Explainer takes on P90X Yoga X

Are you among the more than 3 million who have ordered the P90x home exercise system? You know the one. P90X comes with a set of DVDs that you’re supposed to rotate through in a specific order over the 90 days of the program. The Yoga X DVD begins with the rather charismatic Tony Horton pounding out the virtues of yoga, including strength and calmness of mind. He then says:

Expand the mind here a little bit and try something new. I can do things at my age of 45 not because I can do a bunch of pull-ups, but because I do yoga.

My disclaimer here is that I’ve only done the 90-minute DVD once. But in the spirit of the immediacy of a blog, I’m going to share my initial impressions — from the point of view of a long-time practitioner — with you.

P90X Yoga X includes

What Tony says about it in the DVD’s thoughts

Intro on the virtues of yoga, including strength, flexibility, balance, coordination and calming the mind “…combining mind, body and soul together…”“It’s about breath work…”“The tip of the day is to clear your mind.” Bravo for talking about the need to expand the mind, and the fact that yoga aims to bring body, mind and spirit into union. I also liked that he noted yoga is about strength (the common perception is that it’s all about flexibility) and that it requires breath work. (Later on, he even talks about how yoga postures provide massages for the central nervous system.)
A 90-minute sequence

I like this because the styles of yoga I do (Ashtanga and power/vinyasa) connect breath to movement typically in a 90-minute format.
Written descriptions of each posture in the accompanying fitness guide

I haven’t read through all the descriptions, but I’m glad that they are there, including tips on how to intensify postures and a caution: “Avoid injury by not forcing the body beyond its capacity.”
Three sun salutations These are Ashtanga sun salutations Close, but not exactly. In Ashtanga sun salutations, you hold each down dog for five breaths and you return to standing in between each one. Tony goes right into the next one. (But bonus points for spelling it “Astanga,” which I consider the more traditional way to spell what in America is nearly always spelled “Ashtanga.”)
Breath cues Breathe Kudos for reminders on breathing. As an Ashtanga yoga practitioner, I would have loved for Tony to talk about how in this yoga breath (called “ujjayi” in Sanskrit), you inhale and exhale with the mouth closed and you breathe into the chest rather than the low belly.
Upward-facing dog

I would love to hear Tony tell P90Xers that in up dog, you need to send the hips forward (this decreases the risk of bringing tension into the low back).
Chaturanga Keep the elbows pinned (“pinched”) to the side of the body Agreed! I have to admit I don’t like to use words such as “pinched” or “collapsed,” etc. in yoga, but that’s a stylistic matter.
Relaxation reminders Keep the face calm Excellent!
Modifications for various postures For example, if you need to come out of reverse warrior 2, you can straighten the front leg for relief. Very important.
Transitions from warrior 2 to warrior 1

Warrior 2 is a wide-stance posture in which the hips open out to the side wall. Warrior 1 is a posture in which the hips square to the front. If you are toggling between the two, I think it really helps to know that you need to turn the back foot in 45 degrees in warrior 1 so that you can set the skeletal body up to even begin to square the hips. Otherwise, this can be such an awkward and uncomfortable transition.
Savasana Tony notes that in yoga, you shouldn’t just abruptly end the practice. He puts P90Xers into savasana (corpse pose). Cool.
Om/Aum Tony says it’s not a cult thing. He likes to do om three times and encourages his P90Xers to use their voice. Impressive. His oms are serious – he’s not just mailing them in.

P90X Yoga X includes

What Tony says about it in the DVD’s thoughts

Overall, I was surprised by the P90X Yoga X program. I expected an exclusively all-exercise, keep-pushing, lose-that-weight, tone-that-hard-body tone. I would have loved even more breathing cues and an explanation early on that in standing postures, you want to keep the kneecaps lifted up in order to engage the quadriceps (basically, you want to keep those upper thighs working). I outright disagreed here and there – for example, whether to contract the gluteus maximus in certain postures. And I definitely would have given more instruction for full wheel (upward bow) posture, or just not included it, since it’s such a deep backbend.

But here’s the thing – millions of people who perhaps would have gone their whole lives never having tried yoga have now been exposed to it because they’ve bought P90X. In an ideal world, I would love if everyone tried yoga in the setting of a dedicated yoga studio because there’s a sweetness and a quiet to it that’s hard to achieve in other places. But that’s not realistic, and I’d rather see people introduced to this incredible system by someone who at least talks about the benefits and design of the practice, talks about the importance of breath, and ends the sequence in savasana. Hopefully people who love it will find a yoga instructor who deepens their practice, and the rest will have had enough cues and enough personal sense to stay safe when they do practice.

This is all fine and good,, but I have a different question. I know you in real life, Rose, and I am still having a hard time believing that you’re doing P90X. What’s the deal?

Those of you who know me will be shocked to hear that I — or, more accurately, my boyfriend and I — are indeed trying out P90X. What’s surprising about me doing this is that one of my most liberating days when it comes to health and fitness occurred in 2009 or 2010 when I realized that I had truly found a complete mind-body regimen in yoga. I could get cardio, strength training, stress relief and even meditation (of the moving kind) all rolled into one 90-minute practice a day. I was so excited by the fact that I would never have to step on to a cardio machine at the gym again that I gave away my Asics and never looked back.

This year, however, I’ve been expanding my horizons and exploring other ways to move my body, and the challenge of P90X is just that — a challenge. It’s liberating to see where I’m at compared to a few years ago, before I started doing enough yoga to make a difference in my body’s capacities. I am so much more aware of my body, and of my mind-body connection, now, so from this vantage point, it’s pretty fun to check out what this craze is all about. And I’m excited to tell you that the plyometrics program — the one Tony says puts the X in P90X — didn’t completely kick my ass (wicked hard, yes, but it didn’t floor me). Thanks to yoga, I can say, as Tony would, “Bring it.”

>>Update 7.15.12: In looking for some interesting yoga-related podcasts, I just stumbled over this archived interview on Yoga Peeps with Tony Horton

>>Update. Read the related Explainer blog post: Explainer takes on P90X Yoga X [Round 2]: What’s vinyasa, power yoga and Ashtanga all about? How do I tell the difference?

>>Got questions about P90X Yoga X that weren’t addressed in this post? Ask away and I’ll share my thoughts with you. Drop a comment or email to ashtangayogarose [at] or send me a tweet @rose101.


>>Previously in the Explainer series: What’s that pose the guy in the Sunday Times is doing? And how do you get into it? 


Got a question for Send it my way! Drop an email to ashtangayogarose [at] or send me a tweet @rose101. I can’t promise to answer all questions (I do, after all, have another gig besides teaching and writing about yoga), but I will try to at least steer you to interesting answers. (It goes without saying that this isn’t meant to be a step-by-step how-to on yoga. To learn yoga, find a good teacher and get yourself to a yoga class, stat!)


© and Rose Tantraphol, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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12 thoughts on “ Explainer takes on P90X Yoga X

  1. I tried it out with my niece a couple of years ago; She was, at the time,
    a yoga newbie. I thought it was “pretty good” if you already had some basic knowledge of posture and alignment. I thought it could potentially cause an injury here and there–It is not an easy class for a newcomer to yoga and some of the language, as you pointed out, left me cringing a little. Not bad, overall though.

  2. Great post, Rose! I have always been interested in Yoga but never incorporated it into my workout routine until I started p-90X. It’s hard to do Yoga workout DVDs because you don’t have an instructor to fix your poses but Tony does a nice job none the less. Keep up the good workouts/posts!

    • Thanks, Naomi! This reminds me that now that you’re in Lansing here for a bit, Hilltop Yoga has a deal — 30 days of unlimited yoga for $30 for new students. Might be worth checking out.

  3. i appreciate the insight! i’ve been wanting to check this series out.
    my brother, a college athlete that’s still really physically solid, is doing the P90X. So he calls me to tell me that he tried the yoga video, but decided to put it away for another month or so until he thought he could handle it (since he believes it’s the hardest video of them all)

    • Very cool that he’s taking a measured approach to the program. You should definitely try out the program with him one of these days — I’m sure he’d have enough tips from you to feel ready to start.

  4. Hey everyone, just wanted to share this for folks who aren’t on Twitter. Brad Eickman (@bradeickman), a Team Beachbody Coach (, sent me this tweet:

    @Rose101 loved your review of YogaX, The latest Tony workouts on yoga are all about breathing and focus, he con’t to grow in the practice

    So there you have it! Very cool to hear that since the P90X Yoga X video was produced — in which Tony says he’s 45 (New York Times says he’s 52 now) — he has continued to grow in his yoga practice. I love hearing stuff like that. :-) Good for Tony, good for his fitness disciples.

  5. A non-yogi friend of mine tried P90X, but never made it through the yoga video. The second time, she asked me to do it with her. I agreed that it was overly repetitive, and not just in the Sun Salutations or vinyasas. What I think would be more helpful for the video would be to vary the poses in order to keep it interesting (and really you don’t need to vary it beyond the first series), but to focus on the vinyasas between each pose to achieve the workout aspect desired by the target audience.
    It just seemed like a shame to me that the video wasn’t able to hold the interest of an open minded person not familiar with yoga due to the extreme (boring) repetition.

    • Hi Steph,

      Thanks for sharing your observations and suggestions. That is too bad about your friend. Did she end up ever finding a yoga class outside of her P90X regimen? It seems if she was curious enough about yoga and committed enough to try that she asked you to join her, she was, as you point out, open-minded about the practice and was searching for a way to connect with it. I’ve heard from many people who try yoga first through that they have a hard time.

      As for the level of repetition — I think I have a different tolerance/expectation level due to the kind of practice I do. In Ashtanga yoga, you always start with five sun salutation As and then five Bs. In a power class, you may do up to half an hour of moving the body around for a few postures and then into a sequence of sun salutations. In some vinyasa styles, you then do a standing posture sequence that you repeat again once or twice (for a total of about half an hour).

      Again, thanks for your observations!

  6. Pingback: Explainer takes on P90X Yoga X | | Daily Sun London

  7. Hi Rose,

    I completely agree with your review. I’ve done quite a bit of yoga over the past 15 years, but always in a class run by a qualified instructor. I always loved it and never found it a huge challenge as the instructor always steps you through to the more difficult poses and gives you tips about how to work up to them without injuring yourself.

    I’ve been trying the P90x yoga for a few months and my biggest complaint is that that aspect is missing in the video. The specific point you mention about the warrior 1 to warrior 2 transition is spot on – I stopped doing it becuase it was way too uncomfortable on the back knee and it felt like I was going to injure it … but i’ll try it again following your tip. There were a couple of other poses that this is true for. Also, I found that the transitions from plank to chaturanga to plank to downward dog were all a bit too fast – as if by the time i was in the right position it was time to change again before I could feel the benefits of it.

    I do agree with you on the positives of the video too. Thank you so much for this review, I found it very helpful.


    • Hi Meg,

      I really appreciated that you spent the time to describe your experience with the DVD, and what you thought of the review. Although this blog post was intended as a review rather than a detailed breakdown or an instructional guide, reading your comment reminded me that I thought one way to get around the difficult transition is to go from warrior 2 to what some styles of yoga (include the one in P90X Yoga X) describe as crescent warrior.

      So you would go from the wide open-hip stance of warrior 2 and transition your back foot to being on the ball of that foot as you smoothly returned to facing forward. That means that your back leg is still straight, but what that pivot gives you is the ability to begin to square your hips forward. By not demanding that the back foot be set at a certain angle in order to allow the hips to be in position to square to the front, crescent warrior can give us a smoother flow in a vinyasa sequence.

      Those plant to chaturanga transitions are indeed done quickly, and I love that you want to hold it there long enough to feel the benefits. At the yoga studio and the athletic club where I teach, we always encourage students to stay within the parameters of the class (i.e., if you want to do an entirely different sequence, it’s best to practice on your own rather than disrupt the energy of a class), but that said, to find their own pacing in the sequence.

      Thanks again for sharing your feedback — it means a great deal to me. I hope you continue to deepen your yoga practice, because you are clearly in tune with its benefits and what will or will not enhance the experience for you.


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