10 More Things Yogis Won’t Tell You About Yoga Class.

Via on Jun 2, 2013
photo: flickr/Katie Tegtmeyer
photo: flickr/Katie Tegtmeyer

There are plenty of things that regular yoga practitioners think and don’t say.

For example, that the second cup of coffee consumed right before class was probably a mistake, or that many of us love awesome yoga clothes but are too cheap to buy them.

These, however, didn’t make the cut this time. Read on to discover my next list of top 10 things yogis won’t tell you about yoga class.

1. Meet girls at yoga.

Okay, I’ve spoken to several (and I do mean several) people lately that have a brother who can’t meet the right girl. Really? You seriously haven’t tried going to yoga class yet? Some offerings of why yoga class isn’t the preferred place for men to meet new women are that perhaps these guys are afraid of looking silly because, say, they aren’t flexible yet. You didn’t consider using that as a way to meet someone rather than as a deficit?

Example: “Man, I couldn’t figure out that one pose near the end of class at all. Could you show me?”

You get the picture. Yes, it is true that it’s not appropriate to talk during class, but there is time to mill around and chat before and after (which, incidentally, was when I noticed that your feet—and occasionally my own—need some love).

2. Not all of us judge ourselves harshly.

I’ve noticed for years that a reoccurring thing for the teacher to say during a difficult posture is that you should stop judging yourself if you can’t get into it, or teachers will suggest that we’re all self-deprecating while on our mats (or out in life, for that matter). I’m not necessarily bothered or offended by this, but I’m here to tell you that not all of us think bad thoughts about ourselves.

3. Your true self comes out on your mat. 

One thing that is true for many of us is that irritation and its big sister, anger, often do come out on the mat during long-holds of challenging postures. At least, this is true for me—and it’s also true for me that I get irritated and angry in life when I’m forced to work through something that isn’t fun or that tries my patience. These might not be the feelings that show up for you, but listen to whatever does. Your true self comes out on your mat—and thank God for that. Seeing myself—my real, authentic self—no mirror required, is one of the main reasons that I hop on in the first place.

4. If students leave feeling physically good, then it was a good class.

As a teacher, you can have an amazing theme for your class, but if your sequencing doesn’t work, the class will fall flat. Conversely, if you mess up your right or left or accidentally leave out an entire posture on one side—well, first of all, welcome to the club; most of us do it all the time—but also your students will not care if your overall class leaves them feeling fantastic after they say, “Namaste.” I promise. (If you doubt this, then attend more classes yourself and see what you experience.)

5. We like gentle classes.

All of us, at least from time to time, are not up for hardcore, full-throttle power classes. Personally, I believe in taking days off, even from yoga practice, but most of the time I much prefer a gentle series of seated postures or even a pleasant restorative session rather than a day off, because hitting my mat for a little movement—and time to release my perpetual monkey mind—helps me live better within all of the other areas of my daily life.

6. Not everyone likes to sweat.

Me, I love to sweat. I love slightly heated rooms and power vinyasa—but not everyone does. I know several people, including yoga teachers, who don’t enjoy sweating at all. The beauty of yoga is that there’s room for all of us, and for every style. If you attend your first class, or your first five, and you don’t leave feeling wonderful afterwards—don’t give up—but do check out a new teacher or a new class.

7. Sometimes we hate yoga.

If this has never happened to you, then congratulations (and I mean that sincerely). I, on the other hand, have been practicing for a long time and on occasion, I get sick of the entire scene. Trendy gear, egotistical power players, cattiness, you name it.

A few times, even the actual thought of working through asanas on my typically adored yoga mat annoyed me—and I know that I’m not alone. If this does happen to you, never fear. I have yet to meet anyone who has left the mat permanently. (I’m not saying this hasn’t happened; I’m just saying that I haven’t met them.) In life, as on the mat, often the best thing to do when you’re feeling burned out is to take a vacation from it all. (Read my very first elephant article on ways to get out of a yoga rut.)

8. You should practice more yoga off of your mat.

“Advanced” students of yoga are not people who can pretzel their way into cool poses. They’re simply people who understand that real yoga has largely nothing to do with a sticky mat—and they’ve come to realize that their mats are merely tools to help them achieve true yoga. If you have absolutely no clue what I’m talking about, then go check out some classic yoga books, or consider attending workshops about yoga philosophy at your studio of choice.

9. You’re pretty—but I am too.

I think it’s human nature to check out other people’s bodies, especially when they’re wearing Lycra-spandex. There’s nothing wrong with admiring your neighbor’s cut biceps or flat tummy, but please, when your eyes wander don’t lose real sight of the fact that people are likely looking at you in admiration as well. We’re all special, we are all beautiful, and we all have wonderful attributes. Try as hard as you can to remember your own rather than getting caught up in envy.

10. Yoga is supposed to be fun.

For me, this explains my occasionally snippy feelings toward my yoga practice, as described in #7. Sure, yoga is deeply spiritual and yes, yoga is a serious thing to study and work on and towards but dammit, it’s supposed to be fun. I don’t know about you, but I know that I choose, over and over again, to practice yoga, both physically and mentally because I enjoy it. So when you get caught up in a circle of yogis that are gung-ho on tooting their snooty horns, I suggest walking away with a smile intact—all the while remembering that you took up yoga in the first place because, plain and simple, it makes you feel good.

I’ll let #10 help me segue into my closing thoughts about these yoga classroom secrets.

My last list about things that yogis won’t tell you received a lot of really horrible feedback from readers, mostly on Facebook.  Some thought that I was being snarky or flat out inappropriate, and this relates with my entire purpose of writing these two articles—I think that the yoga community as a whole needs to regain our sense of humor.

After all, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, then what are we learning about life from our mats in the first place?

One of the most productive things that I’ve taken away from my yoga mat and out into real life came from practicing balancing postures. I learned that when I fall, I’m best served by smiling, perhaps even laughing out loud, and then getting back up to try again.

Life does have serious lessons for us, but life is supposed to be fun too.

Maybe that’s the most important thing that yogis don’t tell you about yoga class because they can’t easily relate it to you in words. It’s something you have to show up and experience for yourself. The sheer joy of having a fulfilling yoga practice does something that changes you, on your mat and off—and that’s why we all keep coming back for more.

“Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are.” ~ Jason Crandell

 

 

Like elephant Yoga on Facebook.

Ed: Brianna Bemel

About Jennifer S. White

Jennifer is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She's also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people that ever lived and she's also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor's degree in geology, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer then make sure to check out her writing, as she's finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Jennifer's first book, The Best Day of Your Life, is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and on her website.

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27 Responses to “10 More Things Yogis Won’t Tell You About Yoga Class.”

  1. julie says:

    I like this a lot. Do other people ever make jokes in yoga class? I mean, very infrequently, but every now and then? I think I'm the only one in any of my classes who has ever made a joke or laughed out loud. I just can't be that serious all the time, especially during yoga when I feel absolutely joyous sometimes.

    • marc says:

      i make jokes… usually really inappropriate ones. They just pop out of my head and mouth when i am in a room full of people taking themselves and me far too seriously… can't help it… and its only inappropriate because its the stuff everyone thinks but dares not say :-D

    • Jennifer S. White Jennifer White says:

      To Marc, thanks also for your feedback, and to you, Julie, no you are most certainly not! My classes have been known to contain frequent laughter (and laughter helps release tension from the muscles too). Sounds like you need to hit up some different studios ;)

    • OleManJake says:

      Count me in for occasionally making a joke and having laughed out loud during Yoga practice. Especially when 'happy baby' is involved…something about it just makes me giggle when I do it!

      Nice article, thanks.

  2. devacat says:

    Thanks for this. Shake it up. I teach to the students who are there, despite the label on the class. I recently taught a "Vinyasa" class that was all long holdings and exploration, and I was stunned that so many long-time yogis were so grateful. One man said outright that he was sick of Vinyasa and that's all that's available now. Full agreement from the class. Be flexible for your students and give them what they need that day.

    • Jennifer S. White Jennifer White says:

      Thank you! I agree on many levels. On a different note, I think it's hugely important to read the energy of the classroom and go with it rather than fighting it, which means that as teachers we're sometimes forced to leave a teaching agenda we had in mind behind. Learning to laugh with life allows us the wiggle room we need to also learn to go with the flow.

  3. Gar says:

    Nice article. I agree. As teachers we are supposed to make this gift of yoga accessible not exclusive. We practice to open to quiet our minds, not get on some spiritual trip. Everyone gets to where they are supposed to be when they should get there.

    • Jennifer S. White Jennifer White says:

      Thank you and yes! I agree also that our journeys are not only different from each other, but sometimes our destinations end up being entirely different courses than the ones we initially set sail towards—and thank God for that.

  4. kniplingsdyret says:

    "Yoga is supposed to be fun". Well, yes …. but no. Yoga is fun, no doubt. But yoga can also be hell. Which can be good. Yoga is hard work, and it should be. Physically, mentally, spiritually. Yoga requires us to change.

    Well, I don't think it's possible to pinpoint in one simple sentence what yoga is supposed to be about, but I'm pretty sure the Yoga Sutras don't say much about fun ;-)

    • Jennifer S. White Jennifer White says:

      The most important life lesson I have learned thus far from my yoga practice is that there's a sea of peace, wellness and indescribable bliss that always exists inside of us regardless of extraneous situations and circumstances. Yes, the process towards figuring this out (and the experience that life hands us) is not always fun, but if you are not enjoying any of your yogic "work," then I suggest you're doing something incorrectly.

  5. Amy Page says:

    First, I think a bit of housekeeping? The link that says "My last list" goes to an article titled "Why I'm Not Leaving Facebook". I'm not an EJ member, so after clicking the "My last list" link and being redirected elsewhere, I can't re-read your first list! I guess the daily limit is two articles now! :)

    Anyway. If I am right about which one was YOUR last list (since EJ posts lots of lists!), I was one of those who commented on EJ and the EJ Facebook page about the fact that I thought that list came off as judgmental and maybe even a bit harsh, solidifying this idea that there are yoga cliques and that our community isn't open to all. I'm so happy to say that I loved this article. It's the perfect counterpoint to the first list and much more welcoming and accessible to everyone. So thank you for this.

    I couldn't agree more that there needs to be a fun component to yoga, and to life. If we can't find the lightness within ourselves, how are we ever to muddle through the darker times?

    • Jennifer S. White Jennifer White says:

      My last list already had the link shared (the very first link), and if you noticed, I made a comment about Facebook—hence the not surprising link to my previous article on Facebook.

  6. Amy Page says:

    First, I think a bit of housekeeping? The link that says "My last list" goes to an article titled "Why I'm Not Leaving Facebook". I'm not an EJ member, so after clicking the "My last list" link and being redirected elsewhere, I can't re-read your first list! I guess the daily limit is two articles now! :)

    • Jennifer S. White Jennifer White says:

      You can find my first list by either clicking on the first red-highlighted wording in this article, or by clicking on my red-highlighted name, which directs you to my author page (and you can check out my other blogs too).
      The daily limit does encourage readers to donate to one of our member options. (I can say that I'm a member and it's probably the most well-spent $12 I've used this year.) However, you can sometimes read from different devices (i.e. phone vs. laptop vs. iPad) or wait until tomorrow!
      Thanks for your interest.
      I'd like to note and remind all readers that my first list on this topic, especially, was meant to be fun. Funny, fun, well-intentioned sarcasm. I understand that we don't all have the same senses of humor, though, and I do appreciate your kind feedback here and your willingness to give my articles another go.

  7. Carrie B. says:

    Awesome. Funny. Hilarious and so true. All of it. Thank you! I couldn't agree more. I am 40 and have returned to yoga after a 7 year absence. I am amazed by how little I look around the room now, compared to my 30 year old self. I used to hear them say, "eyes on your own eyes." Ha! But now, I could care less about scanning the room. I so know that I am enough just as I am, and that some days I have it, and some days I don't, and some days I can deal with the loudly moaning woman next to me and some days I am so bugged. I am OK with ALL of that. And mainly I like that I feel beautiful on my mat…not that I LOOK beautiful, although I might (as you said in #9). But what I love about yoga, is that I FEEL beautiful and full of a grace and strength that comes from deep within.

    • Jennifer S. White Jennifer White says:

      Carrie, thank you! I absolutely adore your feedback. I think our mats offer so much insight for us—if we choose to see it. Being honest about our experiences, both the ones that we admire and the ones we're not so proud of, is the way towards "real" yoga. Thanks again!

  8. pat says:

    I agree with all your points!!!! A gentle class will bliss me out and I'll close my eyes and forget everything going on around me. Yoga is also one of the few areas where I DON'T judge myself….my incredible LACK of balance in a class setting makes me giggle every time ;-).

  9. kungfumasterchan says:

    sometimes i am really shocked by the negative comments on peoples articles. someone should write an article on that ! , i liked this article a lot. good job x

  10. Christine says:

    Thank you so much!!! I have recently take a sabbatical from yoga and other work out aspects in my life that seem to have become negative! I've decided to not teach yoga and not really practice. But I still do yoga! Does this make sense? I do it just for me! I'm going to do a class here and there…but not feeling I have to keep up! I can use my yoga for me! :) And now that I've taken time away thinking about yoga….I'm seeing more and more honesty in the yoga world and workout world. Your post is so refreshing! Again….THANK YOU!!!

  11. befunknote says:

    I totally agree with your point about having fun and laughing in yoga class. This is what I love most about my teacher and the studio I go to. He makes lots of jokes and encourages us to laugh and smile a lot throughout class. It really brightens my day. It's even made falling out of headstand or scorpion fun because we all just laugh after. This is not to say my teacher doesn't take yoga seriously, he is very serious about yoga, but I believe that joy and laughter is a part of yoga.

  12. integrity8 says:

    As a yoga teacher of many years I have made yoga a joyous occasion for all attending classes here. Those who insist on rules and 'doing it right' may leave, and are welcome to follow rigid teaching. I know that what I do works and the feedback I get is very good. The body wants to move in different ways. Why not use laughter to produce feel good endorphins and assist the body's wellbeing. I see many Americans are hung up on their mats, their form and the need to tell people "I do yoga" – oh myyy, that's funny!

    With love and joy from Sunny South Africa \O/

    • I subscribe to the same philosophy and have been known to relay to students my experience that "lightening up" and maintaining a sense of humor (even laughing) during practice allows my muscles to more fully relax and gain deeper sensation during some postures.

      Love and joy back!

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