wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe

Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic… and the rest!

Yoga Makes Me Anxious!

Yoga and I don’t get on. I guess we’ve just never really ‘clicked’ – we’re like extended non blood related family members, the interaction is polite but somehow always feels strained and awkward.
My experiences have been frustrating and left me feeling embarrassed and vulnerable. I’ve tried no less than three different classes, all of which were supposed to be ‘for beginners,’ and yet everyone seemed to know the moves. When you have social anxiety, walking into a room with complete strangers is nerve wrecking enough. But when all the strangers know what they’re doing and you don’t, it’s f**king shit! Kind of like turning up to a normal party in a bunny costume. You feel exposed!
Also, what’s with the smug competitiveness that goes on? Is it me or does everyone try and ‘out do’ each other with super yoga poses as they warm up? One woman actually held a push up with only her hands/arms. Like Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow! Although in fairness if I could do that then I’d totally show off…


“Ok everybody,” shouted the instructor, “let’s move into downward dog position!” Everyone dropped to the floor. “WTF is she talking about?” I thought. It was like a shit game of musical statues! Oh and not to mention the endless trumping that echoed throughout the room. That was a nice addition, apparently yoga turns half it’s participants into whoopee cushions!

“What do you mean you can’t touch your toes?” The instructor asked as I strained to reach down past my shins. (Ok in my defence, I’m almost 5”7 and not the bendy type)! She then looked horrified and said “your posture is terrible, you’re going to have real problems when you’re older.” (Great, something else to worry about). I left that class feeling stressed up to my eyeballs. Yoga was NOT for me.

I tend to work out solo at the gym. Social Anxiety makes it difficult to relax in classes, there’s always the risk of drawing attention to myself. (All this stems from school). If a teacher shouts from the front that I’m ‘doing it wrong,’ I just freeze.

And yet, time and time again I’m told yoga is great for stress and has amazing relaxation benefits. So I decided to give it another go six months ago, but this time I would teach myself. BAD IDEA. First I tried using a book, it seemed simple enough.. unfortunately I woke up the next day and couldn’t move my lower back (guess I’d been doing it wrong). Then I tried using the Xbox, I kept getting zero stars after each session, but not understanding why. Don’t think it helped that Rigby was constantly running past the motion sensor thing. Then to really take the piss she did a perfect ‘downward dog.’ Bitch.

So for this week’s post, I NEED YOU. I’m determined to give yoga one more final go before it’s relegated into my mind’s equivalent of a junk room. My ‘shit that didn’t work’ chasm.  Juicing is in there, along with green eye shadow and the violin.

Any tips or advice that you can give would be most welcome. I’m talking youtube videos, articles, books, decent classes… HIT ME!

Man reading a yoga book while standing on his head.

Man reading a yoga book while standing on his head.

Categories: Anxiety

30 replies

  1. The fear that everyone else will know what they’re doing in a beginners class is one of the main reasons I’ve talked myself out of going to so many evening classes!! I don’t think classes are for me either.
    Instead, I do Yogalates (always makes me think of The O.C.!) by myself at home. (I find yoga on its own a bit too odd sometimes). I tried a pilates book but found it too hard to follow while attempting to do the poses, so I follow Louise Solomon’s Yogalates dvds. Some people find her voice a bit annoying, but I get on quite well with them when I remember to do them!

  2. I am SO with you on this. I was lucky in that the teacher I found was really lovely (yours sounds like a total cow!) but I still found that the beginners class had people in it who clearly weren’t beginners, or were already really flexible. Whereas I am 5ft9 with a bad back and tight hamstrings…. The classes were probably ok but I just felt so self-conscious the whole time and didn’t get the whole spiritual vibe – not me at all! It took a real effort to make myself go as I’d paid 6 weeks up front.
    I hope you find something that works, the exercises did make my body feel better but the class environment didn’t work for me.

  3. I’ve recently downloaded yoga studio app from Apple,has beginners, intermediate and advanced classes from 10 minutes to 1 hour. Can’t recommend it enough. Can’t see getting past beginners! but my body feels lovely and stretched after.

  4. My daughter was extremely unbendy – she, too was told by a yoga teacher that she would have great problems when she was older – but has found that YouTube videos by “Yoga with Adriene” are very useful. She is keen for me to try them, too, but that is still on my List of Things To Do. Here’s the link:
    Good luck! x

  5. Hi Claire,

    Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience with yoga classes! I remember not being very convinced by my first yoga class, and then I was lucky to have my Pilates instructor doing beginner lessons and being introduced very slowly to the positions. I have also been to very fast classes, with judging instructors and people comparing themselves which is not what yoga is about. So keep trying 🙂

    I second Lizzie’s comment – Yoga with Adriene is really good. I also liked this NHS Fitness studio video: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/nhs-fitness-studio/Pages/yoga-with-lj.aspx

    it is Vinyasa which is a dynamic form (Hatha is softer) and I found the video a good balance of positions. And she talks about breathing to calm the nerves which is very true! 🙂 Yoga is as much about breathing into the positions and synchronising your breathing when doing sun salutations which I find very relaxing (I found it a moving meditation just like running which helps, I can’t just do the sitting down meditation).

    Good luck in your yoga quest and I really enjoy reading your blog 🙂

  6. I am utterly shit at yoga despite having done it pretty consistently for 4 years. I still can’t get my foot between my hands from downward dog – or anywhere near it. The first class I went to was an advanced ashtanga and I literally sprinted from the room after 5 minutes. Terrifying!

    I thoroughly second Yoga With Adrienne. She’s great.

    I found doing an actual beginners course rrally helpful – I did this one in Kentish Town about 3 years ago and it was so fun that I did it a second time (because being yoga challenged I couldn’t face doing general). Susan the teacher is really nice and welcoming http://www.susuyoga.com/#!class-time/cfvg

    Finding a yoga studio that fits you is key – I tried out a few round my place in NZ and found a studio where heaps of older people and people with bad backs and people wearing trackpants went that had a really nice homey vibe – everyone was just focused on their own practice rather than anyone else. And the teacher was all about using props to make it easier. In contrast, another one down the road is full of bright white walls, lycra and athletic people and you just get the “snooty yoga” vibe!

    Another tip I’d add is doing yin yoga which is where you just hold a couple of easy poses over the course of the class and focusing on breathing rather than a more physical vinyasa or ashtanga. Very relaxing 😊

    Oops – yoga novel! Hopefully some of this helps!

  7. I strongly recommend DDP Yoga. I have a set of DVDs, but you can also purchase streaming, so no stress from a teacher or class. It is a yoga hybrid. It makes me feel great physically and emotionally. You can find info easily, and also videos on youtube: start with Arthur’s Transformation. I also strongly recommend Essentrics/Classical Stretch, which is also on DVDs or streaming. Makes you feel great physically and emotionally too. Hope this helps! For me, so much less stressful than a class!

  8. I know exactly what you mean, I can’t keep up with it either and I HATE going to classes of any kind for fitness. So I got a subscription to FitFusion which has tonnes of different kinds of fitness videos for different levels, including yoga and Tara Styles’ videos are pretty relaxing and easy to follow. Jillian Michaels does a good yoga/HIIT combo which is less relaxing but does get you fit! Hope this helps 🙂

  9. Bikram: Extreme, but at the end of the class, I have never felt so calm ❤

  10. Hi, The problem with the yoga class where the instructor shouted at you is definitely the instructor … not you, that’s for sure. I go to a class where the teacher doesn’t criticise and says it doesn’t matter how far you get into the position, just so long as you’re somewhere along the way it will help … and it will get better in time’. She also does a lot of talking about self esteem, coping with negativity etc. Unfortunately the class is in my home town of Heywood, North Manchester, so that’s not much good for you. However, I would recommend keep trying to find a class that’s run by a sensible, normal person rather than a numpty show-off because if you do find one, it will help, I’m sure. Good luck!

  11. Hello! Totally know what you mean about yoga – it took me about ten tries to find a studio & teachers I like that didn’t make me feel rubbish about myself or annoy me!

    Frame does very good, proper beginners classes. They explain all stages of the main flow… Stretch in east London also does good basics classes, and all the teachers there are super nice.

    Agree with all people above recommending Yoga with Adrienne, she’s great! But I would say that at the beginning it’s good to go to some classes too, just so you can ask for help etc with certain poses or flows.

    If you don’t mind paying for online packages, Codyapp does great ones, especially with Jessamyn Stanley – she’s awesome 🙂

    Good luck!

  12. Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube is amazing! You do it all at home, she’s very relaxing and patient, and really explains the poses. She also laughs at herself, makes goofy jokes, and just makes the whole process something to look forward to. When I do her videos a few days in a row, it’s amazing the self confidence boost I feel. Most of the time I’m just doing the bedtime yoga sequence that’s about 20 minutes. It’s worth a try!

  13. Oh no, your experience with yoga sounds terrible! Especially considering how beneficial i really do find it i must insist a second..third..tenth try 🙂

    If i ran into a class like the one that you described i would have left as fast as possible. I think i must have been lucky to find such a good class, where everyone is super friendly, particularly the instructors, mine emphasises that sometimes your body can do the poses but sometimes it doesn’t and its so lovely cause that means no judgement or self loathing even when you aren’t up to par. So the only thing i can suggest would be to try other classes, because i honestly don’t know anyone gets motivated enough for this without an instructor, hopefully this helps – yoga classes shouldn’t be like the one you just described! 😦

  14. Your experience in yoga sounds awful! The exact opposite of what yoga should be, in fact. I completely agree about people trying to ‘out-do’ one another – yoga can be such a competitive sport I wouldn’t be surprised if it features at Tokyo 2020. Finding the right style and a supportive teacher makes all the difference: hatha is usually much more mellow than something faster like vinyasa and ashtanga, and restorative yoga is all about relaxation. But whatever you do you should be encouraged to just be present in your body and enjoy the feeling of movement and stretching, however close to your toes you get! I also second the brilliant Yoga with Adrienne, but if you happen to pass London Bridge on a Wednesday evening sometime, you would be incredibly welcome in my class (no crazy push-up arm balance in sight) 🙂

  15. I see someone has already recommended Adrienne’s videos, but I’ve found the 30 Days of Yoga series great (even got my boyfriend to do yoga!) 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBu-pQG6sTY

  16. I absolutely love your honesty! Great work in trying new things and i am so sad that you had this experience with yoga.
    i also get anxious doing yoga but for a different reason.. i am a perfectionist and have done a fair few years of gymnastics while i was a kid meaning i am quite flexible. My aim on the mat however, is to do less, to breath more, to ‘BE’ more and to connect. I try very hard not to listen too much to what the yoga teacher says and i close my eyes so i do not compare myself with others. I think a real big part of yoga is the reason as to why you are there – set a good intention and aim to stick to it. If you are going for social anxiety then the fact you are going is such a positive step! I hope you continue to find ways to reduce the anxiety because you sound like an honest and caring go-getter!
    Best of luck 🙂

  17. I can totally relate! Yoga (along with meditation) used to make me anxious as well. I started out going to a class or two by myself, and then stopped going for a couple of months until my friend asked me to join her for a hot yoga class. The first couple of classes were really hard for me. I felt like I couldn’t keep up, and I never felt flexible enough, but I liked the workout and the way I felt after so I kept with it. Once you learn the basic poses, it makes it a lot easier. It helps to find an instructor you like and stick with them since they don’t tend to change up their classes too often.

    Yoga brings up a lot of feelings for me, which definitely doesn’t help with my anxiety, but fast paced classes are better for me because my mind doesn’t wonder as much.

    I hope that you will try it again. Yoga isn’t for everyone, but you definitely don’t have to be “bendy” to benefit from it! I am not flexible at all, but I LOVE it! It is nice to see my progress over time. I could NEVER do push ups if my life depended on it, but now I can do a few of them without dying 🙂

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