I can’t get down with Downward Dog

I’ve been trying for a while to get into yoga. I know all about the benefits of it- the stretching, the stress release, the relaxation, the meditation, the “glow”, and I really want to be a part of all that! I want the relaxed vibe, the accepting and understanding attitude, the glow, the inner kunahayshsha or whatever those people have. But I just don’t. It’s not happening.

Last night, Lululemon hosted their first portion of Uncommon Yoga, which is a 5 week series of free outdoor yoga classes. They feature kick ass instructors from all over Boston every week, as well as bumpin’ music. They also did this a few months back for the big kick off of their Newbury Street store, and it was amazing.

It was a gorgeous night last night- a little hot, but breezy. Music was bumpin’, there was a great crowd, and both instructors, Goldie and Caitlyn, were really motivating and inspiring. They were also really clear in their directions, which was very helpful for a non yogi like me.

Here’s my problem with yoga (and this is my personal problem, not a problem with the practice at all!): It doesn’t relax me. It almost gives me too much time to think. During each pose, I’m thinking to myself “How much longer are we going to hold this? What are we going to do next? I can’t remember the next step in the Vinyasa. Am I going to fall over? I think I’m going to fall over. How is that girl standing on her head? Oh shit, we’re on the next pose. Am I breathing right? Was I supposed to be inhaling or exhaling? Why is breathing so hard now? Why am I overanalyzing breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth? Is my belly button connected to my spine? How does that even happen? Is my stomach supposed to expand when I inhale, or exhale? I’ve been fucking breathing since I was born, why can’t I remember? Emily, get your shit together. Oh, down dog again? Guess I’m getting up close and personal with the ass in front of me again” 

I mean, I can get through the poses alright (albeit a little wobbly), but I just can’t help over-thinking everything. And then the relaxation period at the end… man, that is actually the hardest part for me. First of all- I hate naps. They stress me out. I spend about 30 minutes worrying if I’m actually going to fall asleep, and if I do fall asleep, that I’ll just be even more tired when I wake up. And then I start thinking about all the other things I COULD be doing instead of napping. I understand that I’m a crazy person. I get the exact same anxiety and stress during Savasana. I don’t want to let myself relax- I’d just rather wait until I went to sleep. Does that make sense? I know you’re not supposed to fall asleep during Savasana, you’re just supposed to let your mind go.. but I still can’t even do that. I just start thinking about getting home, when is the next bus coming, will I have time to make dinner, do I need to do laundry, should I shower, etc. At the end, I’m also left wondering “Did I really just get a workout?” I DO always feel great after, well stretched and light, but I have a really hard time actually motivating myself to GO to a yoga class. I’m used to a more intense workout where I leave drenched in sweat. And to be honest, I actually feel more relaxed after a killer spin class, or a CrossFit WOD, or a long circuit. There’s something about totally going balls to the wall and releasing all of your energy and your stress by giving yourself a ridiculous ass kicking that makes me go “ahhhhhh!” I walk away knowing that I gave it 110% and that I let all my stress out on the bike and that I’ll sleep like a baby that night.

But, I haven’t given up on yoga yet! I’m going to try Bikram yoga out next week. It’s come highly recommended to me from a few people that know me and my psychotic workout tendencies (compliment?). I’m a little nervous about the heat aspect, but I think I’ll enjoy holding the poses and getting more of a strength workout vs a flow workout. I’m taking my first class on Monday and am excited to report back (if I don’t die…!)

How do you guys feel about yoga? Does it stress you out like it stresses me out, or am I the only crazy person out there? Do you prefer high intensity workouts vs yoga? Ever tried Bikram? Can I ask any more questions?

Namaste, betches.





33 thoughts on “I can’t get down with Downward Dog

  1. I was the same way when I first started doing yoga. As a self proclaimed cardio queen, I COULD NOT slow down. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Eventually all that chatter in your head will be less noisy. Usually the people (like me) who hate the last 5 minutes of class are the ones that need it the most. Years later, it’s my favorite part. 🙂

  2. I the more you do it the more comfortable you get with it, which will calm your all your inner tourmoil! For me teachers make or break a class. I only like hot yoga (bikram, moksha, hot vinyasas) and I prefer they play music. Just keep trying new ones until you find one you think is a good enough fit for you then, then keep at it! It’ll click I promise.

      • Bikram’s challenging, but bring your nose plugs. I’ve done a few times and have heard same feedback from friends in other cities. They do several classes a day, 7 days/week. There’s no way they can shampoo the carpets with that schedule, so the room SMMMEEELLLLSSS. One of the benefits of Bikram is that you sweat out toxins, so you can imagine the that cocktail in the carpets. If there are wood floors, you might be ok. It’ll just be the smell of people in class with you, not the cumulative stank of several months.

      • I guarantee you will not find a stank stankier than Bikram. That’s the purpose – to sweat profusely in a room with no fans. Plus with the room temp at 800 degrees, the sweat ferments… or is that “festers”? Anyway, PLEASE go and post on it! Would love to get your thoughts on it.

  3. I think you will like Bikram a lot better. A lot of these same things I felt in my practice in just the straight yoga. When I did hot yoga (technically it isn’t Bikram because it is only 60 minutes long) I felt way too hot to be concerned about my thoughts, but more about the poses themselves. I still look at other people just because I am creepy like that, but the hot yoga has really been great for me and my fitness goals!

  4. How about… mid-summer I decided to do a 30 day BIKRAM yoga challenge? My last day is next Wednesday and I am POOOPED! So tired! I’m definitely toning, and lots of core strength developing, but it’s a struggle… 30 days straight? Such a struggle. I’ll blog about it when I’m done… but in the meantime, a visual must-see of what you’ve described in your head per pose: http://on.fb.me/OY1p39

  5. I love Bikram. Just don’t think about how hot it is. Seriously, just don’t even let yourself think about it. It’s kind of too intense to have your mind wander like it does (for me, too) in non-insane yoga, though sometimes I find myself thinking really clearly, like on a long run. And I think that’s okay, too. You will feel like a new person after AND be familiarly drenched in sweat.

  6. I used to do ‘regular’ yoga once a week to give me a bit more flexibility for my circuits, spin and kettlebell workouts, however once a week was more than enough. Your definitely not alone in your sense of anxiety! Although I guess a lot of the teachers would argue that beating that is part of the discipline.

    Anyhoo…I then took up Bikram and being a glutton for punishment – I loved it!

    It’s now my main source of fitness. My cardio has improved, my strength and flexibility too. Every class is a genuine challenge, so I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy it. But be patient with yourself (forgive me starting to sound like a yoga-hippy-zen-dude there!), what I mean is, the heat will f&ck with you initially and for me it took a good 5-10 classes to adjust to, after that it gets much more interesting and you can feel the change with the insane detox and improved flexibility. When you wake up other muscles and joints in this way, it’s amazing how much you realise how few muscles are actually being taxed in a given exercise routine. For example my form when I do kettlebell swings or Turkish Get-ups is soooo much better! So – double-whammy-ola!!!

    Anyhow good luck, I look forward to hearing about your experience! Give the old 30 day challenge a go, that’s hardcore!


  7. Have you tried Hip Hop yoga? It’s the only type of yoga I can do. I feel the same way as you when I do yoga–racing thoughts, anxiety, WHEN IS THIS GOING TO END AM I DOING THIS RIGHT OMG, except when I do HHY. All of those old school hip hop jams with dirty expletives help me reach a peaceful place for some reason…and there’s a great cardio/sweat component to those classes. They feel more like a sweat-inducing, heart pumping workout to me than some other yoga classes. PLUS as a fellow spin instructor I can say that I have not been able to find another exercise that will release my hip flexors and hamstrings the way yoga does. Let me know if you want to have a HHY date sometime at BBY!


    PS I am by no means a yogi. I can’t balance on my head for shit.

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  9. Great post… yoga isnt necessarily relaxing for me. I’m definitely not as flexible as I should be and most of the time I’m thinking “I’m doing this wrong.” But it feels good and like you, not giving up on it.

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  11. I agree! My friend is always inviting me to yoga and honestly, I did one P90X yoga and decided it wasn’t for me. I love high intensity stuff and hate stretching (although I should love it because it would help me have a nice lovely squat) and loud music when I work out so yoga is not for me. I’m just like you (except I like naps). I hate anything that gives me time to think about all the other stuff I should be doing. I can’t even let my nails dry for more than 2 minutes when I get them done because I had had the last 20 minutes to think about what else I should be doing. I don’t know if Bikram yoga is the same as regular hot yoga, but my friend does that and loves it. I still refuse. I hate doing WODs in the summer because of how much I sweat so why go do something I like even less than CrossFit and sweat more? I don’t get it.

    • Bikram is different than hot yoga because it’s not a flow- you hold 26 different positions, so it’s more strengthening and toning and less thinking about breathing! I’m taking my first class on Monday and will report back

  12. I just stumbled on your blog and laughed my face off at your anxiety at relaxing and all the thoughts going through your head during poses. And that is probably b/c I COMPLETELY relate!! Now I can look my husband in the face and tell him, no-I am not the only one in the world that thinks there are better things to do than nap 🙂

  13. Oh how I laughed at this post! You pretty much read my thoughts and put them on a page. I used to think exactly the same – “If I am going to do a workout, then I want to seriously sweat. None of this wasting time with the breathing shiz”.

    And then I signed up to a 30 day power yoga challenge, where I did 2 hours of yoga a day. I was pretty freaked out by it, and admit for the first week…still pretty ho-hum about the whole thing. BUT then, something changed and the class started seriously kicking my ass. The sweat poured off me, my muscles were challenged and sore and I started to feel strong. Something about finally being able to make it up into a handstand (against a wall) really ignited the fire in me, and then…I began to love yoga.

    Some days I still can’t shut off my brain, and thats when I prefer cardio or running…but yoga really changed my thinking and worked my body in different ways.

    I think it’s those people who can’t turn off that need yoga the most!

    Good luck, and I hope you find a class that clicks for you soon.

  14. I like both high intensity workouts and yoga. They really go well together and help me to improve both areas. There are certain types of yoga i like better than others and bikram is high on my list. Gluck!

  15. I sometimes find my mind wandering during a class, but usually its because I’ve done the same class over and over again and its lost its excitement. Maybe a more high energy and exciting type of yoga would be best for you? I don’t have personal experience but I’ve heard of things called like Power Yoga or something, where its more of a general workout, but with yoga elements. Or something.

    As for the resting pose being stressful, too – there have been times when I was SO THANKFUL to be able to lie down, and it was after an hour-long class where we held each pose for what seemed like 5 minutes. So maybe try some poses like http://yogadoctors.com/DrEdenGoldmanBlog/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/8_24_YJ-CHAIR-POSE-LONG-HOLD.jpg and also the warrior poses, and then maybe you’ll enjoy the resting pose. 🙂

    Also, this article helped me: http://thefoodyogiblog.com/2012/05/22/get-out-of-your-head/

  16. Hi Emily! I’ve taken your spin classes a few times and judging by your intense (and awesome)teaching style I can certianly understand your feelings about yoga. I have always been a distance runner but leg injuries caused me to stop for a few years. I tried a lot of new exercise regimens to replace running but yoga is the only one that allowed me to find something similar to a runner’s high where you zone out completely and could stay in that place forever. I’ve been doing yoga for six years now and have tried almost every style out there. For you, I would also have said try Bikram before reading that you were going there already. I can’t wait to read what you thought about it. I think you will enjoy the intesity of it and it will be a good introduction on the kind of focus and meditation that yoga requires. Since Bikram is a very demanding type of yoga practice given the heat, you literally have no choice but to get out of your head and just focus on each solitary moment, which is the purpose of a yoga practice. It’s clear that you value the lessons learned on your bike and in the gym and that you apply them to everyday life. The beauty of yoga is that it truly is a mind-body-soul experience once you’ve allowed yourself to reap the benfits of a longer term practice. Once you master Bikram, come back to Hot Power Yoga and try the flow again and see where it takes you. It’s very true that people who don’t immediately love yoga are the ones that probably need it the most. Your blog is an inspiration to others and I hope yoga inspires you in return! Great job :)!

    • Hi Erica!! Thank you so much for your comment. Glad you like my classes 🙂 Say hi next time you come! I haven’t tried Bikram yet because my schedule is nutty but it’s good to hear more reinforcement that I’ll like it. Will definitely be reporting back. Thank you again!

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