When I was younger, my mom ran marathons. She would leave every Sunday to meet her running group, and by the time I was ten or eleven, she asked me to join her for their post-run yoga sessions. This was the group’s “cool-down.” I was eleven, so I enjoyed doing the stretches, but grew bored after a few times and told her I didn’t want to go back.

Fast forward twelve years, and it’s February of 2016. I moved to Boston in August 2015, found a job, settled into my apartment with my boyfriend, and then came the nag. We all know “the nag” — the voice when you’ve checked everything off your to-do list that says “you could still be doing more. What about getting in shape?”

Mean Girls of the Yoga World

So I set about doing my research on yoga studios near my apartment. I figured yoga would be a great way to get in shape at my own pace. I signed up to do the one week free trial at a local studio, which is a part of a pretty successful national chain of studios. Upon entering, I was automatically intimidated. Everywhere I looked, the people in the studio looked the same. Lululemon yoga pants and headbands, fancy exercise tanks, and no smiles. The air was chilly — in more ways than one.

I tried to ignore my oversized t-shirt and leggings, and went into the room where I knew class would be held. I wasn’t sure what stretches to do, but tried out a few. I kept feeling people looking at me, but when I looked up they would look away. Was it my outfit? The fact that they knew I was a newbie? Either way, I had never been more uncomfortable. The environment was less than welcoming. I felt like I was truly dealing with the mean girls of the yoga world.

Our teacher arrived and began class. She walked around, correcting my poses several times. Then came the part I didn’t expect : she yelled– literally YELLED- at me in front of the class! She scolded me for not listening to her. While it wasn’t too bad, it caught me so off guard that I had tears in my eyes. I was embarrassed, and felt like a complete outsider. When class was over, I left the studio without a word to anyone and have never been back. I didn’t even use the rest of my free trial.

Re-doing My First-Time Yoga

Later I had a friend recommend a studio to me, so I looked them up on Yelp and decided to give their beginner class a try. The people were friendly, they welcomed me, and I automatically felt at ease as soon as I walked in the door. It hasn’t even been a year yet, but this is now my current studio and I have no plans of leaving, even if I eventually move to a different neighborhood in the city.

So my first true experience with yoga taught me something important: trust your gut when it comes to a place’s environment. Upon walking into that studio, I knew I was trying to force myself to be something I wasn’t there. The vibe wasn’t me, and I wasn’t feeling the vibe. Luckily, like with most experiences, we move on to much greener pastures.

Have you had less-than-welcoming experiences with yoga? How do you think the yoga community can be more inviting? Tell us in the comments!