so I thought this guy was Wim Hof. That was odd enough to keep me reading. I soon realized the photo was Samuel Whiting, alleged expert of the Wim Hof Method: that’s WHM for all you non-hipster yoga people, who aren’t even hip enough to do yoga with goats. If it’s got an actronym, it must be real.

This part caught my attention: “Discover how you can utilize breathing and cold exposure to optimize body & mind, and learn about the underlying physiology.” Wait, wha? “Cold exposure?” OK, I’m not a big fan of passing out in a sweaty pool on the yoga mat from heat, but at least I can intellectually understand the idea of warmer muscles. “Cold exposure” makes me think of, well, me all winter long, tensed up while battling the winter wind, snow, and sleet. I need yoga to uncramp me from that. At room temperature. What “cold exposure” optimizes is my crabbyness, and the underlying physiology is, it’s effing cold, get thee human ass to a heated building.

But wait. There’s more! “Cold-water immersion in the form of an ice bath can boost metabolism, optimize your nervous system (re program your relationship to stress), strengthen your immune system and build mental fortitude.”

For the record, I find an ice bath extraordinarily stress-inducing.

What fresh hell is this? Boot camp? The Whamo-O James Bond training program? Ah, according to that fund of maybe-it’s-true knowldege Wikipedia, Wim Hof , “also known as The Iceman, is a Dutch extreme athlete noted for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures. He has set Guinness world records for swimming under ice and prolonged full-body contact with ice, and still holds the record for a barefoot half-marathon on ice and snow. He attributes these feats to his Wim Hof Method (WHM), a combination of frequent cold exposure, breathing techniques and meditation.[1] But skeptics question whether or not his identical twin brother’s similar brown fat composition shows that Wim’s tolerance of cold is mostly a result of his genetics.[2][3]”

What did I tell you about people naming techniques after themselves. Oh, this is getting rich. And I thought the goats were bad! At least it’s the idea that’s bad. The goats are, well, just being goats. Actually they are particpiating more in the spirit of yoga and just being themselves more than the humans are doing.

And then this: “Hof is the subject of The New York Times bestselling book What Doesn’t Kill Us, which tells the story of how the investigative journalist Scott Carney took an assignment supposedly to debunk the WHM but ended up learning Hof’s techniques.[4] He is also the subject of the Vice documentary Iceman in which journalist Matt Shea learned the WHM.[5]

I will stop there. As a practitioner of yoga since 2004, doing various poses on a mat, with no extra heat, or cold, or Guinness world records and simple props like a belt, a block, or a bolster, I can say with great certainty, yoga should never be paired with these phrases: “Extreme athelete,” “full body contact with ice,” and “kill.” Although if you want a Guinness after holding down dog for 3 minutes, I say, go for it.

I’ll just put it out there, that this feels a tad outside of the intention of yoga. And maybe a teeny tiny bit ‘o male ego thing. Yah?

In my humble female opinion, yoga is not meant to “build fortitude” by withstanding a super spy James Bond/Wim Hof ice cold shower/bath. If you want to see how manly you are by jumping in icy water, go right ahead. But why to do you have to drag yoga in it? The polar bear swimmer people already do that, join them. To build mental fortitude, I seem to only need to hold a pose for longer than I think I can, pushing the limits of my body in a quiet, yet challenging way. Breathing in slowly and when my monkey brain says, “OMG, we can’t possibly do this for one second longer,” I tell myself, panting and sweating, that we’re OK and we can hang on in the pose for 10 more seconds, 20 more seconds, a minute. And if all else fails, “We can have extra wine later if you hang in now!” Both the yoga and the wine translates to my life, to help me hang in there/go to the liquor store when I think I can’t take it anymore. But, I also don’t do yoga well with goats, so after 15 years, maybe I just don’t really understand the point.

And, maybe, a hot goat in Wim Hof’s ice bath will fly out of my ass.

An update: Today there were a few little ants in the studio where I do yoga. So I was inspired to invent Ant Yoga. It broadened my practice and outlook to barely see them running around the floor, doing, you know, down ant and cat/ant. I’ve already made plans to move to ant country, and buy a studio and an ant far. I am also writing a book. It’s going be huge, baby, huge!

Photo credit: Goat yoga book


  1. That would be real funny Sandy to see anything flying out of your ass!

    I did see the viceland episode of Iceman. It was very good. But I get it, like you it’s not for me.

  2. I really enjoyed this funny take-down of Western yoga schtick!. I mean, people, you do you, but you’re still being pretty ridiculous. First of all, yoga is a religious practice with thousands of years of background, so if they had wanted goats, they’d have fit them in. This stuff falls into the category of Shakespeare in modern English for me: fine, you do you, but what’s really the point? What is gained besides novelty? If you need novelty for yoga or Shakespeare, I suggest you try out the deeper end of the pool of life. My massage therapist tried hot yoga and said that if she hadn’t had intense training in physiology, she wouldn’t have finished the one class, because she knew how not to hurt herself. Just saying.

  3. There are many strange ways of attracting public attention. Doing so in the name of physical conditioning, by spending time swimming under ice in frozen water or having prolonged full body contact with ice cubes certainly is among them.
    The guy however who outshines them all is the shyster we elected as the president of this country.

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