Mean girls

Published on April 4, 2011 by      Print
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By Christine Caira Schaefer

I love yoga. Very simple, right? It was… until I ventured into a studio for the first time.

Let me back up.

After my first pregnancy I was ecstatically worn by my new role as a mom. I had loosely heard about yoga, and thought, “What do I have to lose except the Marco Polo with what used to be my abdominal wall?”

Off I went on my asana journey. Through DVDs, I met Denise Austin, Rodney Yee, and Kristen McGee, all of whom cheered me on in my flat tummy quest, while my adorable baby watched from the comfort of her bouncy seat. Back then it was my practice…I waited both to get “good” (whatever the hell that means) enough to hit a local studio as well as to financially afford the ability to earn my dream spot within the soldier row of mats.

Meanwhile, my husband and I added to our brood (in the pure lightning speed that only a good Irish Catholic police family can, collecting 3 kids in 3 years). Time at a “real”studio seemed a distant dream. I was all good in my ‘hood to hang out with Denise, Rodney, and Kristen for a few more years until life settled down. And, finally, it did settle. So I got what I had always wanted — a chance to practice yoga at a studio in my neighborhood.

And what did I find when I finally ventured out?

Far from the oasis I pictured it as, the yoga studio was eerily similar to every other socially clique-ish situation I’d ever experienced in my life. The same girls who sniffed at me when I dropped my kids off for preschool were right here, sniffing again, because:

  1. I am married to a police officer. (This is just a big old can of worms for some people for whatever reason.)
  2. I wrapped up my studies in childbirth by the age of 27, with not only all of my teeth, but with a college degree as well… go FIGURE! My young age put me way ahead of our regional bell curve, and boy was I reminded of that every day at either preschool drop-off or pre “OM” in the 9:30 class populated by my fellow moms.
  3. My Old Navy yoga pants were not part of the seemingly required uniform.

I felt like I was back in junior high, only it wasn’t 1998. I was bummed, but then I shifted my inner B.S. and remembered why I was there. I had to swallow a huge dose of getting over myself with a stern reminder that people would treat me the way that I let them. And when did I become such a wuss? After dosing my own pep talk, I found my groove, not completely without an eye roll when I was told that I should do the cleanse du jour, or that I have a really “calm energy.” (Ummmm have you MET me?)

What’s left, in the end, is that I adore my practice. I have learned so much from yoga. I have witnessed firsthand that it is not a cure-all, and should not be used in the place of proper medical or psychiatric care. (Believe me, some of the nut jobs Ardha Mukha’ing alongside me could benefit from slipping out of the pink Lululemons and into a pink slip.) I have become more kind and patient with said woo-woos in spite of myself. I have owned my own place in the row of mats, much in the same way that I have owned it outside of the studio, through humor and grit. And I will continue to do so in my twenty dollar Old Navy yoga pants.

About Christine Caira Schaefer

Christine Caira Schaefer is a happy wife and mom who lives in the suburban Boston area. When she isn’t chasing her pre-teen kids around, writing for her blog, cutting her clients’ hair, or trying her damndest to get into the clinical rotations that ALL nursing school candidates need, she enjoys working out, volunteering at her kids school, and decorating her home. While she doesn’t feel insane enough for a 7-day-a-week hot yoga practice, she arguably sees why it could be easier to check out and hit the mat while allowing her husband to man her tribe.


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  1. nathan says:

    I just wrote a post yesterday addressing some of the issues I see or have experienced in yoga studios. Like you, I have had to remember why I’m there, and drop off those concerns while I’m practicing. But I also think that many are kept away from yoga for these reasons, so it’s worth exploring how some of that high priced, cliquish behavior and atmosphere might be shifted.

    • Suzy Powell says:

      Great post! When I began practicing yoga I felt very self conscious walking into the studio sans designer yoga pants. Sadly I felt it necessary to trade in my t-shirt and target leggings for $85 lulu pants in order to “fit in.” I am now ashamed at how much I spent on my yoga gear when there are at-risk teens, homeless out there that truly could benefit from yoga but do not have access to it. So I decided to get certified as an instructor to help those in need. I mean really – have those designer pant enhanced my practice one bit – nope!

  2. Beth says:

    I have been there too. I spent a lot of money to go to a yoga conference and sat and ate lunch alone. I was so surprised how cliquey and unfriendly these yogis were.

    • Suzy says:

      Beth – I have been shocked at the stories I have heard lately about women who claim to be “yogis.” Studio owners belittling their instructions in front of their peers or firing another because of her weight (this teacher happened to be pregnant) yogis ending friendships because their “friend” decided to teach at a studio in which they did not approve, or demanding that another not “friend” someone or else! Ridiculous behavior and nothing like what I expected when I joined the yoga community. What happened to compassion and acceptance?

  3. Chrissy says:

    Suzy and Beth!!!!
    AWWWWWW!!!!! Man! Ya see? Hearing that crap just bums me RIGHT out! I think that I may have gotten a little teary(or my urge to kill rose a bit sometimes it is hard for me to discern between the two:) thinking of ANYONE eating lunch alone! How many people were there and NOT ONE invited you to their table????? WTF is wrong with them????? Is that what it means to be enlightened? Is the cliquish behavior kind, right or necessary? Are these the people who make you feel like an ass for eating a burger citing Ahimsa, yet THIS is how they treat their fellow people??? If so then yeah, I will be the happy aHole who proudly rocks my Old Navy pants! It sounds like they should have tried to fit in with YOU Suzy:)!
    Nathan I could not agree more that some eople stay away for these reasons….not everyone can be a rebel, so hearing that a dear tenderheart was shamed ot of yoga makes me want to puke (and again urge to kill rising..see explanation above:)

  4. adan says:

    first things first, love your cat, looks a lot like our old leo ;-)

    second, really like denise, rodney, et al!

    and lastly, what great snippets of phrasing in an all together entertainingly well written piece :

    “the soldier row of mats…

    “shifted my inner B.S….


    “slipping out of the pink Lululemons and into a pink slip….”

    very nice, thank you much ;-)

    • Chrissy says:

      Ahhhh my sweet kitty Carlos ( yes even the vet techs laugh at his name)….what a cutie pie! And he loves our dog….does it get better than that;),? Thank you kindly for noticing the biggest mama’s boy in our household!

  5. Bonnie says:

    Great posts guys. I too feel exactly the same way. I started my yoga journey as a fresh faced (not really ;) ) 13 year old begging for that prime spot in the studio. Back then it was all pretty cool until Yoga became a “thing to be seen to do” and yes I too still get the little uppity sniffs from the chicks in their overly expensive little yoga suits.

    For this reason, and because I think yoga studios are way overpriced making me think it is becoming an elitist past time unavailable to those that really need it, I go to my local community hall where I have found what I can see as a lovely young Yogini in her (god forbid Warehouse pants) teaching a funky little Astanga class (NZ$10.00 yay!!).

    Love this site XX

  6. Carla says:

    Great article as always! I can truly say that there is a huge difference when taking a yoga class in Newton, MA vs. Joshua Tree, CA. Out here most yogis truly practice and live as you would imagine a yogi would/should. I used to roll my eyes when my sister asked me to go to a class because I knew it would involve some ultra-cleansed person to pull me by the pits and adjust my ‘incorrect’ pose as I laughed. It is nice to see that there are yogis out there who want to keep it real :) It is also nice to have my yogatini with Denise after my kids go to bed. I have found that it makes me a much nicer person in the AM!!

  7. Chrissy says:

    Much appreciated Adan, and WOW yes…the funny thing is that my foray was NOT in Newton but in Boston (not that a bit of that element doesn’t happen in Newton as well)!
    The thing is that yoga SHOULD be all inclusive….I guess that means that you can’t check the bitchy chicks at the door (I laugh as I type, thinking of of a ‘bitch check’, kinda like a coat check…”number 7 please”..TEEHEE), that being said, they could be nicer….I just don’t get people saying one thing and doing another….if you don’t practice it…don’t preach it! SHEESH!!!

  8. Ceara says:

    It’s all about how you feel inside. If you truly loved yourself, none of this would bother you. The truth is whatever you are feeling inside will follow you wherever you go. Something I have to remind myself of often.

    • Joslyn Hamilton says:

      I think that’s true to some extent, but also think you’re blaming the victim a bit when you say that being treated like sh*t shouldn’t bother someone if they truly love themselves. I love myself, AND it makes me feel bad when people treat me badly. if you’re a person who is engaged in the world, the way other people treat you does matter. AND it shouldn’t mean everything. We all contain multitudes.

  9. Chrissy says:

    I totally think that you are correct in the sense that we all carry “stuff”‘, and yes, at 24 years old it bothered me far more. Fact is, I still have always liked myself, however when people are so out there bitchy to you it does sting. And you know, I am far from the overly sensitive brooding type (not that there is anything wrong with those folks, many whom are dear friends of mine), I pride myself on being a former military, steely gal, so believe me, nothing doled out in a yoga studio is gonna breaka my stride….it will piss me off enough to write about, however because eh, why not.
    What I did take from my situation was that it is never ok to make assumptions. By acknowledging that I was treated poorly I am not taking the ‘woe is me’ role, I am merely pointing out what happened and how the younger me dealt with being judged by snarky women who clearly made me want to feel badly about who I was. I guess that I am just far too stubborn and proud to let that crap keep me from attending my class.

  10. Chrissy says:

    Thank you for getting where I am coming from. Telling a story of a younger Chrissy was not even a means of catharsis, it is a way to peek into someone else’s mind for the reader. I love sharing perspective as well as viewing that of others, and for not one minute do I think that they lack self love based upon what they shared. Fact is if you are real and in tune with your own personal honesty sometimes stuff will get to you….I would rather laugh about it and make lemonade:)

  11. Ceara says:

    I’m not trying to call you out Chrissy, I was just attempting to shift some perspective. This situation reminded me one of my favorite quotes. Take what you want from it.

    “Everyone and everything that shows up in our life is a reflection of something that is happening inside of us.” -Alan Cohen

    • Chrissy says:

      I truly don’t mind at all in fact I invite shifts in perspective….from my standpoint that particular situation had less to do about what was going on in my life and more to do with what was happening in theirs. If you go back and re read it you will see that i did let it get to me for a split second and then called myself out and moved on.Arguably if it was a one time deal I would have been ok with it, lets face it at that one moment in time i let someone elses BS get to me, but in my true fashion i feel as though I gained so much from the snarky girls. I still love yoga and I will always be the first to welcome a newcomer to the spot next to my mat. I don’t feel the need to get cerebral about it because mean is mean…case closed. As adults we should know how to treat people.

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