Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Why Yoga Can Be So Irritating (Although You Should Go Anyway!)

In addition to being somewhat crazy—a shrink once diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder, which I thought was a bit of a stretch until I realized that, like everyone else, he just wanted to have sex with me—I am a yoga teacher. I don’t know what your idea of a yoga teacher is, but should you, recoiling in horror as you read along here, find yourself asking, "But how does someone like this become a yoga teacher?"—the short answer is that I gave a man with a beard and his hot wife $3,200 dollars. The long answer is… well, I’d like to say that it's because if I hadn’t gotten obsessed with yoga I’d probably be dead, because that’s what people always say about things like this: “If I hadn’t discovered writing, I’d be dead,” “if I hadn’t found Alcoholics Anonymous/married my amazing wife/started making autumn-inspired hand-knit legwarmers and selling them on Etsy, I’d be dead.” But saying, "without yoga I would probably be dead" would be, frankly, a little overdramatic. Let’s just say that if I didn’t do yoga everything bad about me would just be worse, and what is bad is already bad enough.

Now, because you can’t get something for nothing, there's a problem. Which is, Yoga Can Be Extremely Annoying. So if you’ve been meaning to get yourself there but have been thinking, “I’m afraid it will annoy me,” here’s some good news: You might be crazy but as far as this particular fear goes, rest assured, it's the product of whatever shred of sanity you may have retained.

There's no getting around it. Yoga has moments of such profound annoyingness that after I finished Eat, Pray, Love (needless to say, I read the ashram section 100 times) all I could think was, “You wrote an entire book about yoga and meditation and you never mentioned, 'oh, by the way, sometimes you will want to punch these people in the face'?" And this is where I perform my public service; in yoga we call that a "seva" (how annoying is that?). All the stuff Elizabeth Gilbert was too high on homemade pizza and Javier Bardem penis to mention, you need to know. Everyone’s always telling you how great yoga is, and that’s true, but then you go there and maybe the studio smells like onions steamed in cat pee, and it might have been helpful to know about that beforehand! You need to know exactly what will disturb you before you get there, so you can prepare; and you should also know that, even though everyone around you will seem perfectly unperturbed, someone—someone who stayed—feels your pain. Oh, and by the way, I want to underscore that what follows below is what bugs me about yoga; everything else is a glittering gift from Lord Shiva. Namaste!

People who just saw each other yesterday will hug like one of them was just rescued from a burning airplane. I’ve always thought of a hug as a slightly protracted, lightly physical way of saying hello to people I know fairly well or have not seen for a long time. Regular practitioners of yoga see hugs as a great way to spend an afternoon. You will want to stare at them and wonder, "Are they really pressing their whole bodies together?” (yes); "are their eyes closed?" (they are); "do they really have dreamy looks on their faces?" (yes, yes, yes). But remember, while you're staring you're wasting valuable time in which you could be cultivating your “I am not the sort of person who likes to be hugged for long periods of time” vibe. This is easier said than done because you will sometimes see people at yoga—like, people who you actually know, who are your friends—with whom you may wish to make brief, friendly physical contact. Engage in such exchanges as you wish, but realize that you are setting yourself as a person who willingly receives hugs, and these people will not take the extra mental step to say, "oh, but above-the-waist hugs,” or “hugs that only last a second.” Make no mistake: these people are looking to soul-blend. To avoid: Arrive early. Lie down with closed eyes. Bring flip-flops—they're essential for a hasty exit.

During hard poses, women and gay men will remain silent and straight men will laugh self-deprecatingly. Imagine being at a gym. Men are lifting heavy weights. They strain, grit their teeth, sweat. But they don’t laugh. So why, here, as they sink into their thighs in Warrior Two or lift their chest skyward during Upward Facing Bow, do they feel the need to let out a little chuckle? More importantly, why does this irk you so? Because, my friend, you are witnessing An Unconscious Assertion of Masculinity. That little laugh is their way of letting you know that hey, they're not really embarrassed about being so bad at this, because they're not even supposed to be here, they're not really doing this, they're good at other things, like, for example, sitting in an airport bar working their way through a 1-dollar-for-the-upgrade double scotch, a bowl of nuts and a "Two and A Half Men" re-run on the corner TV. Of course, there is also the other type of straight guy in yoga, the guy who can wrap his arms around his ankles and turn himself into a perfect circle, the guy who can stand on his hands in the middle of the room, and he is his own version of Hell. Why, you ask, does this man wear his hair in a bun, on top of his head? There are some secrets that no amount of enlightenment will reveal. I will tell you this: These guys tend to get a lot of ass, so laugh as you will, but know that they're getting the last one—upside-down.

There will be Yoga Overachievers. You will be doing Cat-Cow at a normal pace, and they will be bucking and heaving like mechanical bulls. You will be expending an amount of effort somewhere in between “challenging yourself” and “able to retain sufficient muscle strength to remove shampoo bottle from shower caddy." They will be straining, grunting, grimacing. When the pose is over, they will often emit some hideous but presumably cathartic howl. I always want to say to those people, “The auditions for the high-school production of The Trojan Women are in the Lotus Room today,” but I don’t think I need to tell you that your basic yoga overachiever does not have the greatest sense of humor. Then, when class is over, and everyone does that weird little bow, the Yoga Overachiever will bow down for, roughly, an hour. Seriously. You will have already taken your own little I’m-so-spiritual-and-humble-before-the Creator bow, put on your flip-flops (good job!), hightailed it away from the would-be hugger/soul blenders, made and consumed a meal, masturbated to some violent pornography and be just about to crawl into bed with the fall Anthropologie catalog, and they remain on the floor in the yoga studio, thanking God for making them, well, them. As these people have a tendency toward spraying you with saliva and noxious BO (see next item) you should give them a wide berth, and don’t attend any functions at their homes, because, for reasons with which the universe has not yet supplied me, they’re almost always horrible cooks.

People will have chive crotch. I developed the term "chive crotch" when, as a mere girl, I was visiting a friend in Oregon and attended a county fair with her. This was my first time on the West Coast. I had smelled body odor before, of course, but never body odor strong enough to make me almost pass out. This was not mere sweat, this was, I said to my friend, the scent of a person who, after carrying around the same bunch of chives in their underwear for an entire summer, had found themselves mid-August with no shower, no clean underwear and, needless to say, no fresh bunch of chives. This is what about 15 percent of people smell like in yoga class. Look, I will confess to having mild body odor myself at times. But I believe smelling like a person who showered recently, applied a non-Alzheimer’s causing deodorant or crystal to her pits and sweated a little in the car is a far cry from chive crotch. The thing that’s really annoying about people stinking is they always have this look on their faces like smelling bad makes them somehow closer to the earth, more spiritual, than evil clean people who have used up precious natural resources and unleashed sodium lauryl sulfates into the environment for the mere purpose of not befouling the rooms they share with others.

There are teachers and students who think flexibility is some kind of indication of how good a person you are. A teacher once said to me, "Your hamstrings are tight is because your mind is not flexible." I said, "Have you ever taken differential calculus?" She said, "What?" I said, "Have you ever taken differential calculus?" She had not. She said she was terrible at math. I said, "Well, I am very good at math." (This was not strictly true, but I was quite confident I was better at math than she was.) “Is there something wrong with your mind that you aren’t?” (No, this was not just a strategy to stop this person from soul-hugging me, but it did have that fortunate side effect.)

While we certainly hold tension, trauma and rigidity in our limbs and joints and muscles (otherwise The Universe wouldn’t have given us Bengay), there is no reason to imagine there’s some absolutely direct correlation between how well we can move and how functional or healthy our mind is. I seriously doubt that Einstein or Susan Sontag had less flexible minds than, I don’t know, Rodney Yee. My point is, some physical limitations can be aided through the practice of yoga and some can’t and no one needs the increased pressure of someone telling them, every time they strain to get their heels on the floor in Downward Facing Dog that this is because their mind is all fucked up. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but you just wait until the day when there's a public forum where people can pay $10-$18 dollars to get in a room with other people to demonstrate how good they are at math. Actually, there is such a place and I guess that would be called "school" and it goes on much longer than a yoga class and often costs much more and it scars people horribly and makes them grow up angry and thinking of ways to humiliate people who can’t touch their toes.

So if, one day, your teacher says, we hold a lot of stuff in our hips and hamstrings and as we begin to let this stuff go and become our authentic selves we will be able to wrap our arms around ourselves eight times, look around the room. You will probably see a guy who can do that, while smiling, and I’ll bet you a $100 prAna gift certificate that you will eventually hear from someone in class about the time he flew into a rage and broke a car window with a shop vac. When your hamstrings become authentic, maybe they can help him.

Teachers talk like Yoda’s MSW-having Mom. If you were to ask your yoga teacher, “Can my newly authentic hamstrings help the angry guy?” she might say something like, “That depends on whether they were coming from a space of pure intention.” The word "honor" is used a lot, as in “honoring yourself,” or “honoring your practice.” Other popular words: "Joy." "Integrity." "Space," but not as in outer space, as in “Go into a space of,” and "place," but not as in “that place next to Shoe Pavilion,” as in, “Let yourself come into a place of…" When class is over, the teacher will say something like, “Bow to your inner wisdom,” or “take a moment to thank yourself for committing to your practice,” which always makes me intone the prayer, “Please, God, make me less fat than I was an hour and a half ago.”

The worst part about yoga world vocabulary, of course, is how quickly you may find yourself learning and using it. The hope is that because yoga has made you—I’m sorry, I mean, allowed you to open up a space to become—so much more self aware and less narcissistic, you will only talk this way in front of other people who talk like that too. And now that you are friends with so many of them, because you have, after so thoroughly mocking this world basically joined it, that means practically everyone you speak to. My final warning, when you are talking to one of your new yoga buddies, do not accidentally buttdial an old friend, especially if he is a sniping, gym-going homosexual, and allow him to hear you speaking the lingua franca of Yogaland, because, after seeing the record of the call and hoping he heard nothing, you will receive a text message reading: "YOU ARE SO FUCKING BUSTED BITCH – YOU’RE A LOSER!" and no amount of yoga will ever mitigate the shame.

"How are you?" is not a simple question at yoga. No one at yoga is ever just fine. They’re “working through a lot of heavy stuff,” or “dealing with a lot of craziness.” That said, when people ask you how you are, don’t say anything bad. If you are broke, the universe is just trying to teach you a lesson about how much you already have. If someone dumped you, the universe removed that person from your life for a reason. (And that reason is that person is no longer interested in having sex with you!) The universe is very busy in the yoga world, always trying to show you things. I have simply let the universe know, hey, I have seen enough. I have learned enough. Until you can give me a billion dollars and a soundproof room filled with 2002 Zinfandel and organic goat cheese cheddar where all I have to do is watch "Foyle’s War" until I drop dead, please leave me alone. But it's determined to keep pestering me. At any rate, when people ask you how you are at yoga, don’t tell them anything bad has happened to you unless you’re prepared for the suggestion that you look at your misfortune with an attitude of grace and gratitude. And while I think grace and gratitude are both wonderful things, I also think they are attitudes best preceded by bitterness, rage and self-pity.

So yes, in the beginning it’s all about slipping the car keys inside the flip flops so that all the tools of your escape are in a neat little package. But just keep showing up. In no time you will become sufficiently like all these people that they won’t bother you at all. And then some crazy asshole will make fun of you. Is the circle of eternity beautiful or what?

Sarah Miller is the author of Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl, which are for teens but adults can read on the beach. She lives in Nevada City, CA.

Photo courtesy of lululemonathletica.

95 Comments / Post A Comment

This is the most servicey post since Duck Out Of Work For A Drink Day. Thank you!

Also, can I replace every occurrence of the word "yoga" with "Pilates"? Because my (insert uncommon sport here) coach says that Pilates would be really helpful but the whole Pilates culture scares me in the same way yoga culture does.

@Gef the Talking Mongoose

I am just grossed out by the phrase "yoga culture." Though the phrase chive crotch set the table.

Bittersweet (#765)

@Gef the Talking Mongoose: Every Pilates instructor I have ever met is an upbeat, attractive woman with perfect hair and makeup to go with the perfect abs.

But be careful, they will lure you into class with their pretty niceness and then proceed to beat the crap out of you for an hour until your butt falls off and your stomach is spasming.

parallel-lines (#13,150)

@Bittersweet Or, in my case, bore me to sleep.

mishaps (#5,779)

@Gef the Talking Mongoose Pilates is nothing like this, in my experience. Pilates people tend to be type A ladies who will tell you in such detail what a number pregnancy did on their abs that you will never want to bear children. They are also much less likely to be "it's about the journey, not the destination" type teachers.

SeanP (#4,058)

@Gef the Talking Mongoose The Awl: now with live & active yoga culture.

johnpseudonym (#1,452)

Nice shoes. Wanna fuck?

amuselouche (#448)

Sometimes in Savasana, I quietly meditate on everyone who has wronged me during the day. I'm good with that.

ejcsanfran (#489)

The universe (via this post) is telling me to continue to avoid yoga.

camelface (#4,600)

If I don't laugh during yoga am I gay? Please don't tell my commanding officer.

Rosebud (#4,107)

@camelface Only one more month to go!

jetztinberlin (#392)

Sarah! I am also a crazy yoga teacher and this was so very awesome. (Also: OM MY GOD tag, ahahahaaa.)

And I was momentarily dementedly curious to know which bearded man and hot wife you took your teacher training from, because, well, when I read that sentence I instinctively thought 'Oh, that's totally _______ _________!'

And then I realized that roughly 68% of all yoga teacher trainings fit this description. Umm. Sigh.

carpetblogger (#306)

@jetztinberlin Chris Chavez?

Bobby Womack (#4,074)

The tiny amount of aluminium in antiperspirant don't cause Alzheimer's or increase the risk of getting it; nor does it have any other ill effects on health. There is no published research claiming such a thing except a few animal studies from the 60's and 70's that have had this supposed link debunked.

Deodorant 'crystals' smell terrible.

sarahpm (#13,702)

@Bobby Womack I know that. in my head. My heart tells me otherwise. I wear mennen but I just can't bring myself to plug up my sweat glands. It just seems wrong.

melis (#1,854)

@Sarah But it is such a tiny tiny fraction of your overall sweat glands! It's not like using real deodorant is going to turn you into that lady from Goldfinger who got covered in gold paint and died.

rawnickel (#32,449)

@sarahpm Like Mr. Womack, I'm really hurt that you joked about deodorant. No amount of yoga can undo the indelible scar you made on my soul.

hypnosifl (#9,470)

@rawnickel It wasn't obviously written as a "joke" though, when I read that I started to get a little worried (yeah, mild hypochondriac), I'm glad B. Womack cleared that up.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

Oh man, this was hilarious and only made me hate yoga more than I did, which I did not think possible. Thank you Awl, for helping me exceed a goal today.

saythatscool (#101)

@scroll_lock You and I are going to the Ram's Head Tavern at BWI for some Johnny Walker after work today right?

scroll_lock (#4,122)

@scroll_lock – You better not have been that close by and not cAwled me for a get together!

parallel-lines (#13,150)

Can we also talk about how much of a scam bikram is and how it's taught by fascist bullies?

Kevin Knox (#4,475)

@parallel-lines I just sent this piece to a friend who's done a lot of yoga, and he emailed back, "The worst turd burglars are at Bikram."

Blahblaaah (#11,696)

@Kevin Knox I knew I was right to hate Bikram

sox (#652)

@Blahblaaah And also that hot studios are permeated with the worst smell ever and when you do hot yoga you are basically steaming yourself with the human sweat of everyone else in the class?

parallel-lines (#13,150)

@sox A dude ones flung his sweat right into my face while raising his arms. I nearly horked.

turd_sandwich (#5,660)

@parallel-lines My totally fascist, bully, backstabbing, Type-A boss does this shit and says, "I can stretch at home," when people ask her why not regular yoga. this string of comments surprises me not.

crescentmelissa (#10,702)

sorry i still love yoga. this piece was great.

Bittersweet (#765)

Thanks, Sarah, this is hilarious and true, and essentially why I stopped going to Kripalu and only take yoga at my friend's Pilates studio.

GeauxCori (#32,320)

Thank you for allowing me to reach a space wherein I can understand that this is The Best.

kneetoe (#1,881)

That's an interesting pickup strategy, diagnosing someone with a mental illness. Maybe I'll try that at the hairpin party tonight.

s. (#775)

I can't think of a sentence that would make me less likely to continue reading a post than “a shrink once diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder, which I thought was a bit of a stretch until I realized that, like everyone else, he just wanted to have sex with me”.

lk@twitter (#22,648)

@s. I assumed this was a joke? BPD patients tend to alternatively demonize or idealize everyone they have a relationship with, fall into "black and white" thinking, etc. I chuckled, at least.

melis (#1,854)

@s. Don't worry, it was a self-deprecating joke!

Thing One (#32,363)

@s. Nooo it was a joke because some people with BPP think everything is sexualized. Also I would like to note that the Harmonium is also annoying.

@s. That's funny 'cos that is exactly why I did keep reading!

Dia Wong@facebook (#34,736)

Trivia of the day: an early sign of niacin deficiency is losing one's sense of humor.

mysterygirl (#5,258)

None of these things happen at the place where I practice, so if you're looking for somewhere to do yoga in DC…

Not to get all earnest on everyone (too late!) but if you thought you might like yoga but had experiences like this, I strongly recommend trying different studios/shalas, or different teachers within one, until you find one that you like, because there are so many different ways to teach yoga or to practice yoga that odds are you will find one…

bangs (#19,284)

@mysterygirl I agree, my yoga studio in Vancouver is a lot more yuppie than hippie.

In one class the instructor encouraged us to get deeper into a pose as it would open up the feet and then we could justify wearing tight, bad for your feet shoes.

purefog (#999)

@mysterygirl Or, better yet, try different persons within yourself.

sox (#652)

I've been doing yoga for going on 10 years and still can't touch my toes. Luckily my main teacher has a sense of humor and one day she said that maybe I just have genetically short hamstring muscles. To which I replied that I ever win the lottery, I will get hamstring extending implants.

You live in Nevada City? I love Floracopeia products, and have enjoyed David Crowe's workshops, but some of cohorts…seem like they'd have chive crotch.

Blahblaaah (#11,696)

I normally go to hot yoga twice a week except on the summer when the humidity gets to me. Anyway you described the most awful teacher I have ever had and her ridiculous zen attitude. I do not pay $15 to be kicked in the head tyvm. If I am getting kicked in the head you have too many people in your studio and you need to turn people away. The crazy owner of my favorite studio does this and quite frankly I can't function because I'm too busy thinking homicidal thoughts towards her and the women in front of me.

Monitor (#1,784)

YES. I went for a while years ago and the studio regularly booked too many people for the space. On these days the teacher would announce that it was Partner Yoga Day, which involved sharing a mat with some stranger, who would smile at me supportively while holding one part of me still and pulling some other part out into a stretch, now trade places and repeat. This also made me livid because it was clearly about the studio wanting to make as much money as possible even at the expense of the chakras (etc.) of those involved. I don't know a lot about yoga culture but I know you're not supposed to have to drink to calm down after yoga class. To the extent that I thought I might give it another try somewhere else sometime, this article has brought me to a place of glorious enlightenment.

@Blahblaaah Oh holy shit that is not cool!

rap_mogul (#32,351)

I have been reading The Hairpin and The Awl for a whole summer now, but was never motivated to comment until now:

Yes, yes, A THOUSAND TIMES YES to the Foyle's War reference. Nothing better in the world than pencil skirts and Nazis getting their comeuppance.

rien à dire (#32,378)

@rap_mogul Totally signed in just to rep Foyle's War. And wine and goat cheese. Hello, perfect evening!

Ham Snadwich (#11,842)

I went to a lunchtime yoga class for a while, when I was having some (what I thought at the time were) rugby-induced back problems. I was usually the only one that showed up, and after a few weeks of this the teacher approached me after class and started talking to me like my dog had just died.

Her: I hate to do this… but attendance at the class hasn't been very good….I really wish I could keep helping you with your practice….

Me: Oh hey, no, it's cool. I figured you probably would cancel the class eventually. I mean, we've all gotta make money, right?

Which apparently IS THE WRONG THING TO SAY to a yoga teacher, because she launched into a very long boring explanation about why that's not why she teaches yoga and it's more about the spiritual instruction and wellness etc etc.

Anyway, it turned out my chair at work was off-kilter and I was sitting crooked. But I learned how to do a headstand, so it wasn't a total waste.

mrschem (#1,757)

@Ham_Snadwich love this story.

manatee (#32,345)

Can this be re-titled "Why the West Coast Can Be So Irritating." I had a pretty hard-core yoga practice in NYC (Jivamukti, The Shala, Dharma Mittra [if you must know]) and none of this shit happened in my classes.

As for chive crotch, you were at the Oregon Country Faire. Duh.

*I consider myself uniquely qualified to comment on this post bc I left Brooklyn for a teeny hippie village amongst the redwoods in Norcal (where hitchhiking was still a valid means of transpo and people would blast Jefferson Airplane in the grocery store. The only thing to do in the town was see the Gratful Dead cover band once a week. I had spun out old hippie lady ask me about the resposnibilities associated w. being the eyes of the world.) I hightailed it back to Brooklyn after Norcal hippie reality hit me.

sarahpm (#13,702)

@manatee i went to jivamukti for a long time and some of this takes place there. But i loved it and I love the place i go now and I love all my teachers and friends from yoga. But probably not as much as I like making fun of shit, and making fun of myself.

@manatee I grew up in Oregon and I can't agree with you more. I moved to Southern CA and escaped the stench. But the memory of the girls with "chive crotch" who didn't bathe their hairy armpits or anything "down below" lives on. Nor will I ever forget the reaction of a friend visiting from Mexico when she saw a swarm of Grateful Dead followers ( who all came from middle-upper class families) in their filthy raggedy attire. She cried out "Oh no! those poor people! They must going through a really rough time and nobody cares! How could this happen in America?" It was impossible to explain to someone from a poor country why these young people would choose not to bathe, dress like street urchins, and just basically leech off all the shmucks who would give them free food and shelter. When they had every opportunity to be educated, productive members of society. I did get turned on to the benefits of yoga thanks to them, but I chose to practice it in a clean, stench free environment.

Anyway, I now live in Mexico. I have seen, first hand, the extremely dirt poor conditions so many people live in. Running water, electricity, paved streets, decent schools and medical care are a luxury.
Yet you see them coming out of the makeshift shacks they live in, freshly bathed, well groomed, looking spotless in clothing that has been washed and ironed with great care. And to top it off- wearing a beautiful smile on their face. So, for these people who struggle everyday just to maintain the basics, it is almost impossible to comprehend the American mentality.

Clearly, materially speaking, they are very poor. But they are so rich in spirit. With very few exceptions, they are very close knit families and most often live in extended family units. No need for daycare or nursing homes. No need to pay a "shrink" when you have a supportive family to help you. The use of psychotropic meds is almost unheard of. They maintain their spiritual traditions and rituals, and include the children from the very beginning. No need to pay a guru to be your guide because you have lost touch with you inner self. With such a physically demanding lifestyle, no need to pay gym fees to get a workout. They may not do yoga, but they know how to position and move their bodies when they carry heavy loads,ect., and therefore they have excellent posture.

And last but not least, they do not shy away from the reality of death. In these remote villages when someone dies, the family handles every detail at home. The women bathe and prepare their loved ones body for burial. The men build a simple wooden casket and prepare the burial site. Their loved one's body is never left alone. Before the funeral and burial, they hold a 24 candlelight prayer vigil around the body which is laid out in the front room. The following day the casket is carried to to the church for a funeral Mass. Then the casket is closed and hand carried to the cemetery accompanied by musicians as all members of the village walk behind in a solemn procession.

I realize that I've gone off on a bit a tangent. But I believe it is relevant, because all of us who go to yoga and meditation classes are seeking the peace and happiness that we lost along the way in America. The wonderful Mexican people who opened their hearts, homes and shared their lives with me, showed me the source of true happiness. We can all learn so much from them.

KeLynn (#32,367)

bahahaha thank you for this. I love yoga because I like the actual poses and stretching and such. However, I pretty clearly do not fit into "yoga culture" and that makes me always slightly uncomfortable in classes. Although there is one hippy studio I love going to because everybody is SO far into "yoga culture" that they are the nicest people ever. The place smells like weed and is on the second floor of an otherwise-abandoned building and they try to get you to stay for their prayer groups and vegan potlucks and they keep a jar of birdseed by the door so you can feed birds on your way out and all the male instructors wear buns on their heads but….it's one of the most relaxing studios I've ever been to.

@KeLynn Your comment is almost as funny as this post!

elly jonez@twitter (#16,278)

@KeLynn whoa, what city is that in? it sounds awesome.

KeLynn (#32,367)

@elly jonez@twitter It's in Cincinnati, and it's called World Peace. If you happen to be here, I'd definitely recommend it!

Libby (#205,179)

@KeLynn Late to this but Yesss! I was reading this dreamy eyed and thinking how there must be a place like that in Cincinnati. And I need to find it when I go back for a bit… away from this place. Warehouses, space, blissful unaware, street birds you don't want to shoot. Cincinnati for the win yet again. It's on the same street as this coffeehouse where I used to hang out as a teen.

Dani (#16,562)

See I don't think I can get over all these things in order to enjoy yoga. I know it's supposed to help settle your nerves blah blah but the one time I went the instructor kept going on about Great Sky Spirits and like all I want is for them to give me poses to do and tell me if they think I'm about to break my neck. My friend is trying to convince me to go again but then she let it slip that the instructor has found someone to sing during class and I just don't know how calming that's supposed to be? I just don't know how to be around all these lithe positive people.

ennaenirehtac (#11,592)

@Dani I've been to a yoga class where the instructor sings and it is horrible.

DrFeelGood (#14,494)

@Dani You should try another studio . I am SO not a yoga person, go really irregularly, but when I do go I love it. I have had instructors that I did not like though. My favorite instructor is a guy who is in the army! for reals.

likethestore (#32,383)

I came over from The Hairpin and registered here just to give you all my thumbs up. I love yoga but I do not "get" yoga philosophy and it makes me feel like a bad student for being the only one in the class who gets bored during meditation or giggles when someone queefs. I'm glad to know that at least one yoga teacher is keeping it real.

And contrary to someone above, who I guess doesn't know what BPD is, "a shrink once diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder, which I thought was a bit of a stretch until I realized that, like everyone else, he just wanted to have sex with me" is the best line in the whole piece.

DrFeelGood (#14,494)

@likethestore Yea I'm a gal and I totally giggle when I can't do the pose, or when my face is in someone's ass. Then I sit there in child's place for ~2 min like fuck fuck fuck I'm sore why am I here…

punkahontas (#14,609)

What about the male yoga instructors that always want to help you get "deeper into the stretch" in way that is not entirely appropriate?

And then, of course, there are the annoying devoted followers/groupies of the same male yoga instructors.

mrschem (#1,757)

@punkahontas Well, I know its not for everyone but the reason I love Bikram yoga is because it is precisely the opposite of all the namaste shit. They teach a precise dialogue, you do what they tell you to do and you feel better for it. No touching, No demonstrating and thankfully, so far, no chive crotch. Only problem I have with it; very costly.

KeLynn (#32,367)

@punkahontas YES. Not all male yoga teachers are like that, of course. Some I think are so concerned about overstepping bounds that they don't touch women at all. But once in a while I've gotten guy instructors or "assistants" who seem to touch way more than any woman instructor ever would. I don't think it's that they're coming on to me specifically, I think they just don't understand personal space when it comes to the ladies.

parallel-lines (#13,150)

@sox A dude ones flung his sweat right into my face while raising his arms. I nearly horked.

sarahf (#10,906)

"You will have already taken your own little I’m-so-spiritual-and-humble-before-the Creator bow, put on your flip-flops (good job!), hightailed it away from the would-be hugger/soul blenders, made and consumed a meal, masturbated to some violent pornography and be just about to crawl into bed with the fall Anthropologie catalog…"

This accurately describes my post-Monday-night-yoga routine! I'm glad someone else is on the same page as I am.

And I love my yoga class/instructor NOW, but I had to go through a lot of meh instructors before I found one that I enjoyed that had some of the meditation but a lot of I'm kicking your ass so hard sweat is pouring off of you like a fucking waterfall. Back when I was first giving yoga a go in colleeg, one of the weirder instructors told me that my big toe should talk to my bellybutton.

EmilyKane (#32,575)

I have been fortunate enough that my instructors / yoga classmates aren't huggers. I would cuuuut them. The weirdest guy I ever encountered as a kid eight years younger than me who'd try to follow me around and ask me to hang out after class on Saturday. Because of that guy, I had to switch to the fucking 9am Ashtanga class, when all I wanted to do was a little vinyasa at 1pm, because I am hungover at 9 and the Ashtanga teacher does touch me. Oof.

I will say, though, that what I initially thought was stupid – "setting your intention for your practice that day" – now seems almost magical. When I first started doing yoga, I was breaking up with a longterm boyfriend and I'd always set my intention to like, find love or open up or some shit. I was a walking yoga memoir. And a few months later, I started dating my current man who is the greatest thing since apple pie and we're in love and everyone else thinks we're gross but we're like, "awww!" Then, since I found love, I set my intention to concentrate on getting a new job, not an easy task because I'm a lawyer and that market is shit right now. And, lo, I got a new job about a month later. I'm not saying some mystical forces helped me get a new job. No way. But yoga did make me concentrate on my goals and improving stuff that needed improved.

DrFeelGood (#14,494)

@EmilyKane Yea I am not a diehard, but all the stuff that sounded corny as hell when I first started going is now kindof fun. My advice to all the yoga haters is to try a chill time and try different studios. My favorite class is on a friday afternoon at 5 pm. There are usually like 3 – 7 people in the class.

If I hadn't found this article, I'd be dead.

lwl (#32,639)

I go to a yoga class, and get all the way thru without being too annoyed, feeling great and relaxed at the end in corpse pose, and then the guy over there is so relaxed he falls asleep and starts snoring… ugh, the worst.

This is funny because it's true.

DrFeelGood (#14,494)

What about that one guy (you know the one) who is all into his breathing A LITTLE TOO MUCH?! And his namaste's and ohm's are the loudest too. Shut up annoying yoga man. No one likes you.

wee_ramekin (#33,118)

@DrFeelGood Ogden? (see 1:30, 2:29)

+100,000 for the Rodney Yee reference. That smug little bastard annoys the shit out of me but damn if his videos didn't actually make me halfway decent at yoga.

@The Dependent Clause OMG – just bought a bunch of Rodney Yee videos (I didn't know! Gaiam was so encouraging!) and he's in his f'ing UNDERWEAR during one of the videos. I did the tape with my mom on Christmas morning and we nearly passed out we were laughing so hard. We had to have a double bloody mary after that!

fried mars bar (#3,055)

Thanks for the thing about male embarrassed failure chuckling…I think about doing yoga every once in a while and I can completely see myself doing that.


@fried mars bar I have recently started attempting yoga and I have totally done this (but very quietly, and just for a second, and totally not on purpose). Gotta say, reading that paragraph caused me a tiny bit of chagrin.

mikepick (#9,044)

Sometimes a dude-ly chuckle really just is a chuckle and not necessarily a gender commentary.

As in: "I can't believe the popping sound my knee just made" or "Hey this is fun" or " I think my balls are falling out of my shorts."

I started going to yoga to help with aching from playing hockey (MANLY SPORT ALERT!) and it's great, it really makes you feel a few inches taller for a few hours until it wears off. Highly recommended.

I'm not really into the spiritual side of it and luckily the teacher at the studio I've been too is pretty casual about it. The clientele is more Park Slope moms than hippies though, so maybe that helps.

curlysue (#34,091)

Maybe this is just my problem, but I've always found many yoga poses to be extremely uncomfortable. Not painful really, but just not pleasant to perform. I can't bliss out and find my sacred space if my knee is hurting from being ground into the floor from most of my weight being on it. And while yoga instructors always claim that poses can be modified to account for injuries or various body issues, I always find that it leaves me hurting more than I was before. Yet when I explain this to a yoga teacher, I get a blank stare. I just wish yoga instructors could realize that yoga isn't for everyone.

scojo (#17,876)

that's why I like Ashtanga, it cuts out a lot of the annoying factors. For some reason the patrons of Ashtanga don't do a lot of the stuff you describe, although Annoying Aspects are hella present in any other form of yoga except maybe Iyengar which is like, in a class of its own in every way. You didn't mention anything about annoying music. Probably my #1 pet peeve because just when all the other annoying factors have dissipated, and I've had like 20 seconds of peace, the teacher puts on some annoying music that puts me in that tailspin of: I shouldn't let the music bother me. The music is fine. Just ignore the music. I HATE THE MUSIC. Music and most other ANNOYING FACTORS are thankfully omitted in the ashtanga classes I have frequented.

On a side note, I loved your Salem piece so I bought your books and sent them to my 14 yr old daughter when she was at camp. She loved the Gideon one and now some other kid from camp bought it and is reading it. I am enjoying the Gideon one right now. Well done!

sarahpm (#13,702)

@scojo thanks so much. not that many people bought my books and it's a little bit of a bummer because i think they're pretty funny


This was a funny thing, nice job.

I just started hot-yoga-ing recently and I think I got lucky — there is no spiritual weirdness, no hugging, and so far no insanely stinky people. Everyone comes in, silently yogas, and gets the fuck out. There are still some eye-roll-worthy moments but nothing that has made it an unpleasant experience. High five for the enormous personal space bubbles of midwesterners, I guess?

@tobybot High-five for midwestern bubble. Also, were you at a yoga chain? Like Core Power yoga? I always feel like they're a little more business and a lot less om. Sometimes that's all I really want.

I laughed til I peed my pants – now I must wash before yoga!

Sarah Miller is my new Hero!!! Her article is so spot on, I was laughing out loud while reading her piece. Priceless. Yea for Authenticity..thank you Sarah.

other margaret (#35,997)

You didn't mention the horrors of Kundalini yoga where at the end of class they make you sing a little song about the sun. I do not sing in public. Ever. Believe me this is a good thing.

sarahpm (#13,702)

@other margaret oh margaret you will be so sad to know that i actually practice kundalini yoga and teach it and i love it

jsmith2113 (#39,312)

Entertaining article. Thanks for posting.

I have also seen people act (in a nice way) like they’re performing a role of yoga teacher or student in a hollywood movie and completely miss the lessons of yoga.

It’s not about being something else.
It’s about being yourself.

One of the benefits inherent in the practice I've received is witnessing and keep a mindful approach, a critical skill for identifying who I am to be myself.

I primarily go to yoga classes to condition myself with dynamic flexibility to enhance myself as an athlete.

"I found that the best way to change the world is to start by changing myself." — Joe Cross

richhi (#93,045)

Yoga is really tiring in the beginning. You'll have sore muscles all over after the first few days of practice but once your body get used to it, you'll realize how wonderful yoga is.

"chive crotch"

Part of me is happy to have found a term for that special scent. Another part wants me to put my own eyes out. Great post!

An irritating article but so very true. LOL.

As a man who is new to yoga and who thought, for the past six months that I might be in the wrong room, I would like to say:
Thanks. It's nice to hear that from an instructor.
I'm never going to be a guru… Or whatever…. And I really don't want to be.
I'm really just wanted to be healthier, improve my balance, improve my core strength and improve my flexibility. It seems to be working! Honestly, I do like yoga. But, I thought there might be something wrong with me when I noticed a lot of what you pointed out.
On a positive note, I have yet to have my cell phone go off during class, which is more than can be said for some folks. It seems to really piss some people off. I have to kind of laugh every time it happens. I think it's funny.
Again, thanks.

Love the article.Exactly describing a significant number of yoga practitioners.What i dislike about some people in the yoga world is the sentimentalism,the holier than thou attitude,the unnatural repression of so called "bad" emotions like anger,the need to pretend to be this or that(holy,zen,saint),the need to look always nice,friendly,smily,i mean,it is so artificial,really phony.

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