Negativity in Yoga. ~ Erin Motzenbecker

Via elephant journal
on Oct 20, 2012
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Photo: lululemon

There’s a giant pink elephant on the yoga mat and I’m just gonna come out and say it.

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. Spending a relaxing hour stretching and meditating with them sometimes seems quite difficult.

Yoga has begun attracting a crowd that promotes exclusivity and division.

I’d like to underline the point that people in the yoga community can be some of the harshest and meanest critics out there. Once I suggested egg whites as a reasonable light snack to have a couple hours before a yoga class, and was sternly (and seriously) asked by a fellow yogi if I’d taken my “stupid pills” that day. He was flabbergasted that I, as an instructor, could endorse the consumption of animal products despite my efforts to go out of my way to always buy organic, local and humanely raised meat and dairy.

This is just one very small incident that happened to me, but this is definitely not the only one of its kind.

In my own experience and in the experiences of tons of others I’ve spoken with about this, there seems to be a lot of judgment and what appears to be genuine aggression towards yoga teachers and practitioners who don’t fit the yoga stereotype.

Photo: Frank Kovalchek

Not too long ago the picture of a yogi was drawn out something like this: 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. Now, in many places, the picture looks much different.

Studios are full of people who can barely be bothered to make eye contact, let alone build any kind of friendship. The laid-back attitude of the yoga community has been diluted to one full of self-righteous egos who are decked out in $150 mala beads, outfits that cost a car payment, and mats with a matching price tag. They can put together a great outfit, but there’s no authenticity.

I’m not saying that any of this stuff is inherently bad, and my argument is not against having nice things, to include fancy mats and malas—I’m the first to admit to spending too much on some of these myself!

My argument is 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.

It’s about continuing to build on the concept of following a path of low resistance and embracing people of different ideas, cultures, communities and diets.

Why be insulted that someone hates the taste of green smoothies and enjoys a burger on the weekends? Why throw out insults to someone else’s style of teaching because you think your own is superior? We already live in a world that forces you to constantly have your guard up, and it’s nice to go to a place where it’s okay not to care about what you’re wearing or how your hair is or whether your Warrior is low enough.

That’s what yoga is really about and that’s why I love teaching it. I get to create that environment for others, where they can let go of all the stresses we carry around all day in the “real” world.

Whether you’re a teacher or a student of yoga, remember that it’s okay to celebrate differences and remember why you started practicing. At the end of the day, we’re all made up of the exact same “stuff.”



A carnivorous traveling yoga and pilates instructor with a beautiful, bouncing children’s book on the way! She teaches vinyasa flow and hot power pilates classes in Tampa, FL. For daily adventures in the world and the kitchen, check out



Editor: Elysha Anderson

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18 Responses to “Negativity in Yoga. ~ Erin Motzenbecker”

  1. greateacher says:

    It is sad to hear that whenever you go to a new yoga studio or hang wiht yoga people that you feel more judged than in any other situation.

    Could it be that you ar elooking fo rjudgment? Could it be that you are choosing to not notice the calmer quieter people who simply come topractice yoga and dont make comments and dont wear lululemon pants?

    I challenge you to find a way to feel loved in a yoga class. It is possible.

  2. teachergreat says:

    Hey great teacher,
    I’m sorry that when you read entries challenging the continuing morphing of yoga into mean-girlism, you choose to respond in such an arrogant way. Why would anyone go into a new environment “looking” for judgment? Why would anyone “ignore” the “quiet ones?’ Why would anyone assume that “quiet ones” would be less judgmental? I challenge you to challenge your own presumptions. I challenge you to stop trying to turn yogis’ perceptions back onto them. I challenge you to challenge the “you create your own perception” bullshit. There really is a great change taking place in yoga. It isn’t just all in some one’s mind or choice of focus. In “challenging” writers to question their own perceptions, you encourage lack of self-trust. I challenge you to challenge your own motivations behind such a response. Here’s my motivation: I want yoga students to trust their own perceptions, trust their gut, speak their truths, use their own judgment calls, and use their own power. Stick that in your challenge binder, great teacher.

  3. greateacher says:

    You took the effort to make up a 'twist' on my name with no personal info. So in hiding behind a twisted sarcastic identity you chose to issue a challenge.

    I may be pretty lucky in the studio where I go. ther eprobably is some of that mean stuff, but I am involved with un-mean people there. I still believe that this writer is her own worst judge and by throwing it at others as their fault is missing some a vital truth. She is practicing in a studio which doesn't fit for her. if students, teachers, humans listen to their guts and hear constant judgment.. – notice I say constantly- well, who is really doing the judging? Is the gut quite so right on? maybe let go of the ego.. and not categorize or nto take personally comments about not eating meat or how to chant or fancy pants. There is such a thing as PROJECTION. There is such a thing as supporting cliques or finding a way to be friends wiht many instaed of making oneself the BIG FAT RED mad "They're all mean, neaner neaner" victim.

    My motivation- I think the author wanted to be published and showed a shallow judgmental article. My motivation was to say so and to make comments around projectionism, being out of place purposefully or truly, by name-calling and categorizing many as mean.. more separation comes.

  4. Timmy_Robins says:

    Well, there is such a thing as meanness too , not everything can be attributed to projection.

  5. Edward Staskus says:

    Try a Bikram class: no one wears beads, ever, the outfits are the cost of a skateboard payment, and people use the cheapest mats with a towel thrown over them. Everyone is in the same boat, a damnably hard yoga exercise class, so there is a sense of commonality, not exclusion. Nothing really matters except doing your best, which is all the practice asks. In addition, I have seen more kinds and types of people in Bikram classes than in any other kind of yoga exercise class, which works against exclusion.

  6. […] h4 { color: red; font-size: 1em; } How to feel negative emotion without attracting more negativeNegativity In Yoga. ~ Erin MotzenbeckerHow to feel negative emotion without attracting more negative […]

  7. Tette says:

    Dear ” great tacher,”
    You make no sense. None at all. If you concede that she is practicing at a studio that doesn’t fit her, you concdede her gut is right. Why then demand whether “the gut is so right,” equate the gut with ego, and judgmen tally, self-rightously preach that we should “let go of ego?” Makes no sense at all. If comments are thrown a a person — esp a new person — at her personal choice about diet or whatever, those are in fact personal comments, and therefore to preach that one shouldn’t take them personally is ridiculous. Makes no sense. That’s like demanding that one not take a comment about the rain as being about the weather. To take things as tney are meant is a judgment called, and a good one.
    Not everything is projection. Some places, and some people are, in actuality, not just in perception, cold, judgmental, self-righteous, and unwelcoming.
    You are apparently one of them. I certainly would never want to practice with you.

  8. greateacher says:

    try reading "The Four Agreements".

    I have doen some thinking , as teachergreat asked me to do. part of my strong problem wiht this article is that by calling one a MEAN person instead of referring to mean actions, the person is branded completely totally as oposed to one action, many actions and behaviors or all actions and behaviors. For example.. there is huge difference in meaning and understanding between saying that XXX is sloppy or a sloppy person vs XXX make shis bed sloppily.

    personal comments do feel bad, I agree. I do not think however they reflect the entirety of the speaker.. and the more meditation one does o rother deprogramming the less harmful obviously poorly made comments becoem to one. Everyone always gets to decide how to respond or react to a comment which holds triggers, sounds mean and feels mean. A horribly caustic or scornful comment made can be attributed to the intelligence, triggers, personal crosses or fears of the speaker. I wouldnt want toe around one carrying a lot of stuff and making mean sounding comments. i would and do choose my friends with open ears and minds.

  9. teachergreat says:

    HI great teacher,
    I have read the four agreements. It wasn’t to my taste. But I’m glad you’re continuing to think things through. Yet the article was about being in a yoga studio. As a student, some one does not have to go so deeply into figuring out others’ motivations. If the air is bad, leave. If the vibe is nasty and judgmental, go elsewhere. End of story. It’s entirely a personal decision, how much and deeply to engage. Actions do have a great relation to personal character. And mean people suck. Yoga should clean up its act.

  10. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Honestly, I hear you. If only I could take the heat (medically speaking).

    But I'd discovered, at the opposite end of the temperature spectrum, at cool, ambient temperatures …. (wait for it) …. mellow, throwback Hatha … !

    I am deciding when to go back to that studio, in fact, as we message …

  11. greateacher says:

    right go somewhere else, don't make a big bad deal against all yoga studios painting the big bad elephant against the teeny tiny victim so you can write a branding generalizing paintbrushed slam against so many

  12. yogamamba says:

    Modern pop Yogis are more difficult and harder to deal with than Al Qaeda. The modern pop yogi is to yoga what the taliban is to world peace.

  13. […] Negativity in Yoga. ~ Erin Motzenbecker […]

  14. gphase says:

    True that. In fairness, going among people who are likely to care about ahimsa (and expect the teacher to teach them accordingly) to wax lyrically about juicy burgers and comment on their outfits is quite mean too. (Neti) pot kettle black?

  15. greateacher says:

    corepower studios have a less hot heated room. It is quite pleasant. and you can choose between the 'hatha Bikram like " series or what is called power vinyasa.

  16. Naturally says:

    Harmonizing with our authentic self means our ego becomes suspended, we awaken to the Core of our Being….our Divine essence then flows freely in and through us to change our world.
    What a combo b4, during or after yoga.

  17. greateacher says:

    You siad it in a nicer way which implies that .. to me, anyway. by harmonizing with our authentic self and suspending judgment.. we do not label or brand people as cliques or mean-to-me people.

    Nicely put.. the lesson quietly cloaked in peaceful terms .

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