yoga makes me homicidal. what else helps flexibility & balance?
April 7, 2021 8:19 AM   Subscribe

My doctor told me I'd better figure out a yoga practice, or I'll be sorry in just a few years. I think she means I need something for flexibility and balance, and I agree, 100%. But skinny ladies telling me to hold uncomfortable poses, and think calm thoughts and visualize or whatever, drive me into a hulk-smash rage. What else can I try?

My ideal thing would be:

*between 15-25 minute long chunks
*video (DVD or streaming, whatever) - this helps me commit to the length of the thing and to understand the pose
*focus on flexibility and balance.
*NO TELLING ME what my mental state needs to be, and no idiot interjections about "whatever that means to you" or the like ("yoga with Adrienne", I'm talking to you!) Reminders about breathing are just barely tolerable, I understand those can be necessary.
*focus on gentle stretches because I am fat, inflexible and terribly prone to injury.

I'd rather pay money than be subjected to ads.

Can anyone recommend something?
posted by fingersandtoes to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 96 users marked this as a favorite
If you happen to have a Nintendo Switch I would highly recommend Ring Fit! You collect exercises to choose from as you progress, and many of them emphasize flexibility and balance (including a group of exercises labeled as yoga). The game is chunked into small bits, although you can keep playing when it prompts you to consider stopping for the day.

It is not just stretching, so that might be a deal breaker for you. You have to jog in place for short amounts of time (like a minute or two) and do other exercises to progress through levels at certain points, like squats. But the difficulty and content is customizable enough that it might work.

Also I too absolutely HATE Yoga Lady tone and really all Fitness Instructor tones, yet the stupid Ring's encouragements "Your sweat is so shiny and beautiful!" make me smile.
posted by DTMFA at 8:39 AM on April 7, 2021 [11 favorites]

I feel the same way about yoga, with a good dose of rage at cultural appropriation, but I haven't found Pilates to be so bad - many Pilates practitioners are skinny and white but the presentation is much more scientific than pseudo-religious. You might try Pilates.

Otherwise, hopefully someone has a better suggestion, I'll be watching.
posted by epanalepsis at 8:40 AM on April 7, 2021 [11 favorites]

Another +1 on pilates. I found the focus on core strength (and strength-building in general) to be a nice shift from yoga, which in my case was prompting me to hyperextend a bunch of joints and making me more prone to injury.
posted by saramour at 8:41 AM on April 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

I have not had any online experience with it but i would suggest you google Kinstretch(tm) which is a branded "movement enhancement system" basically its medically informed stretching and static holds. It looks super simple but is incredibly effective and has no religious/woo backing.

It is targeted at people who think of themselves as athletes (its a popular crossfit cross training option) but you should be able to find instruction/videos that scale the movements adequately for your own abilities.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 8:42 AM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My go-to internet video exercise recommendation is ( if you want prefer that orientation). 15-20 minute functional strength exercises with stretching at the end, plus a ton of “fix me” content to help troubleshoot specific body pain and a bunch of “5 minute hacks” for when you know you need to move your body but 15 minutes seems unachievable. It has 100% helped my balance and core/glute strength. I’ve been a member for years, and there’s a free trial option. There is zero yoga lady tone, just a lot of weird frazzled mom monologues (I say this as a weird frazzled mom).
posted by Maarika at 8:42 AM on April 7, 2021 [12 favorites]

You may like The Yoga Room, particularly their Yoga for Bigger Bodies series for an introduction. Their videos seem very straightforwardly focused on the poses without a lot of mental state commentary or spiritual component. All of the videos are presented by Zelinda Yañez, which may also help avoid the skinny white lady problem. Having worked out to several of Yoga with Adriene's videos as well as some others in that vein, Zelinda's approach and tone are definitely different and I think in line with what you're looking for.

For avoiding ads I recommend using a laptop with an ad blocker. Those can generally do a very good job of blocking YouTube ads.
posted by jedicus at 8:44 AM on April 7, 2021 [5 favorites]

I do Ring Fit Adventure (as mentioned above) on a mini trampoline. I've found doing the exercises on the trampoline has helped my balance immensely, without really trying. It's also good for dampening vibrations a little and it helps a TON with putting stress on my joints.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:45 AM on April 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

I have a toothbrush with a 2 minute timer. In the morning's I challenge myself to stand on one leg for entire duration - brushing with one hand. In the evenings - the other leg and the other hand. This isn't entire my self-made act of whimsy - being able to stand on one leg has a range of health benefits. Try it with eyes closed for ninja level.
posted by rongorongo at 8:46 AM on April 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

On my phone, so no links.

Lucky for you saving libraries of low-impact "fitness" videos is my pandemic hobby.

What about PT videos from someone like Dr. Jo, who gives off what I consider immensely reassuring dog-loving lesbian vibes?

Or a program like Mommastrong /Pappastrong which is really HAES-centric, has short videos, and foregrounds function (would do even if I didn't have kids)? I find the founder Courtney surprisingly not annoying given her body type and demographic (real talk).

Or Pilates with Isa Welly (uncomfortable moves but no woowoo)?

OR yoga not by annoying white people? Loving Reyna Cohan & Yoga with Shaunneka. YMMV here of course but they don't set me off like Adrienne does these days.
posted by athirstforsalt at 8:48 AM on April 7, 2021 [5 favorites]

I'm a big fan of pilates! It has the core strength focus without the woo. The focus on breathe is only about getting oxygen into your lungs.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:48 AM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I also second MommaStrong. I didn't recommend it because there is a lot of pep talk, but it tends along the lines of "you don't feel like doing it? I don't feel like doing it either! sometimes this sucks! we can do it anyways" which I find refreshingly honest.
posted by epanalepsis at 8:53 AM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

What about Tai Chi?
posted by rozcakj at 8:56 AM on April 7, 2021 [5 favorites]

Nthing pilates. I share your hatred of yoga. I have several physical issues that make most standard programs a poor fit, so I decided to pay for a couple months of private lessons to develop a safe routine to address the areas I wanted to improve strength and flexibility in. Definitely worth it if you can swing it. If not, i did a quick search and there are several YouTube tutorials of pilates mat work (routines that don't require expensive special equipment) by POC.
posted by ananci at 8:59 AM on April 7, 2021

nthing Pilates.

I *hate* yoga and i LOVE pilates. to the extent any moves have names, they describe what your body is doing as opposed to drawing some abstract connection to a tree or something.

I like which is a fairly inexpensive subscription and has a lot of instructors to choose from. Also gonna memail you an instructor i like if you want to take a couple private lessons online with someone you can talk back/ask questions to. Also recommend doing this at your local pilates studio if you are comfortable doing it.
posted by wowenthusiast at 8:59 AM on April 7, 2021 [4 favorites] has yoga, with larger people leading.
posted by Ftsqg at 9:11 AM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Martial arts? (Obviously strange during COVID-19, but maybe can be done remotely, at least at first?) Wushu seems like the most welcoming to me, but I'm not at all an expert.
posted by eotvos at 9:15 AM on April 7, 2021

The Down Dog app might work for you. The voices are basically robo-voices and you can customize how much instruction they give you - just the pose + limited instruction, for example. There are also filters for length of practice and type of practice, so whatever type of yoga you want to do. It's available in phone and web app form.
posted by thebots at 9:40 AM on April 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I recommend Tom Merrick on youtube. Don't be put off by the "bodyweight warrior" tagline--it's actually very pure and delightful, such as this 5-minute mobility stretching video where his dog wanders into frame now and then.
His cuing is very straightforward and there's no annoying "you got this" or "feel the burn" kind of stuff.
I am also fat and not as flexible as he is so some of his transitions between exercises don't work for me, but I just get there however I get there. :-)

I haven't tried his strength training videos, so that may be different, but his mobility/flexibility stuff is great.
posted by exceptinsects at 9:51 AM on April 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I should clarify/apologize - it is not the skin color of the presenters I have tried that grates, but the... chirpiness. Chirpiness, combined with the talking-down; and all of it coming from someone with a level of pretty-privilege that I did not have at her age, and sure as hell can't have now.

I see some great suggestions, thank you for those. Will be working my way through the list.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:57 AM on April 7, 2021 [8 favorites]

On the qigong front - I discovered Jeffrey Chand on YouTube early in the pandemic. He's got some substantial content for free on YouTube, but there's also a ($15 USD a month) subscription, which has a lot more, and forums for help. I found it to be a really good stretch and gentle movement option, and at a range of lengths.

(He includes some with just visual cueing, and a lot of them are pretty low comment once you get into the sequence. Also gorgeous outdoor backgrounds on a bunch.)
posted by jenettsilver at 10:49 AM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

You might do some searches on youtube for "mobility" or "functional mobility" routines. They usually consist of a mix of flexibility/strength exercises, with an emphasis on keeping your body functioning as best as possible. I tend to like the ones that are from a physical therapy background best. I have a roller derby teammate who is a PT, and I am a longtime yoga practitioner, and I'm personally fascinated by the way we often show our teams the same kinds of movements stemming from a completely different background.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 10:51 AM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

You want Jessamyn Stanley of The Underbelly if you want non cheery but no nonsense yoga. Jessamyn is a queer black woman and she's amazing.
posted by Kitteh at 11:12 AM on April 7, 2021 [6 favorites]

Here are a few other things to look into.

Alexander Technique. This is probably harder to find and maybe pricier. It's not something you do by watching a video. Alexander technique is all about alignment, learning proprioception, and realizing that you can do most movements with a lot less effort. Really good for posture, back issues, reducing pain overall. NOT stretching.

Feldenkrais- Again, this is less about stretching and more about moving with ease and less pain. You will gain flexibility.
posted by brookeb at 12:49 PM on April 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: We DVR Classical Stretch on PBS. Ms Hyphenated-Lastname leads it - she could be older than me & I have adult children. She got into it ages ago when a broken foot took her out of a performance career. When the intro is skipped over, it’s 20 minutes. Pleasant and informative without being chirpy. Many all-standing options because some days I just don’t want to be on the floor.
posted by childofTethys at 2:18 PM on April 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

What you are looking for is Irish Yoga. Namaste f**kers!
posted by diode at 2:52 PM on April 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: GMB Fitness is all about functional mobility; they have programs you can buy, and they also have lots of videos on their youtube channel.
posted by mogget at 4:33 PM on April 7, 2021

Mod note: Made a small edit to the post at the asker's request, removed a couple comments. If you've got a question about moderation, please use the contact form.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:13 PM on April 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Yoga does not have to be like that! Adrienne is intolerable to me, and I do yoga every damn day.

Highly recommend Paula Lay's videos, which are quite no-nonsense, and include a good range from gentle to more challenging. I've done most of them and only encountered a few with ads, and a lot of them are in the 15-25 minute range you want.
posted by dizziest at 8:10 AM on April 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I just want to heartily second The Yoga Room with Zelinda. I cannot stand Yoga with Adrienne but have really liked Zelinda's approach and routines, as someone who likes working on balance and flexibility but wants absolutely no woo or failure to acknowledge how larger bodies might move.
posted by TwoStride at 10:34 AM on April 8, 2021

> I think she means I need something for flexibility and balance

I would confirm that she didn't also mean some combo of endurance and strength, and just take it as "you should find a way to work activity into your schedule", because good odds the intent of that advice.

If you have to force things to get the letter of the request right, you're more likely to miss on the spirit of the thing.
posted by talldean at 5:08 PM on April 11, 2021

Response by poster: ugh. No, I did not misunderstand her. And, not because I'm interested in arguing about that but because it might be an interesting bit of info for middle aged+ people reading this, as it was for me: she was talking about balance specifically, because FALLS, of all things, are a surprisingly big cause of major problems for her patients, and balance is not something you're going to develop by many common forms of otherwise useful exercise eg swimming.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:50 PM on April 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

You might check out YRG from Diamond Dallas Page. He comes at it from a fitness angle with no spirituality. He also gives the most of the poses new names (Road Warrior, SuperStar, Catcher's Position). I bought a few DVD's about 10 years ago and have been using them on and off.

He bugs me a lot less than most.
posted by wrnealis at 8:56 AM on April 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

The Down Dog app might work for you. The voices are basically robo-voices and you can customize how much instruction they give you - just the pose + limited instruction, for example. There are also filters for length of practice and type of practice, so whatever type of yoga you want to do. It's available in phone and web app form.

If you give a sufficient sob story to DD's support team they will give you six months free and a discount if you choose to subscribe.
posted by Evilspork at 8:44 PM on May 5, 2021

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