My Yoga Breakup.

Via Joslyn Hamilton
on Jul 20, 2010
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The writer in updog

“It’s not you, yoga; it’s me.”

Yoga and I had such a great relationship once. When we met, it was love at first sight. “Finally,” I thought, “something that really gets me.” I would have bet a million rupees that we would be together forever.

But then we started fighting, and eventually I had to break it off. It was sad, but I knew it was for the best. I moved on to mindfulness meditation. We’d been flirting for years, and once yoga and I broke up, I knew it was time to give meditation my all. For the last few months, I’ve been really enjoying my time with Buddhism, but still feeling a little gun-shy about jumping in with both feet again after what happened with yoga.

Nevertheless, I recently attended an all-day mindfulness meditation workshop. And guess who showed up? That’s right, yoga.

During our lunch break there was an optional one-hour yoga class with a teacher I’d never heard of. “What the hell,” I thought, “It’s been a while, and maybe I’ll actually enjoy it again.” Truth is, I’d been missing yoga and wondering if I’d made a mistake. Sometimes I can waffle like that. I have a hard time letting go of loyalties once they’re secured, and I’ve been known to take love interests back before. I should realize by now that it’s always a mistake.

Sure enough, less than ten minutes in, I knew my decision had been right all along. I’m over yoga. And it’s not yoga; it’s me. I’m the one that’s changed.

I used to love every part of yoga’s quirky personality: the endless sweaty classes, the platitudes that sounded so life altering the first time I heard them, the sense of belonging to a really cool cult.

The teachers. I used to love the teachers. And if I didn’t love one of them, I would give myself a little talking to about how triumphing in the face of adversity is the mantra of a warrior and how if I could cultivate the patience and insight to make it through a bad class, I would be a better person. (This sort of attitude is encouraged by yoga studio owners, who want you to feel like a bad yoga experience is your own fault for not having the right outlook. “Shift your vision,” they say. They don’t want you to pick favorites with their teachers. They want you to patronize all their classes equally, for obvious reasons.)

At some point in any relationship, things need to go to the next level.

The next level of yoga is to develop a home practice. And if you never do that, well, it’s kind of like only seeing your husband out at bars. It’s like he’s hanging out at the same bars he’s been hanging out at for ten years, and his bar friends are getting younger and sloppier and more intolerable.

That’s sort of how I feel about yoga teachers. I mean, not literally, of course. But, well, kind of.

I am getting older and wiser (about myself, at least), and they are just hanging out at the same old bars doing the same old things: telling me to “lock your knee,” repeating things their teacher said in a Valley of the Dolls voice, playing intolerably nostalgic Beatles songs that remind me of my bad childhood.

For whatever reason, yoga and I never got to the home practice stage. I lack the discipline. And that’s not yoga’s fault. I was expecting yoga to keep giving me what I needed year after year, but I was refusing to give back to yoga.

So, back to that one last fatal class.

In the spirit of Buddhist equanimity, I tried to give this particular teacher my beginner’s mind attitude. I put my mat in the back, kept my eyes down, and let her assume (as she apparently did… they always do) that I had never tried yoga before and have zero body awareness.

That’s the only thing that can explain why she came over to me in Padangusthasana, leaned in, and condescendingly whispered, “Straighten your legs, honey.”

Obviously, I was bending my legs on purpose. I was bending my legs (and just a little bit!) because I hadn’t done a shred of yoga in a month and I’m tight and it was barely noon and if I force my legs straight, it HURTS MY KNEES and really? Do you really care if my knees are a little bent? What does it matter to you, lame random yoga teacher?

I’m sure she caught the look of murderous disdain I shot her as she walked away. That’s the only explanation for why she came back and did it again. Yoga teachers like to be right. And the easiest way to make yourself right is to make someone else wrong.

With barely masked contempt I muddled through the rest of the class, a billboard flashing in my head the entire time: NOTE TO SELF! DO NOT MAKE THIS MISTAKE AGAIN!

It’s really over for me and yoga this time.

(I am 99% sure.)


About Joslyn Hamilton

Joslyn Hamilton is a freelance writer living in beautiful Marin County, California. She is one of the co-founders of Recovering Yogi and also launched Creative Truth or Dare. Joslyn has an imaginary spice + skincare line called SimpleBasic. She is a functioning craftaholic and counts hiking, cooking, reading and rabid tweeting among her many chaste vices. Reach her directly at [email protected]


51 Responses to “My Yoga Breakup.”

  1. Blake says:

    This reminds me of my long-term romance with Tai Chi.

  2. Laurie Koris says:

    Joslyn: "I am 99% sure."
    Yoga: "So you're saying there's a chance!"

  3. sunroseyoga says:

    I loved this!

    "And if you never do that, well, it’s kind of like only seeing your husband out at bars." — So true.

  4. Beautiful! The Bring-A-Date Blog Post of the Year! 🙂

  5. Emer says:

    Clever and insightful particularly 'the platitudes that sound so life altering', they kill me too. Love it!

  6. Victoria says:

    It's healthy to change. Isn't the general goal to inspire yourself to move any which way you can. Whatever that is, it is RIGHT for you. If that means no movement for a while, so be it. No judgements. I own and have taught Pilates over the last decade, even became a master teacher. For the last 2 years I have been slowly transferring my studio to GYROTONIC (R) because I LOVE it beyond anything I have ever done….. I am floating ….. I am getting ridiculed by my peers left and right. Financially, ect…. WHATEVER. I too, have to follow my heart and truth. You don't follow this path for money, any teacher knows this. IF you were my student, I would have encouraged you to move on happily. I loved your story.

  7. joslyn hamilton says:

    There's definitely always a chance! I never seem to learn my lesson the first time (or the hundredth, for that matter!)

  8. joslyn hamilton says:

    Thanks Victoria. I love the stories of people sticking with something they believe in without a lot of support. That's the hero's journey, isn't it?

  9. WOW! Finally, some fearless, informed, critical analysis of what can happen when too much kool-aid is ingested. Bravo, Joslyn, you are my new hero. After 23 years frolicing in the somatic arena trying to teach and dance with form and fuction and pathology, I can only remind the yoganatics 'it is only yoga'. Recently, I have been exploring Cross Fit, a seemingly barbaric approach to exercize and fitness, but have gained more flexibility in 2 months of deep, heavy squats, dead lifts, and power cleans than I have in the past 2 years of yoga. ( I am a big, tight white guy) Go figure? I realize the armoring our world bestowes upon us is prolific, and the need to surrender and release is paramount, but, hey, what about the glue? Assuming a new premise that my hamsrtings were WEAK, not TIGHT changed everything for me. As for the charming clue to 'straighten your legs, honey' , my east coast hair on the back of my head was at full attention. Dumb [email protected]# yoginis… I have SO much more to say, but must spread the news to my clients that despite the fashion, fervor, and fantasy, yoga, despite it's long history, has a long way to go…
    Peace. And thanks for the candor.

  10. Victoria says:

    🙂 Thank you too. You are beautiful. We all need to hear more honest heartfelt journeys. Now is the time. Every time I allow "them" to make me doubt my path, something ALWAYS happens to remind me to stay the course. You were one of two today. SO really THANK YOU!

  11. 1. I love you!!!! (Coming from a married yoga teacher on and off over the last 10 years)

    2. Obviously, an extremely new (perhaps young?!) teacher that would actually ask you to straighten your legs in Padangusthasana. Amateur!!!

    3. I am there with you. I fall in and out of love with hatha yoga all of the time. Currently, I'm out because I'm in love with studying the chakras, running and being a mom.

    It's really "all" yoga as long as you are present, isn't it?! I have been on bedrest for months in order to carry a baby full term and I consider this practice "Hardcore" yoga (and, yes, I can do 1 legged crow…ha!).

    Keep writing!! LOVED this article.

  12. George says:

    …then you'll develop a tantric practice and break up with your mindfulness practice. Or maybe just see it on weekends. Thanks Joslyn for the insightful piece. Please practice on Mt Tam for the benefit of us non-CA coastal dwellers.

  13. Carolyn says:

    This reminds me of talking to my friends about which ones loved math or English or science in school. The ones that did ALWAYS had a great teacher teaching them.

    Joslyn, you seem to have been hit by a string of too many yoga teachers who appear to only be there for themselves. I am in the midst of yoga teacher training, and the first thing out of my anatomy teacher's mouth was, "Your first and most important job as a yoga teacher is ahimsa– do no harm." Were the teachers you had committed to this? It appears not.

    I kind of want to invite you to the studio where I practice, and I want you to watch and feel how a non-harming yoga teacher (which to me is the only acceptable variety) can be.

    Of COURSE that 1-hour class cemented your feelings about yoga. What bloody yoga teacher thinks that the main object of padangusthasana is straight legs?!? It's a forward fold– the legs come last. This pose is ALL about the spine and growing long, protecting the legs until it is COMFY to straighten them. Some folks will never straighten, and that's perfectly fine because that's not the goal of the pose. I would have shot her a look as well.

    But please don't think that all yoga teachers are this teacher. We're not. We do NOT seek to harm, and we understand that your practice is on YOUR mat, not in our little heads. If you have a favorite instructor, go to her or him– that is what having a guru is all about– that one person who speaks to you. If you don't come anymore, we might initially get sad, but it's your practice. A yoga studio should be an open door experience for ALL.

    So, that being said… be well and don't fall into the trappings of one bad apple (or ten, or whathaveyou) spoiling the bunch.

    Namaste, babe.

  14. stillpointsf says:

    Try hundreds… but yes, I get the point! And I do know a handful of really amazing yoga teachers. For the most part they aren't the famous ones. They are the ones who toil away humbly for very little money and even less acclaim at the small studios across the country. Tom Lee in San Francisco, Christy Brown right here in Mill Valley where I live, Jessica Young in tiny little Bozeman Montana. They are the real deal!

  15. YogiOne says:


    You have received an abundance of juicy, eclectic responses to your post. Most of them manifest an abundance energy found elsewhere only among a cocked lover's panties. Irregardless of the flesh of these replies, it seems that having to turn lose of your yoga practice is ultimately a loose-loose situation. 🙂

  16. Joslyn Hamilton says:

    Hilarious! Thanks for this. Made my day.

  17. Beverly says:

    There a quite a few things about your post I found candid, funny, and honest. But then I read your bio. Doesn't seem to gel. What would make your post more authentic, is to explain why/how you came to teach and own your own studio, and then explain some more about how it says you continue to write about yoga and wellness. For example, how does one become a teacher if they've never had a home practice or at least had the self-discipline? Furthermore, how does one take on yoga studios as clients (as trumpeted by your website), when this is your now publicized "over me and yoga" relationship.

    Your insights in your post are superficial at best, given your background. I think it's humorous how everyone latched on to your content, thanking you for validating their feelings, but somehow missing the contradiction in the source.

    Makes me wonder if this is just another Elephant Journal tactic of casting a wide net of "expert commentary" and seeing who bites the "controversial-discussion-sparking-get-as-many-comments-as-you-can" bait. Oh look, I feel for it!

  18. Beverly says:

    …please excuse the typos in my last comment…one more thing to add…this comment:

    "Yoga teachers like to be right. And the easiest way to make yourself right is to make someone else wrong." It's too bad that has been your experience with yoga teachers. My experience with yoga teachers is pretty much the opposite. Blanket statements such as this (with zero substantive, even anecdotal support in your post) drain credibility from your post even more. I'm not defending yoga here – that's actually not the point. What I'm pointing out is the apparent lack of transparency / authenticity in the writer. Or perhaps you should have gone a little deeper. You're speaking as an "every woman jack" here, but your experience tells otherwise.

  19. Yogini# says:

    It IS entirely possible to be a yoga teacher and have zilch experience in a home yoga practice. I left a studio that was just LIKE that, though it may be more prevalent in styles that tend on the power-yoga-plus-spirituality style, which that studio has, and which I also did not like. They encourage raw seekers/students/future acolytes to enter their teacher training programs; they vet possible teacher trainees in beginner yoga classes. I did not enjoy many of my beginner classes because I was just there as a student, but the teacher (who also runs the training) made the classes beginner-unfriendly just for the very purpose of attracting teacher trainees. They suggested to me to go to their gentle yoga classes instead; and I had been practicing on my own beforehand, for well over a year–and I did not do it, as I am not out to pasture … yet!

    Let them get used to this double digit size with tight hips, hamstrings, etc.

    Though, since they tried to make me feel as if I were blighting their landscape with my very life-sized presence in their class (and I live in an urban area), I got support online, and as soon as I could I got the hell out of that studio, and hardly look back.

    If yoga teacher training were not such a cash cow, studio teachers would not teach only to the young, dancerly-fit and flexible or to the mid-life crisis'ers with "potential"; and otherwise rule with ridicule and an iron hand … They make the '80's-era aerobics drill sergeant look downright kind.

    To SPITE them, I actually have a far stronger home practice than I otherwise would have had …

    But, sadly, most would be like Joslyn … True Believers/Followers until the next fancy …

  20. LOVE says:

    read her blog- and I quote:

    "Wondering how I can make money off of hating the yoga scene in the Bay Area and whether or not I will eventually be assassinated."

    hmmm is this a way you make money off of hating the yoga scene? further not coolness…

  21. Ted Daniels says:

    It’s not you, and it ain’t yoga. It’s inept bullying and unqualified teachers who love to prattle NewAge Loon Soup as though it did something beside demonstrate their narcissism.


    You wanna write my blog?

  22. nancy says:

    seriously! Lighten up ! it was a brilliant piece! don't judge as you will have your day too…

  23. nancy says:

    does nobody see the spoofing and the humor here! really, lighten up people, it was funny . If we can't laugh at ourselves as yoga teachers and see our own humanity who can! Wow I see alot of people who could use a break from yoga if this is how it manifests in your life… just sayin

  24. YogiOne says:

    How ironic. My post used no judging terms at all, positive or negative. It asked questions and makes a tentative conclusion. On the other hand your reply judges both her post (directly) and my reply (implied).

  25. Yogini# says:

    Well, I tend to agree with the inept bullying part, as to my own experience. I think that is the key. At least after today's class, which constitutes some smallish part of my practice.

    I have been trying out a different studio fairly frequently. Far different overall style from the one I left (almost as far as possible, while still being a physical practice). I really like them. The practice varies by instructor; one of them tends on the sleepily sedate (and I probably won't go looking for his class). But not one teacher there was the pushy kind, nor encouraged to push or bully students by the master teacher.

  26. Joslyn Hamilton says:

    Cheers to that! Thanks Nancy. Humor is everything, if you ask me.

  27. Ben Ralston says:

    “…yoga and I never got to the home practice stage. I lack the discipline…”

    Really?! how on Earth did you manage:

    “…ten years in the yoga industry as a teacher…” ?

    No wonder you are laying awake at night:

    “…Wondering how I can make money off of hating the yoga scene in the Bay Area and whether or not I will eventually be assassinated…”

  28. Charlotte says:

    Thank you for this. There have always been yoga teachers who were teaching for their own gain, but it appears that is much more the case now than it was 20 years ago before yoga became mainstream. When a person with little or no yoga experience can be certified to teach in a year, a month or a weekend, there is no way that person can develop the depth and understanding to work with people without bringing their own prejudices and projections into it. I am sad that the writer of this post was only exposed to what sound like very inexperienced teachers who have not had time to get to know themselves well enough to avoid the pitfalls of ego. As stillpointsf says, there are many authentic, committed teachers out there. You have to look for them though. They're likely to be more focused on practice than they are on self-promotion.

    Until the 20th century, yoga was always taught one-on-one by teachers who had devoted their lives to yoga. Even after years of intensive study, practice and self-reflection, not everyone became a teacher. The commodification of yoga has resulted in a whole lot of people—likely with good intentions—who understand only a fraction of a small part of the system. This is why people like Joslyn tire of yoga. It's not yoga that's the problem. I believe it's that the "popification" of yoga has made it ultimately unsatisfying.

  29. hillary says:

    I appreciate your honesty and having your own experience. I get when you are over something you see all it's flaws and only a whisker of what you loved. Everything does come to an end and as humans I feel we are all a bit addicted to wanting to be right – that in itself is a great reminder that we have a choice to be right or to be happy. Blessings to you and I love how you did step in to take the class and realized it just does not fit like the shoes you wore before.

  30. […] And then one day, a friend convinced me to take a community pottery class. I hadn’t touched clay in years.  And as soon as I did, I knew: I needed to stop teaching yoga and get back to my creative roots. Gradually I started dropping classes. I whittled my teaching schedule down to one class and started working on the management side of yoga studios. That felt good. Eventually, I stopped teaching altogether. And at some point, I realized that I needed a clean break not just from teaching, but from the entire yoga industry. Now, I hardly ever even practice. […]

  31. […] been a practicing yogi for over fifteen years. I actually taught yoga for close to a decade. I have an on/off meditation […]

  32. […] written a lot about my breakup with yoga after a long monogamous affair, and how I stopped teaching yoga when I realized it was killing my […]

  33. Emily Perry says:

    But I bet the make-up you-know-what will be the best ever!

  34. thomas says:

    hmm… just wondering if the article is really about breakup with yoga or just about a breakup with asana practice!

  35. […] my 10+ years of managing yoga studios that other people owned in San Francisco and beyond (and also teaching and practicing at them), I got a somewhat harrowing look at what goes on behind the scenes. Here are some observations I […]

  36. Yogini5 says:

    It's obvious. A breakup with asana practice. For all their possible pretensions to spirituality, I do have my doubts about these yoga places that teach power yoga with a shmear …

  37. […] yourself to give yourself what you need. To that end sometimes your yoga practice is deciding not to practice yoga! It is also about allowing your self to make unhealthy choices as a way of choosing more and more […]

  38. Lissa Osornio says:

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  39. […] first piece for them was a short, cute post called “My Yoga Breakup”, which I thought quite cheekily described my ambivalent relationship with the yoga […]

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  41. […] good people are breaking up with yoga. They cite permissive teachers who spout inanities and ignore rambunctious behavior from […]

  42. Dahnprem says:

    Go and give Kundalini a try, meditation, chanting and doing only what your body is able to do 🙂

  43. J Boyd says:

    Very refreshing!

    Thank you.

    I hope you can come to a place where you do everything fully, in the moment, without the need to know how long it will last…

    Just like making love 🙂

  44. Julz says:

    What is being taught now is asana, Period! Yoga is not being taught. Where is the "union" in yoga today? Where is the feminine in yoga today? There are a few teachers out there who aspire to share Yoga. They share their experiences of being in their bodies, subtle bodies included.. Or being in union with their whole being & with their environment. They talk about listening to the Natural Intelligence of your body. I have been lucky enough to find these teachers & mentor with them. One thing they teach … How do become what you already are?
    How do you certify self exploration?

  45. Petra says:

    yoga is so much more than this! much more than some ignorant teachers or hipster esoteric nonsense. dissatisfied with your teachers – it should be possible to find one of the good teachers out there! your teacher maybe wanted to help you, not being right! she can still be a very bad teacher, nevertheless you seem to have projections on your teachers! maybe you should find a better understanding of buddhist or yogic philosiphy.
    also, yoga is great for so many people that never actually manage to establish a home asanas practice. take more awareness out of studio practice into your daily life and there you got great benefit! proper breathing and asanas practice, at home or in the studio, body and energy benefit! the glands, hormones, etc. it makes a lot of people happier people!

  46. Romina says:

    Im sorry to say this, but I feel a lot of pride and resentment in your article.

  47. Laura says:

    yoga poses come and start from within (like your meditation) you were completely aware of your body, and right to have your knees bent for tight legs, etc. you listen you YOU! It's improper, and "un-yogic" (is that a word?) for a teacher to expect a show when the beauty of yoga come from within.

    Wishing you the best in your discoveries 🙂

  48. Flavs says:

    I agree with Ted Daniels!

  49. myladykb says:

    isn't meditation part of yoga? 😀