Yoga, Sans the Class

Fact: I love yoga. Like any red-blooded, alternative medicine/eastern philosophy-inclined Colorado native, I’ve been interested in yoga since I was a teenager.

When I was 17, I jumped at the chance to take a yoga class at the local Y. However, since this was after we’d moved to rural Pennsylvania from my beloved Colorado, I was the only person who signed up. It just was me and the instructor — a hippie-rific older gentleman who seemed sorely out of place in north-central PA — for all of two sessions before the Y cancelled the class due to lack of interest.

At that point the extent of my yoga instruction learning to sit in lotus position and belt out a resounding “om,” but that was about it.

I wound up picking up yoga DVDs and books in the years that followed, and after a few years of doing DIY yoga and the occasional free class at the university gym (both when I was in Israel and then during grad school), I figured I was ready to hit up some legit classes. Once I was back in DC, I figured I’d find a studio and get my asana on.

Well. As it turns out, I really don’t like going to yoga classes. I went to a Bikram studio, where I schvitzed a river while the other women — all of whom appeared to be 50 pounds skinnier and a few million dollars wealthier than me — merely glistened. I tried free classes at Lululemon, which were filled with Judgy McJudgerson types who’d throw shade at anyone using stability blocks for support. I went to a Vinyasa studio where the other women would do a little “more enlightened/flexible than thou” smirk while doing handstands on their eyeballs. I even went to one class at my gym during which the instructor looked at me, arched one eyebrow in annoyance, and said, quite loudly, “Oh. You’re new.”

Yes ma’am: I’m new here, and I’m never coming back.


After all this, I realized my most enjoyable yoga classes had been the ones I took in Israel. Which were conducted entirely in Hebrew. Which posed a significant challenge for someone who was just starting to learn Hebrew. Which meant that if I was more comfortable in classes in which I barely spoke the language, the classes in the U.S. weren’t my cup of tea.

So, you can imagine my delight when I discovered online, do-this-at-home resources like YogaDownloads. I’ve been all over that stuff like white on rice, and while I do love a lot of the classes, I’ve also learned something about myself and my yogic style, if you will: I’m slow.

I’m like the brontosaurus (I know, I know: apatosaurus is the correct name, but so help me God, I’m sticking with the terminology I know and love!) of yoga, in that I move at a lumbering pace. My yoga flow is more reminiscent of refrigerated molasses than anything else. Half the time when I do to yoga classes at home, the instructor is calmly telling me to go into down dog, but I just got into up dog, and I haven’t even done plank yet, and then I’m all,



It’s SO not zen. Knowing this, I decided to go even more DIY than I was before: I pulled out my old yoga books, which talk about the purposes and benefits of each pose, and then conduct my own little impromptu class based on what I think my body needs at the moment. If I’m feeling nervous, I do some heart-openers. If I accidentally get glutened, I do poses that help soothe GI distress. It’s totally ad-hoc, and I love it.

In addition to the fact that I’m not trying frantically to keep up with an instructor, I’m also really diggin’ the fact that the “class,” if you can call it that, goes for exactly as long as I want or need it to. If I’m pressed for time in the morning, I bust out a few warrior sequences before breakfast. If I’m increasingly sleepy before going to bed, I do a few minutes of Hatha sequences before I zonk out (and probably drool on my pillow).

I think this makes me the most non-yogic yogi ever, but obviously this gig works for me.

Do y’all do yoga? Do you do it on your own, or do you take classes? What do you like best?

20 responses

  1. I really like yoga and have only recently got it to it. I spent two months practicing on my own just play around . Honestly I was too nervous to go to a class. Three weeks ago I finally attended my first class and my instructor is awesome. She starts every class with some life lesson experience that always seen to be exactly what I need to hear. For me a class is what I needed to progress I’m not discipline enough to practice without someone talking me through the poses yet

    • That’s awesome — good for you, Victoria! I can totally understand why you’d be nervous to go to a class at first (I mean, I’ve been doing yoga on my own for years, and classes still make me break into a cold sweat!), and it’s fantastic that you found a class and instructor that you really enjoy. Starting each class with a life lesson or experience is a great idea, too. Yay for good classes and awesome instructors!

  2. Hilarious, Lillian! :) I agree with the ‘so not zen’ notion. I have a love/hate relationship with yoga. Though., I tried hot yoga back in early March and went to about 6 classes and did like it. I did enjoy the nasty sweat session only because I felt more cleansed when I left and I enjoyed the crazy poses /stretches. However, that shit will I went once a week. Regular yoga/not hot is boring to me. I’m not a calm person but I do try. If i do yoga again, I think I will have to stick with hot yoga classes.

    But again, I just go for the sweat session/and to get all the kinks out. The poses and language and crazy breaths you take in that class….mmmm not so much. Is it bad to act like I understand it all? :)

    I have tried DVDs, I don’t have enough room in my house nor discipline to do those. lol.

    • I tip my proverbial hat to you for loving hot yoga! I went to a hot Vinyasa class once, and I liked it — but the legit hot yoga is hardcore. It’s awesome that you loved all the crazy poses and felt so good afterwards! And hey, it’s not bad at all to pretend like you know what the poses and breathing exercises are all about. I do that with my DVDs, so it’s all good. :)

  3. I’ve really been wanting to try yoga, but I’m intimidated by the classes too. I would be the biggest yoga virgin ever! But I don’t know if I could hack it at home, on my own. I do take a Pilates class occasionally and love it. But my good friend is the instructor, so there’s no judgment whatsoever when I can get my runner’s body to stretch or move a certain way.

    • It’s awesome that you’re able to take Pilates classes taught by a friend — I think I’d be far less intimidated by that, too. Maybe she can recommend regular yoga classes with friendly instructors and non-judgy participants? There’s one studio here in DC that’s really open and friendly, but I live far away from it and also can’t swallow the $20 per class price tag, so I never go — but that at least means that friendly, non-judgy studios do exist from time to time!

  4. I like yoga, but am in the same position as you! When I was in college, we had a rectory on campus run by local nuns (the school wasn’t religiously-affiliated). They began to offer free yoga classes and encouraged college students to attend and meet more community members. My roommate at the time was Miss Volunteerism, so I joined her and went. I-LOVED-IT! But since then, I haven’t been able to find a judgement-free or sweaty situation that matches my needs. I’ve come across all the perfectly glistening women with their judgment gavels just ready to strike. Maybe I’ll take up an ad-hoc version like you… it sounds like it fits perfectly!

    • Oh wow, your college yoga classes sound perfect. I find that the free classes (and I must say, the fact that they were offered by nuns makes me love it even more — I had no idea about this until recently, but they tend to be some amazing people!) tend to draw far fewer judgy types, and your experience sounds like it was awesome. It’s one of the few things I miss about being a full-time student: free fitness classes for just about anything. Now that the “pay an arm and a leg to enter our studio” rules are in effect, I can’t bring myself to do it. If you want to do some ad hoc at home yoga, Amazon has some awesome books that show different poses and how to do them — so that might help get you started. :)

  5. Yoga, goodness. I attempted it. A beginners Power Yoga DVD. There is NOTHING beginner about a 35 second plank.. I also somehow managed to do something to my back which resulted in pain for a few days. Needless to say, I don’t think yoga is for me.

    • Welcome, Mallory — it’s great to have a fellow OSG fan here! :) I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels the pretentiousness (I agree that it totally must be a word — my spellcheck didn’t correct it, so I think you’re right!) gets pretty overwhelming sometimes. And, just as you said, the $20 per class price tag is way steeper than I can roll with. Happy running!

  6. I <3 yoga! I actually do like classes because that is the only time I'm motivated to do them. My new gym is so less "yoga-y" and not judgmental at all which I'm down for. I sweat like a piggy pig pig too and try to find classes that aren't hot or I'm going to lose 50 gallons of sweat in the process ;)

  7. I go back and forth on at home or at a studio. I’ll join a studio for the cheap intro month then I find myself not wanting to pay a lot so I end up doing them at home…and then I stop doing them and join another place for a month. Vicious cycle I tell ya!

    Also my current yoga teacher (week 3 of 4 at my new yoga studio…debating whether to join, probably not lol) is Israeli and breaks out into Hebrew throughout the class. Despite 10 years of Hebrew school I have no clue what she’s saying. I wasted my parents money on school is the moral of the story! Oh and I love yoga.

    • I SO understand the vicious cycle! There’s one studio here that I do really like, but I get sticker shock whenever I look at their prices. I did the cheap intro month there too, but then freaked out when the promotion ran out and I had to pony up the big bucks. You’re not alone in that boat!

      And I love the fact that the instructor at the studio you’re going to now is Israeli and infuses Hebrew into her classes. I always had to look around and see what the other people were doing when I took yoga classes in Jerusalem, because I couldn’t understand half the instructions. And don’t worry about not understanding her Hebrew lapses — from what I understand, the modern spoken Hebrew is nothing like the Biblical Hebrew they teach in Hebrew school. So, your parents’ investment in your education wasn’t a loss from that perspective! :)

  8. I’m not a yoga fan, to be honest… the only yoga I tried was at my old gym and it just made me feel awkward that I had no balance or flexibility, and then I just felt tired and wanted to take a nap… at 9am on a Saturday. Maybe I was doing the wrong kind of yoga? Meanwhile Bikram yoga does not sound like it would be for me – I hate sweating already!

  9. This literally made me lol. My yoga experience is absolutely the same; there is nothing zen about stressing that you’re going to stack it into the perfect cobra your next-door-mat buddy is pulling… So the classes stopped and I couldn’t be more grateful for all the online resources! I love that I’ve learned enough that I can just wing it when I fancy getting down with my dog ;)

  10. I hate those Judgy McJudgerson types! So not what yoga is about. I recently found a gym that I absolutely love and it’s filled with fun, twenty-something women who are focused on themselves and not what you’re doing. I’m thrilled!

  11. I looooove yoga, too. A few years ago I took a pi-yo class, and it was not my favorite thing. I don’t know if it was the instructor or the other people in the class, but I just didn’t like it. I do P90X yoga at home and adore it. It’s 90 minutes, though, so I often put it off due to lack of time. Thanks for reminding me to get back into it!

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