I frequently write about how much I love yoga, how yoga transformed my life for the better, and why so many people are doing yoga these days. But there's a flip side to every coin, and one day, after a relative mentioned that she hates yoga and can't stand the Pollyanna mentality of many yoga teachers (e.g. "It's all good!"), I decided to be really honest with myself about the practice I adore. I was surprised to find that there are things I don't like about yoga, too. In fact, I have to confess that yoga can cause anxiety, stress, and fear -- the very things that yoga is supposed to alleviate.
Here are the top 10 reasons why yoga (sometimes) stresses me out:
1) Pedicures. Yes, pedicures. Imagine a spiritual practice that requires one to worry about whether one's feet look pretty all the time. It can get downright tiring and expensive (not to mention toxic, unless one uses chemical-free nail polish). In the good old days, before yoga, I only cared about my toes when I had to wear sandals to a wedding. Not any more.
2) Clothes. Yes, I know there are some places where yogis just wear sweats and T-shirts. But there are also plenty of studios where practitioners dress in the latest yogini fashions. It's annoying that a practice that is supposed to be focused on our inner lives can be so outer-obsessed. I teach Kundalini yoga and practitioners and teachers wear white. It was quite an expense to transform my totally black and purple wardrobe.
3) Weight. Certainly, there are classes where not everyone is slim, trim, and muscular. But plenty are populated by svelte under 40-year-olds. This can be intimidating (if not infuriating!)
4) Pure terror. Yes, yoga can be scary. At one recent class the teacher asked us to do a handstand in the middle of the room with a spotter. Yes, I did it, but I wasn't happy about it. If one lives in fear of Wheel, Handstand, Crow, and other such poses yoga class may not be the most relaxing place, especially when the teacher won't take "I can't do it" for an answer.
5) Cliques. Not all yoga studios have them, but some certainly do. To a newcomer these established groups of yogi-friends could be a turn-off.
6) Teacher's pets. An offshoot of cliques is the teacher's pet syndrome. I try to avoid singling out any one student for favoritism, but as a student I've seen it happen plenty of times. Watching one student who gets to demo all the poses, go out for drinks (or more) with the teacher, or just plain have the teacher's ear all the time can be really annoying, to say the least.
7) Money. Yoga can get really expensive and for some, it can be frustrating to figure out how to pay for all the classes and workshops. For teachers, add trainings, books, insurance, videos, music, etc. Thankfully, there are now some donation classes (just not in my neighborhood).
8) Travel. Along these lines, if one loves -- but can't afford -- travel, yoga may cause some stress. Plenty of yogis head off to Mexico, Italy, Costa Rica or other far-flung locations on a regular basis, leaving us working stiffs in the dust.
9) Teaching. Yes, teaching can stress me out, as much as I love sharing the knowledge and practice. Still, I fret over what I'm teaching each week, picking the appropriate music and meditation. Of course, I know that it will all work out, but I have to admit the process sometimes is stressful.
10) Mean yogis. Most yogis are wonderful, but every now and then I encounter a mean or snarky yogi/yogini on an ego trip who doesn't answer texts, emails, phone calls and who only has something to say to me when I can do something for him/her. That's when I have to remind myself that yogis aren't gods and goddesses -- they are people just like everyone else, with all of the same issues and hang-ups. Hopefully yoga is helping them work on these issues. But sometimes I wonder.
Alas, the world of yoga is not perfect, and, paradoxically, the very practice that lowers my stress level can cause it to soar. Nevertheless, I do love yoga and for me, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. When I encounter negative feelings and situations, I just breathe my way through. Inhale, exhale, and as we say in yoga, "Let it go!"