Yoga Practice

The Struggle of Practicing Yoga at a Public Gym

It’s a Sunday morning. You’ve finally mustered up the energy to get out of bed, fighting off the hangover every step toward the bathroom. You pull on your brightest pair of workout leggings, hoping the obnoxious color pattern wakes you up.

You scrape off your snow-covered car, drive to the gym, and finally get on the mat. It’s too early for an instructor-taught class, so you pop a yoga video into the DVD player.

You’ve just gotten centered in mountain pose, forgetting the stress of your work week and that time on Wednesday when you spilled coffee down the front of your white shirt.

And then the door opens.

Ah, the struggle of doing yoga at a public gym. If your public gym is anything like the one I use, there is a recreation room, which consists of anything from cycling, ab workouts and yoga. Every time someone needs a mat, free weights, jump rope or any other various workout gear, the door opens and slams shut.

So you tune it out. I mean, how many people could possibly be up this early on a Sunday?

The door proceeds to open and close 5 more times in the next 2 minutes. There is a guy 5 feet away from you grunting as he does army-grade sit ups. Two girls on the other side of the gym are laying on their mats gossiping about the hot guy in the other corner of the room doing jumping jacks.

Plus, nothing is more awkward than being in downward-facing dog when a group of people walk in to see your spandex stretched to the max against your ass.

You start to wonder whether you should’ve worn different underwear because you can almost definitely see panty lines in these pants, or whether you should be doing some squats instead of yoga because your butt isn’t looking especially great.

Suddenly that focus you worked so hard to gain is gone and all the energy you’ve been using to hold yourself in downward-facing dog is being used to restrain yourself from shouting at everyone to be quiet.

You finish the workout, despite the people blatantly staring at you rocking back and forth in happy baby pose. Your body feels great, but your mind is still as uneasy as it was when you walked through the door.

You leave the gym vowing to get a membership at an actual yoga studio. You spend all night comparing prices, decide your love for Chinese takeout is too great to cut costs, and return to the good old public gym the next morning.

Sound like any of you? Comment below!


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    February 7, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    I loved this!! I teach at an Anytime Fitness in a small town right in the middle of the gym and have been for 3 years. I have had sooooo many people ask me how I can teach, practice, concentrate in a gym. Tell me it’s not Real yoga since its not quiet, dark, full of props. But you know it’s my favorite place to teach and do yoga. I’ve told many if you can concentrate, breathe, tune everything and everyone out in a gym, you can concentrate, breathe, tune everything and everyone out wherever you are. The awesome people that let me be their b teacher no longer care At All that we are in the middle of a busy gym. Plus a whole bunch of gym members are seeing yoga, some for the first time. Maybe, just maybe, they may decide to join in. That would not happen in a studio. I teach at a couple studios also but truthfully, I free the most comfortable in the gym. I used to feel less than because I taught in a gym. That has faded. I have come to wishing many would get what yoga really is cause it’s not a place, nor the music, nor the props, nor the clothing, nor a certain body type or that it’s a workout. It’s about breathing, calmness in chaos, discipline, kindness, health, contentment and then maybe some body sculpting thrown in. Thank you for this post and thanks Erin for this blog site. I am a bad yogi, am gonna buy a shirt and wear it with pride.

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    February 9, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    I loved loved loved this!! I can completely relate to all you described Emily! I practice in the recreation room of my small gym using videos (yeah Erin!! thanks for all your videos!!) and sometimes my own routine. I am not always successful at tuning out the other activities happening in the room (personal training, grunting, talking, opening the outside door to frigid air ….) but when I go to the gym I will definitely get on my mat. That is not always true if I stay at home with the promise to get on my mat at some point during the day. The one thing I would add to Emily’s great post is something that really disrupts my practice. That is when people arrive 20 minutes early for the pilates class and throw their props, bags, etc. to secure their place. Or, and I am still gobsmacked by this, stand behind me waiting for me to finish my yoga because I’m in the spot they want for the class … that starts in 20 minutes! What awesome opportunities those are for me to practice kindness!

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    April 21, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    I practice at the end of my weightlifting workouts everyday. I use the ‘rec room’ at my small family owned gym. Most of the time I’m sharing it with 2 dudes that are doing some sort of ‘stretching’ and or ladies who are practicing their posing for a competition. I keep my headphones in and try to tune out their stares. I’m pretty sure I’m one of maybe 3 people in the entire membership of the gym that practices yoga. I’ve recently been asked by one of the trainers to come in and guide a group through some yoga. It’s pretty stereotypical to assume that everyone in that gym is just there to lift weights, this is my free time away from the office so I like to center myself before I have to go back.

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      September 15, 2016 at 6:03 pm

      I only have time to workout during my lunch break. I recently switched from a women’s only gym to a much larger conventional gym that has more free weights. But this gym is also more crowded, has a lot of dudes, and has a smaller stretching area where people also get personal training. I started doing yoga in place of stretching after my weightlifting and cardio workouts. I haven’t busted out the headstands yet. Feeling shy I suppose. I was thinking of doing a full yoga routine at the gym, bring my mat, take off my shoes and everything. I’m glad for this article and the comments.

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