Is It the Yoga Class or Is It Me?


About a hundred years ago, a friend invited me to go to a yoga class at the fancy gym where we were both members. I was athletic and, although I knew my flexibility wasn’t great, I was a dancer once upon a time, so I figured I’d have no problem.

I was wrong. It was hard, and it hurt, and the instructor basically stood over me, moving me into stranger and more uncomfortable positions. I sweated while everyone else seemed nice and cool and serene, and I shook like a leaf while the 90-year-old man in the corner easily held pose after pose.

I hated it, but I didn’t quit. I went to a few other classes at the gym with a few different instructors, and while I got marginally better, it never clicked. And, of course, I stopped going. There are too many classes and workouts I love for me to waste time on something I don’t enjoy.

Several years later, I went to some classes with other friends in a kind of hippity-dippity “temple.” For the first time, I began to enjoy the practice. It was still hard, but I got it. The instructor would occasionally give me some gentle instruction, but I didn’t feel like I was doing it wrong, wrong, wrong, which makes it much easier to focus on breathing, let me tell you. But, it was a long drive and classes were at an inconvenient time and, you know, I quit going.

I’ve been doing yoga on my own and with videos for the last few years but recently started attending some classes. I’m still a member of my big fancy gym, and they now have a branch just a couple of miles from my house, so I decided to give them another try. Now, I don’t know if it’s the class, the instructor or me, but this time around? It’s a whole new ballgame.

I suspect it’s a little bit of all three, but the biggest difference is probably my experience. I’m not an advanced yogi by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have a decent understanding of how I should be holding my body in each pose. And I’m not shy at all about modifying; the first thing I do when I arrive is find a yoga block and strap. Plus, I’m focusing as much on breathing and letting go of stress as I am on getting a good stretch and workout. And, let’s not forget, it’s not easy to embarrass me.

Still, even now, if the teacher were to hover over me and constantly correct my posture, I think I’d start losing my confidence all over again, and that’s so not zen. Maybe it’s just this instructor, or maybe the gym has worked with its instructors to be a little more chill, but whatever it is, it’s working for me.

Have you ever had a yoga experience that was anything but zen? Did it turn you off or did you find a new place to practice? —Kristen

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  1. Robin says:

    Hey Kristen:

    I think you answered your own question! I’m a former yoga teacher who too moved away from practice. Lots of excuses, but it was mostly because I wasn’t finding the right class for me. Now that I’ve managed to screw up my Achilles from overuse, I’m returning to yoga, a gentle yoga I never let myself enjoy before and BOY is it awesome. Modifying and breathing, you got it girl! I’ll be posting some gentle postures on my website in the next week, check it out.

  2. Di says:

    I’m so with you! I actually teach yoga (and almost every other type of class) and I always say “go at your own pace, your body may be different side to side, and day to day, everyday is different”. It’s true. Somedays I can move in and out of poses fine, other days my balance is shot, or I’m tight in the hips (*insert any other body part here*). There is no right and wrong in yoga, there is only here and now.

  3. sheree says:

    My first ever yoga class was Hot Yoga – I live in a pretty hot area, it was the middle of summer, and the heat was STILL cranked up in that room. The instructor was fabulous and the class was great, BUT my body wasn’t used to the new form of movement, I had a cold coming on, and did I mention it was darn hot? I ended up so light-headed and disoriented that I had to lay down on my mat, and eventually leave the classroom (I was so wigged out I couldn’t actually get the door open – a kind lady who had her mat set up nearby saw what was happening and got out of her pose to open it for me) until I cooled down and cleared my head. It was a horrific experience that I didn’t repeat for a while, but I did go back to it and absolutely loved it. Unfortunately, my wonderful superstar instructor – who became quite a good friend in the end – recently left town, so I’m without a place to practice for now. Luckily, I’ll be moving to the same city as her in a couple of months, so I’ll be able to take it back up anew. Meanwhile, I just keep doing what I can at home. 🙂 That’s my yoga story!

  4. Lin says:

    I’m a yoga teacher. I don’t hover and assist, because I don’t like being pressed into poses. Even if I know the person, a gentle stroke and guiding word will do. And yes, I tell everyone that yoga isn’t supposed to hurt. Some forms of yoga do more assisting. Some are more forgiving. Just like a comfortable shoe, find one for you and you’ll love it forever. But don’t give it up. And you should never be injured from doing yoga.