Yoga may suck, but so does everything else

Published on August 22, 2013 by      Print
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By Jessica Wheeler

Let’s face facts. For those of us with a tendency toward anxiety and depression, exercise is a vital component of mental health.

And while a home yoga practice might suffice in theory, the hard truth is that sometimes we need to get out there and push ourselves a little harder in order to keep the demons at bay. That means showing up to public classes. But as we all know, and the articles on this website accurately reflect, the yoga world has problems.

I’m not just talking about the things we love to hate: women aged seventeen to seventy in brand-spanking-new outfits for every class, teachers who spout at least ten words from the banned list per hour, the shunning of anyone with a body mass index over eighteen, the studio prices, the dudes.

its not you its meI’m talking about real problems you can’t ignore. I don’t mean to brag, but I probably have more injuries than you. My neck, knees and lower back require a lot of attention, and most teachers aren’t too keen on students who insist on doing things their own way. In fact, I recently let a senior Iyengar instructor convince me she could safely put me into a supported shoulder stand, and the result was a trip to the chiropractor and a bottle of narcotic painkillers.

Another time, I took a class that focused on “detox” by way of overzealous twisting. I limped for a week.

I’ve also discovered that a new thing is lecturing students about savasana while they’re in savasana, which is crazy-making. I could go on, but you get the idea. Not only do I have to do mental gymnastics to force myself to show up for class, but when I do, I usually leave disgruntled and hurting.

So over the course of the past year, I’ve tried to find an acceptable alternative to the pain of yoga class—an alternative that might keep me sane, healthy, off the pain meds and fitting into my jeans without having to resort to the latest juice cleanse.

Granted, there may be another way. I haven’t tried everything. Crossfit terrifies me, my bum knees keep me from running, and I have a mortal fear that riding a bike will give me “helmet hair.” But everything except yoga has so far left me cold, bored and medicated.

First there was the personal trainer. He weighed, measured, poked, prodded and took notes. In the end he decided I “needed” to learn how to do pull-ups. The thing is, my neck injury affects the muscles in my upper back, and I have bilateral knee injuries that prevent me from enjoying the generally spastic activity that goes on at most gyms most of the time. I gave him three tries, then left bored out of my skull to get a massage.

Then there was Barre class. Let me tell you about Barre class. At Barre class, they play loud music, a peppy young woman in heavy makeup barks at you about “cute booties” and “getting rid of that muffin top,” and you stare at yourself in the mirror while all the women measure themselves against one another.

Meanwhile, the Barre studio sends you emails with life advice that includes never “overindulging” on holidays or weekends, spray-tanning twice a week and always dressing up in your cutest workout clothes (conveniently sold right at the studio!) for class. I found myself tempted to contact eating-disorder organizations in an effort to have the studio shut down. Not to mention that every morning after class I woke up unable to move.

So after my break from the yoga scene, and in full denial about my true feelings about public classes, I bit the bullet and signed up for a yoga workshop.

And you know what? It was fun. Sure, there was some babble about the 72,000 nadis connected to my heart, and people—strangers!—stepped on my mat. And sure, everyone was talking about the upcoming summer yoga festivals. But I vinyassa-ed the hell out of some surya namaskars and sweat in time with live music, and by the end I was wondering if maybe I had missed it.

I’m not a robot or a clone. I’m perfectly capable of ignoring outfits and chatter, and in the meantime, I can show up for class once in a while, use the knowledge I’ve gained over years of practicing and teaching to protect my injured body, and find a way to be just a little healthier and happier without having to spray-tan or do a pull-up.

But give me a few months, and who knows. CrossFit might not sound so bad. I’ll let you know after I’ve popped a few Advil.

About Jessica Wheeler

Jessica lives in North County San Diego with her husband and their cacti. She’s on hiatus from teaching yoga, and is a retired philosophy student, boutique clothing slinger, pizza restaurant hostess and tour hippie. She has never traveled to Thailand or Costa Rica and doesn’t have a blog. Hopefully, though, you’ll soon be able to read the novel she wrote while not teaching yoga. You can find her on twitter @2weird2rare.


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  1. Kim says:

    Hey if you are interested in affordable acupuncture treatment please see if there is a clinic in your area. Yes I’m a community acupunk but this isn’t a personal promotion, it can really help.

  2. Miranda says:

    This post was really inspiring for me. I love yoga and practice daily at home or with a friend and absolutely dread classes for all of the above mentioned reasons. However, more and more I find myself getting somewhat lazy and not progressing simply because I don’t have a consistent method of holding myself accountable. And while I hate public classes (before, during, and after) you are completely right about it being the best of other alternatives. I always refuse to go except for when a friend RAVES about a new instructor (which never makes it better), but in light of your article, I need to reconsider regular attendance – even if I hate it.

    Thank you for sharing your experience – I think I’ll be doing the dreaded drop in at a neighbourhood studio today.

  3. Jessica says:


    I’m glad you liked it … Good luck today, girl!

  4. Sharon Frost says:

    I’m really attached to my home practice. My husband and I travel 4-5 months a year, so that’s a good excuse to maintain it.

    I know class gives me something I can’t get for myself. And I have some excellent teachers who don’t have the typical yoga-annoying tropes. Who work with my injuries (I’m almost 70, bound to have a few or several). My classes aren’t full of people in l**%!!lemons. The age range is great, the body shape variation.

    What keeps me out of class: partner work. I know it’s a terrific learning tool. It’s just very hard for the painfully shy, the introverted. I get stressed just thinking about it. And often, the thought of it keeps me from getting out the door of my apartment, at least on the days I’m trying to get to class.

  5. warriorsaint says:

    I wish you were in the NY area so I could invite you to my Pilates class. The wardrobe is ancient Athleta pants (no pilling!) and a semi-snug fitting T shirt. It’s classical Pilates with a little jazzing up with therapeutic rollers or balls. Pilates roots are in rehab from injuries. It is also a mind body workout without the “banned” yoga words.

    Find a competent Pilates teacher who listens and you can trust. Work with him/her around your injuries.

    • Jessica says:

      Your Pilates class sounds fabulous, especially since I’m a former dancer! Thanks for the suggestion.

  6. Tangled says:

    Have you ever experimented with hoop dance? The cardio is less intense…unless you really push it, but that is balanced out (in terms of mentally distracting yourself) by the focus required to learn new movements.

  7. Evolation Yoga says:

    Well-written and insightful article. You provide humor in the midst of your journey for what is best for you, and that is precisely how life should be lived. I wish you nothing but the very best in your search for your well-being.

  8. Deanna says:

  9. Carl says:

    What do mean by”….the dudes.” in the second paragraph? You hate the dudes?

  10. Olivia says:

    Hilarious. I am loving this site.

  11. CoBo75 says:

    You (& this site) have taken the commodification of Yoga in the West to a whole new level. I am surrounded by a scene here in ‘Coolerado’…everything from the ski/snowboard to SUPing to Yoga to Beers/Bikes/Tatoos…… I think the light in the humor of this site can help keep the scene in check and is necessary & invaluable…..Thank You!!

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