Turnoffs to Trying Yoga

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Ever since I started yoga a little more than two years ago, I’ve noticed three camps emerge among my friends: the “regular yogis,” “the sometimes yogis” and the “never yogis.”

With the “regular yogis,” I find it easy to slip into discussion about my latest classes, yoga musings and long-term goal to go on retreat one day. With the “sometimes yogis,” I can get away with mentioning class every now and then, but I usually get responses about preference for pilates or barre method, and we move on. With the “never yogis,” I’m used to getting blank stares while explaining my latest arm balance feat. Once when I explained hot yoga to a “never yogi,” she looked me straight in the eyes and said, “It sounds like doing yoga in hell.” Fair point.

What I’m curious about today are the “never yogis.”  I read an article over the weekend in the Huffington Post titled “Yoga’s Dark Side” that really resonated with me about the less welcoming side of yoga. I recently just got one of these “nevers” to commit to trying a hot yoga class with me, and I’m not quite sure what did the trick — not that I’m going around preaching the benefits of yoga or anything. This article seemed to have some hidden truths about what could have been holding her back.

The author kicks off the article with a blunt question, “How come when I go to any new-to-me yoga studio, or hang out with a group of ‘yoga people,’ I feel more judged there than anywhere else? At least half the time these yogi cliques are way too cool and I feel more like I just crashed the party at the Mean Girls lunch table, not like I’m about to spend a relaxing hour in stretch and meditation.”

I can totally relate. Before I committed to paying a regular monthly fee at a studio, I hopped around with Groupons and new student deals to 1) extend the cheap paying period and 2) figure out which studio fit me best (and close to snob-free as possible). Each studio had little cliques of mats with groups of 3-4 people talking about their kids or their classes or spreading neighborhood gossip. I did feel like the un-cool kid in the cafeteria at lunch time.

The author goes on to discuss the yoga stereotype, “friendly, inclusive, open-minded, and warm. They had a little bit of the ‘hippie’ spirit in them, wanting to ensure everyone felt good in the space they practiced in.” She concludes that, “we’ve introduced a lot of frivolous stuff into the picture and it’s clouding what the real meaning of yoga is: union of body, mind, and spirit.”

I wonder, do the “never yogis” sense this yoga snobbery as slim women walk around Saturday mornings in their Lulu Lemon gear post yoga sweat sesh? Or is it just the intimidation of the physical practice itself? Or both? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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One response »

  1. This resonates with me on several levels. Reading this article I am reminded how many things in our life are events that we each try for the first time and how we perceive the group within that experience.
    That first impression of the group can be what makes or breaks our willingness to press forward, give up, or be indifferent to the whole idea.

    Thinking about this also got me to consider the notion where some people see a correlation between yoga and religion. The three yogi types to me relates to the generalized three types of religious people. (I’m using a very generalized mind frame right now) We have the, “Every Sunday (or every day of worship) person”, the “once in a while I go” person, and the “I went once and felt so out of place and hated what I heard and saw I am never returning to that church, temple, hole in the wall, back alley way ever again” person. Perhaps what drives some people away from yoga is the lack of acceptance they felt in their first initial yoga moment. Similar to a person who would walk in off the street to a local place of worship, if they did not feel that they met the criteria for that places clique, or have the right look, a person may decide they are not welcome and find they are happier to never return. This is often unfortunate for both parties at hand. Especially given that most spiritual places try to give off a presence of acceptance for anyone and allowing people to explore and try new ways of finding their inner peace.
    The connections and differences that we can find between yoga and other areas of spirituality are intriguing.

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