The Time I Gave Up Yoga For The Gym

Side bending

I have the privilege of being a yoga teacher. While 2 million people were hashtagging #yogaeverydamnday, I took 90 days to check out the “fitness” world. For you asana-goers, that means the G.Y.M. When I told my editor at Yoga Journal, she asked, “What did you find out?” Here it is, yoga community. Learn just what over-dosing on studio classes opened my eyes to. From abs to adrenaline, the gym’s got nothing on asana man.

SPINNING IS SOULLESS. Spinning. After spin class I was still “spun.” After 60 minutes of pedaling my ass off while listening to someone shouting, “Harder!” “Higher!” “Faster!” “Longer!” I felt like I was in bed with a partner I couldn’t please. Yes, the class worked out my legs and butt, but what about the other parts of my body? My core and arms were forlorn, neglected. Now it was the bad lover I was reminded of…

LESSON LEARNED: Spinning left me sweaty and searching for some spiritual takeaway.

CROSSED UP OR CROSSFIT? A big part of my adventure was spent taking cross-training or circuit-training classes; now called CrossFit, if you’re cool. Much like spinning, these total-body-toning teachers seemed focused on some false promises. Repeatedly, I heard that whatever I was doing in the moment would continue to burn calories when I wasn’t working out (HUH?). Apparently, the new thing is making the class duration a convenient 45 minutes but claiming that’s the optimal workout length?  Bull$#!! If you are athletic—or ADHD!—these classes can challenge and engage you. But I am both…so what was I missing?

LESSON LEARNED: I long for community. In yoga, there is a signature undercurrent of empathy: Come as you are, leave the negative behind, here’s the loving touch you didn’t find today.

KICKED AROUND. Kickboxing wasn’t new for me, but it had been a while since I punched and kicked my calories away. Let the record show that I think martial arts are powerful, beautiful and can be evolutionary for development. But this wasn’t the zen-inducing archery-esque class I was hoping for. Instead I wound up putting faces on the punching bags and reinforcing my own resentment toward a slim few.

LESSON LEARNED: This kind of blood-boiling bag-beating only leaves me exhausted mentally and emotionally.

BARRED. Barre, Shape, Sculpt classes by any variety of branded, creatively named moniker, left me feeling emotionally misshapen. Despite the need to go back to redefine my currently decent—by adult male and yoga standards—shape.

LESSON LEARNED: Sculpting my a$$ didn’t stop me from being an a$$. And none of it helped to shape a better life for me.



If you are looking to get a work out and work your issues out, there is still only one class for all of us. One-stop shopping for your mind, body and intellect? That’s a dynamic, button-pushing, badass yoga class, of course.

Want to get more out of your yoga? Here are some tips on how to get a meaty, deep, emotionally and physically challenging class that’s slightly less chaotic than cross-fit-sculpt fusion.

1. Find an instructor who isn’t there to be liked.

2. Try a few classes and pick the one that makes you feel like a better person when you walk out of the room.

Meditate on this: We have such limited time in the day, spend it on what’s most important to you. Being fit is up there, but is it worth sacrificing the calm, serenity and sweetness a yoga class provides? I’ll give up some tightness in my arms, so I’m not such a tight ass. I will most happily sacrifice burning a few more calories, so I can learn how to not burn myself out any longer.

LESSON LEARNED: Yoga still rocks.




Leave a Comment

  1. Wow…it sounds like you had some bad experiences! I have had many of those bad experiences over the years and on that part, I agree with you. However, I have also had some pretty bad experiences in Yoga classes.

    I am a huge believer in exercise, but I also believe you have to do whatever moves you. Additionally, you have to find a good product and instructor who is intune with the class. Personally, I think the Yoga Shelter does a great job with both.

    • Hi! My experiences weren’t bad, in fact many were good classes… I have actually have had far more bad experiences in yoga! My point is this: i have never found a holistic experience in any sport or workout but yoga. I was speaking for me only. To each his own! So thrilled you enjoy the Shelter!!!

  2. You went to the wrong Spinning class. A good instructor will teach you to connect mind, body, breath and use music that enhances that experience. A good Spinning instructor will teach you to listen to your body, rest when it’s time to rest and move out of your comfort zone when it’s time to do so. In an excellent Spinning class with the right cues, motivational words and music you can get lost in the rhythm, the cadence, and the moment. Does any of this sound familiar? 🙂

    Yes, you will have to do something else to work your upper body and core though.

    Spinning can “stir up” your emotions the way an excellent yoga class will. Love my yoga and love my Spinning/cycling and they are the perfect Yin/Yang complement for me.

    • I’ve been to over 100 spinning classes and loved many! If spinning is someone’s thing, trying to make yoga into a spinning class will not work… My point is: the dharma (nature) of spinning is to spin! To work hard physically, is to ride a bike! Yoga’s nature is to get off the bike. One may “spin” spinning a hundred different ways. But spinning is not an ancient philosophy/science. It’s not a matter of what is better or worse. It’s simply different. To each his own and yes, physically they can complement one another. But that’s it. Thanks for reaching out!

  3. My question is why did you have to give up yoga for the gym. I have been working out regularly for five years. I have tried all of the disciplines that you described including yoga and get something different from each. I think it is equally important to work the mind as well as the body and make time fo both.

    • Hi!
      I did not give up yoga for the gym. In fact, I do yoga all day, everyday. An asana is a small part of yoga. But if it’s not done with the right mind set, its just eastern stretching! I simply explored what was out there and found, for myself, if growing interpersonally and physically is what I wanted, yoga was the only place that truly did that. There was not a single teaching in any class that helped me be a better person after class. All that was spoken was about the body. A strong body does not make a strong person. But you can’t find a strong person who does not have a strong body… Unless of course they are paralyzed, old age etc.. Point being, its all an inside job. When the head and heart are in the right place, that person will always have a proper diet and be fit. Otherwise they are not “all right”. But there are millions who look great and their lives are shit… Hope that helps. And lastly, yes I would do both, if I did not have a life! Who has time to exercise for more than an hour or so, when so many need our help, when we have so much to work on ourselves?


Leave a Reply