I took my first yoga class in 1999. I found a lot to like about it. I could feel my body snapping back into alignment. It even helped my concentration – at the time, I played a lot of hockey. After a yoga session, I’d strap on the goalie pads and the puck seemed bigger and slower.
On the flip side, I found out there some things I hate about yoga. An aborted session at At One Yoga in Phoenix (more on that in a future post) really brought this to the forefront of my mind.
1. Sanskrit Chanting – Exactly what is the point of that Sanskrit song that so many yoga classes start out with? I don’t speak Sanskrit, and I’m frankly not there for a “spiritual” experience. And besides, whoever said “chanting” begat “spirituality?” I grew up going to Catholic mass, so I’ve had a bellyful of unneeded verbal repetition. Let’s get to the good stuff!
2. The overly soft, nurturing, gentle yoga teacher voice – Exactly where do some yoga teachers get that overly measured, breathy voice? It sounds ridiculous. And I say that even though one of my favorite teachers uses it. Coming from male teachers makes it even worse – I always hear them as Mr. Van Driessen from Beavis & Butt-head.
3. Inappropriate yoga music – So there’s an instructor that boasts “great music” in his class. Someone forgot to tell him that music is one of the things I hate about yoga. I’m hardly alone in this. I like yoga best when the music is barely noticeable. I also like as few rhythmic elements and human voices as possible. Even though it has little to do with the Indian sub-continent, the drone of a didgeridoo is my personal fave for yoga.
4. Students with no spatial awareness – So one of the things you’re supposed to get out of yoga is self-awareness, both physical and mental. That lesson never sinks in for the people with their mats that are crooked by 15 degrees, or who are taking up way more room than they need to. Of course, studios could put the brakes on this by having a grid marked on the floor. Get your mat into the grid, and freakin’ stay there. The studios make this worse by trying to load too many people (more people = more $$). But that diminishes the quality, and makes it less likely for some people to return.
5. Yoga fusion – My favorite studio does this. And man, is it a bummer. Why does the world need tribal-fusion-Greco-Roman-pilates-capoeira-belly dancing yoga? You can call it innovative if you want – I’ll just call it yoga with multiple-personality disorder and an inferiority complex.
6. Yoga to be seen – I just saw a bunch of people in an open-air shopping center down-dogging and cobra-ing on grass that dogs routinely micturate upon. They couldn’t hear a word from their instructor over his Led Zeppelin soundtrack. A group of lechers gawked at the lithe women in stretchy pants, while shoppers grubbed for holiday gifts. Led Zeppelin-fueled public yoga on yellow grass? Oh, god! The trendiness … definitely one of the things I hate about yoga.
7. Expensive yoga – Okay, so yoga goes back thousands of years. The idea, as I understand it, was for people to adapt their body to meditating for a long time. What would they think of spending $18 or more for a single hour of this? I definitely suspect they’d blow bile at the idea of a yoga boutique, too.
8. Horrible class times – From the times studios offer, I get the idea that they think only people who don’t work are interested in yoga. My work schedule, which is a pretty standard one, blocks me from all sorts of desirable classes and leaves me with tribal belly-dancing workshops. If you work like a normal 21st century person, you’re going to miss the bulk of the good classes.
9. Celebrity yogis – I roll my eyes when someone name-drops some yoga cat. Like I know who they are or care. Give me a good local teacher with a sense of humor and I’m good to go. I have heard so much adulation and bloviation about one “celebrity” yoga teacher or another. At the At One class I mentioned, I guess there was some “famous” yoga teacher dude. They shoehorned about 80 people into a room designed for half that. Did someone think that makes for a good yoga experience? Nope … it’s just one of the things I hate about yoga.
10. People who ask what style of yoga I do – Seriously, I do whatever style is on tap when I can get to a class. Provided, of course, it’s not one of those freakin’ fusion classes. I live in the real world, where my workout schedule is dictated by work, weather and other obligations. I get there when I can, and I try not to be too picky or dogmatic. I just ask for a decent amount of space and a good instructor. And besides, when it really comes down to it, every class I’ve ever been to has been a synthesis of styles. No yoga style exists in a vacuum. Hmm, maybe I should find out the Sanskrit way of saying “Working Dude Trying to Do His Best While Avoiding Pretentious Douches Yoga.”
Hmm, looking at this, you might wonder if I really do like yoga at all. And the answer is yes. I’ve met some really cool people. I’ve increased my strength, my flexibility, my coordination. It’s been a huge benefit overall. Overall, those benefits have outweighed the downsides of the things I hate about yoga.
You might also think I’m judgmental. And I’ll own up to that. Really, who isn’t? Just some of us don’t want to admit it. I’ll just try to judge fairly. And I think I really have here.