Why You Won’t Find Me in a Yoga Class

Does all the "Ommming" make you uncomfortable? Please say I'm not alone in this.



I’m no stranger to doing things that make me uncomfortable. When I first began dabbling in CrossFit last year, I worried about walking into a new kind of workout, with new people speaking a fitness language all their own, and finding that I wouldn’t fit in. But I took the first step — then the second, and the third — and I haven’t looked back since.

Which is why it continues to puzzle me that I just can’t get into yoga — that is, yoga classes at yoga studios with other yoga students. I’m happy as a clam doing yoga in the privacy of my own living room with the help of a video. But a class? It’s just not for me, and I don’t think I’m alone in this. 

Allow me to explain: Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that online yoga classes are experiencing a surge in popularity. The author wrote that “YouTube viewers watched 5,500 years—yes, years—of videos tagged ‘yoga’ in 2014, more than double the number viewed a year earlier, according to YouTube data.”

The Journal attributed this recent increase in popularity to the convenience of online yoga classes and also the appeal of learning yoga poses in privacy. Sure, those things could be true, but my opinion about why online yoga classes are surging is different. Personally, I seek out virtual yoga classes because I often feel uncomfortable about yoga’s spiritual elements.

While I love the athletic challenge of yoga, I’m not comfortable when a yoga teacher asks me to chant, and it feels disingenuous to me because I don’t understand the value of chanting. To me, it’s similar to how I wouldn’t go into a Catholic church and accept the eucharist because I’m not a practicing Catholic.

During a particularly long Om in yoga class, I find myself furtively looking around the room to see if anyone else is panicked like me. And, much to my disappointment, I always seem to be the one person who is visibly uncomfortable. Every other person appears to be blissfully chanting on their mats, and I’m sitting there wondering what I’m missing.

Believe me, I hear how ridiculous I sound. I know that I should stop overthinking it and just lean into the yoga experience. After all, someone as high-strung as me could use all of the help she can get. Why would I waste energy questioning centuries old yoga practices when I could be calming my mind? The lunacy of my thought process is far from lost on me.

But the fact remains that I’m most comfortable doing yoga in the privacy of my own living room, and I wouldn’t be surprised if others of you felt the same way. At-home yoga gives me the time to practice my yoga poses in the absence of my Om-induced anxiety.

Which is why I’m curious to hear from you, especially yogis who may have been uncomfortable with all the chanting and chakras at first, but who have grown to embrace it. What changed? What have you learned from all that chanting that I seem to be missing? By all means, go ahead and share in the comments.


Lauren Napolitano, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist on staff at Bryn Mawr Hospital and in private practice in Bryn Mawr, PA.  To learn more about her practice, go here. And to read more of Lauren’s posts for Be Well Philly, head over here.