I Hate Yoga and So Do (some of) Your Friends

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Image Attribution: RelaxingMusic of Flickr

Yoga has always made me mad.
I’m going to hazard a guess that this is a new concept to lots of people, but I know there are a few of you out there who feel the same way. If yoga makes you happy, by all means enjoy, but know that there’s a group of us who don’t feel that way, and I’m going to try and shed a little light on that anger at this calming, purifying and peace-finding practice. It’s my hope that it’ll make the interaction a little easier, since understanding one another tends to do that.

Yoga has always made me intensely, skin-crawlingly mad. Even talking about it can be hard – my back tenses up and my neck gets sore if I have to hear about it for too long, let alone think or talk about it myself. This gets worse when others tell me “Oooh, well what kinds have you tried? You should try more kinds.” I’ll admit, I haven’t tried all the yogas, but nor do I want to. For me it’s like saying, “no, I don’t like licorice” and being given a bunch of different licorice treats and told that the key to my bliss will be accepting and forcing myself to enjoy at least one of them. Um, no, it isn’t. I get that you love it, but I don’t, so please respect my decisions.

Rather than simply raging against the yoga, I decided to examine my visceral hatred of it to shed light on it for myself, and to help others see a new perspective on something they might love. I find it’s always helpful when a minority or simply different stance is explained clearly. That way we can be more understanding of one another, and perhaps some day people will stop telling me that yoga will cure all my ills.

When I examined my anger about yoga, I noticed some common themes in what I haven’t liked about it. While not EVERY class has all of these (I’d be silly to assume that) these are some things I noticed:

  • I hate being lightly touched, particularly by people I barley know. I find it gross and invasive, and as them using a part of my body for a demonstration. I’m not active in the experience.
  • I hate being told to rest or be calm. I will feel how I feel and will not be calmed because someone says I should be. I feel calm naturally after creating things, doing things, or by observing things. I do not feel calm at a forced rest.
  • I hate being coddled. Being told that everyone is doing well always smacks of insincerity to me. Not everyone is doing a good job, and since I know that it, I know it could be me not doing a good job, and how can I fix it if my coach won’t do me the courtesy of instructing?
  • I hate the holier-than-thou crap that many yoga-loving peeps slip into. Again, this definitely isn’t everyone. But if I have to hear one more time about how fresh blood in the thighs after a stretch or a greeting the new day with a pose set has brought them (and will by necessity bring me) ultimate fulfilling love in the universe, I’m going to puke a medicine ball.
  • I resent the idea that inconvenient emotions are pent up in my body and meant to be flushed away.  Feeling anger is something we are designed to experience, and working with the causes can lead to better outcomes. I will not be told to let me anger flow from my breath when my anger teaches and motivates me to do good in the world. This also has something to do with my embracing emotions women are socialized not to feel and definitely not to express (When I am angry, I am not ‘upset.’ I have not tipped over, I am experiencing rage).

There was only one time I did yoga and didn’t hate it, and that’s because it was handled completely differently and not even called yoga – I found out later that the movements were derived from yoga.
I took a martial arts class for several months that focused on kung fu and increasing agility more than strength or speed. Before each class we would warm up – warm ups consisted of stretches, exercises, and circuits across the floor of motions. I liked class and warm ups because:

  • The movements were action, rather than stillness, oriented
  • The stretches were preparation for a work out, and were therefore clearly useful
  • The guide was a coach who would point out “hey, your stretch is all messed up. Move your foot more like this, you should feel it in this part of your leg” in simple declarative ways (no one babied me or held my hand or said changing my stretch would release energy)
  • There was almost no corrective touching, and if it was needed, the coach would demonstrate the correct motion, and ask you to self correct before helping you correct
  • Motions that involved contact were guided, deliberate, and fully participatory by both sides. I felt like I was interacting with a definite something, or preparing to. I was training and working towards something, not trying to rest and put aside my feelings.
  • The goals in the class were based in the physical realm – you had to feel your balance, find your center of gravity, study your partner’s motions, etc. I was not asked to feel things in any place besides my physical body, and this was both fun, liberating, and very focused.

I had to be told later that the stretches technically were yoga poses, and I barely believed it. No one had asked me to be at peace, or guided me in a meditation, or weakly guided me closer to a correct pose. Instead, I was able to engage with the material, practice interaction, energize myself and deliberately engage with others in a straightforward manner.

So, no, yoga is not for everyone, and many of us knew that already. Please keep in mind that those tools and choices you make to bring yourself joy do not work for everyone. Please respect that not all people want to embrace calmness or yoga classes. Instructing them to do something counter to what they know in their heart to be the right call for them is disrespectful and narrow-minded, and we’re not about that kind of crap. I’d say share your joys with one another, but don’t try to convert others. At least, don’t try to convert me.

I like that we’re all seeking life in a happier world where we are focused and clear. But lets give one another some room, since we’re not all taking the same road to get there.

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16 thoughts on “I Hate Yoga and So Do (some of) Your Friends

  1. Thankyou! You summed this up exactly for me and now I can show my boyfriend that it isn’t just me who thinks yoga is lame 🙂

  2. Bless you. My idiot sister-in-law is a “yoga teacher” (not quite, she traded coffee beans for the last 40 hours of her 200 hour certification—that YA certification is a load of BS). She cannot go a full three minutes without long monologues on why our lives are incomplete without yoga and has become an unbearable ass. (With a growing ass, no less, I would not recommend her “yoga for weight loss” class given that she has gained roughly 15 lbs a year since taking up yoga).

    • wow so much hate for your sister in law I hope she doesnt see this! also there is no such thing as a yoga certification – its a 200 hour class but its not a certification

  3. This was amazing! Everything I’ve ever felt about yoga!
    Especially the frustration with the stillness-orientedness rather than action-orientedness (i HATE being told to be still!) and the forced calmness(the only thing worse than being forced to be still is being forced to be calm. It exacerbates all the negative emotions you are already feeling and makes them tenfold).

    Thankyou for this amazing post 🙂

  4. I want to thank you for posting this article. I found it online a few weeks ago. You share my sentiments about yoga almost exactly. Truly, it is not for everyone: and, not everyone wants to feel like they are part of a “community” or what they are doing is “life-changing” when they are just going to exercise. Also, let’s not even begin to discuss the amount of hypocrisies that go on in yoga circles. . . Again, thank you for this thoughtful, fair, & well-written post.

  5. This article made me sad but I understand it. I am a yoga teacher but definitely not like described above though I do know just what you are talking about – this is not all yoga at all, the food analogy good but its more like saying you hate all food because you tried a few kinds of licorice.

  6. This article made me smile because i thought i was the only one hating all that hypocrisy surrounding “modern” yoga. All that talk, slogans and quotes about love and hapiness and forgiveness and all nice happy emotions and letting go all anger, sorrow and distress etc.etc. makes me wanna puke too. Lots of people practise yoga in a very egocentric lifestyle as if yoga is the answer to everything. Like in a fake-happy community that becomes a scary sect with flower-people. For example, i notice more and more people showing of their bodies in combination with yoga on instagram. I’m not an expert on yoga but i think real yoga has got nothing to do with showing your muscles. For that matter, showing of their abs only makes them look more shallow.

  7. Ha. I don’t think I’d like yoga either, if I thought of it the way you do! The hatred you feel seems based more on the people you’ve met teaching it in a style not befitting you and spewing about it like born agains. The only calming I’m trying to do in yoga is keeping my breath steady regardless of the intensity of the asana/pose. The only rest I take is getting my breathing back to normal when I’m all done. The physical practice is but one component. Mine is vigorous, active, dynamic and sweaty. I can only speak for what I get out of it, and yes, it’s not for everyone, but I’ll change your licorice analogy a bit, there are so many different sweets out there, I find some repulsive, some just not tasty enough to be worth it, but I have a few irresistible favorites. With anything, find what works for you, there is no one size fits all. I can’t walk in your shoes, but I won’t go so far to claim hatred of the ones you chosen. There are many paths up the mountain and no need to disparage the ones that don’t work for you.

  8. I would say your frustrations are more with modernized Yoga rather than actual Yoga. Obviously you do not have to like it, that is totally cool. I would never presume to tell you what you should like. I am just routinely frustrated by how Yoga is misrepresented and it saddens me that people are this turned off from a really beneficial philosophy because of misrepresentation. If you are ever so inclined, check out the Yoga Sutra’s. Yoga is now. That is all, be present, feel whatever you are feeling and realize it is temporary and exists for a purpose whether what you are experiencing is good or bad. You actually do not even have to be in a Yoga class or in any sort of posture to be practicing it. The only point of the poses is to learn how to sit with sensation and to learn to calm down your hectic thoughts by thinking about the present moment, and tuning into the breath is a way to be more present. A lot of the other crap is just stuff people have added on, not the actual thing. I am a certified instructor and I actually stopped teaching because I have similar feelings to what you said and I did not teach my classes that way…I got the sense that that is what people wanted from me and I wasn’t going to compromise my beliefs on a system I hold very dear just to coddle people. So again, feel free to hate a way, you are beyond entitled not to like or ever do anything remotely Yoga, just wanted to throw in my two cents cause well, that is what the reply button is for. 🙂

  9. Sounds like you might need a more direct teacher- maybe a man- with quite a bit less of the woo. This article reveals much more to me about your mind than it does about yoga itself, and is an excellent commentary on the state of teaching the practice more than the practice itself. There are some very good points in it, however. Nothing is worse for me in attending a class than “assumed woo”; as in, because I am in yoga class I am assumed to be in some kinda vulnerable space. I had a shock the first time someone tried to put an eye pillow on my eyes during savasana. It was a shock. I know I dislike a LOT of what I hear in yoga classes due to nothing other than this, and I’ve dedicated my whole life to yoga.

  10. The comments by the “yogis” prove EXACTLY why New Age white people are up their own butts when it comes to yoga. The New Age, hippie, healing crystal bs has got to go. “Everyone is included and special and loved as long as your opinion is the same as mine.” Why can’t people just let others not like something? I understand that “negativity” frightens some of these people but it’s never good to force yourself to do something you don’t like in the name of “being positive”. Honestly, I prefer the way of the peaceful warrior and feel more at home in a martial arts class as well. And skinny white girls doing yoga in underwear and high heels on Instagram miss the real point of yoga. Real Yogis are supposed to be humble and free from desire and it defeats the whole traditional purpose of the art. Conclusion: Modern yoga in the US is the epitome of cultural appropriation.

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