Yoga Practice

First-Time Yoga: Finding My Studio Match

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!

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Dwayne

    November 8, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Thanks, interesting. I often see this kind of story (newcomer walking into hostile/competitive yoga studio). It seems to be an urban phenomenon. I practice in upstate NY, attend studios over 100 mi. from NYC, and have never experienced or heard of such things locally. I *have* heard that certain studios in NYC can be highly cliquish/intimidating, but when I go to local classes of the same “lineage” (specifically J*******i, if it matters or you’re curious), everything is very friendly/welcoming. [There seem to be certain socio-economic-class-competitive complexes specific to urban yoga studios, but I have no interest in investigating the subject. 🙂 ]
    On first principle, behavior like yelling at new students is incomprehensible to me. Seems like stupid business practice, chasing away potential new business…maybe out here in the “hinterlands”, there aren’t sufficient practitioners that studios can afford to alienate them!

  2. Avatar

    CHickel

    September 4, 2017 at 10:24 am

    For me, I’ve experienced it, and not just in the yoga studios, but in the health and fitness scene in general. I’ve always struggled with my weight and eating habits. Get on a bus, fall off, get on a different bus, fall off….

    I decided that trying yoga again after college and in a new state would be a good idea. I have limited range of motion and my size with my weight makes maneuvering and going pose to pose difficult. I’ve tried so many places, yoga studios, fitness centers, gyms…. they all, to me have had the same atmosphere ‘New person doesn’t belong here….’ And it makes me sad because I really, really need the help so I don’t hurt myself anymore than I already have and end up with more weight due to recovery from the injury.

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