Confessing My Yoga Struggles + Finding My Zen

Hi, friends!

Today I wanted to share something that’s been bugging me… and this might be a bit “controversial.” As a member of the wellness community, I’m no stranger to the pressure to be “zen” 24/7, and one of the ways to achieve this is by practicing yoga. I know yoga is supposed to be relaxing, and I totally believe that it is, can be, and will be for many, many people. I, however, am just not one of them.

In fact, I find yoga to be a tad, well… boring. Ok, there, I said it.

I know, I know. I feel sort of blasphemous as a healthy living blogger to even to admit that I am not yoga’s biggest fan. You know those feelings of inner peace and calmness that should be flooding your mind as you move your way through the flow? Yeah, that doesn’t happen for me. (Well, maybe a little at the end when it’s over.) Instead, I encountered the exact opposite – racing, wandering thoughts, and then guilt and frustration because I just wasn’t experiencing the relaxation I was seeking.

To be clear, yoga has a myriad of benefits, both physical and mental, and I am in no way trying to say that you shouldn’t practice or start if you are curious about trying it out. This is purely coming from my own experience, and it’s something I wanted to share because I have felt like I “should” practice yoga more regularly – and I just don’t! So if you’re like me, and can relate, then Hi! You’re not alone!

In the past, I did kind of love yoga. Over the years though, things changed, and it felt so forced for me. I really wanted to love yoga. I really, really did. But the few times I practiced, my mind was far from quiet – in fact, it was noisier than ever. The lack of distraction basically let my already overactive thought process run completely wild, and if I could have recorded my inner dialogue during class and played it here, you would be cracking up. Seriously. “Man, I need a pedicure ASAP.” “I wonder what Quinn’s doing right now?”  “Ugh, this tag on my tank top is REALLY bothering me.”

Despite my lack of zen, I knew with any healthy habit, I shouldn’t just throw in the towel after one “meh” experience. Creating sustainable wellness practices takes time and effort, and I am not one to just give up! And I could definitely feel my body responding to yoga, if not my mind. Between regular strength training, CrossFit, and running, there is no doubt that I needed all of the physical benefits that came with practicing yoga. Hey, stretching and mobility! 

So… I’ve compromised. I can do maybe 15, 20 minutes max of a yoga practice. Just enough to shake out my limbs and give my muscles a little stretch – but not more than that, which probably sounds crazy to some avid yogis, but it’s what works for me! At first, I felt really guilty about not enjoying or finding yoga relaxing the way so many others in the healthy living community do, but I’ve accepted it. In fact, by realizing yoga doesn’t work for me, I simultaneously realized what does. I need the stimulation and fast pace of workouts like CrossFit and running because that distraction forces me to get out of my own head by shifting the focus to the experience itself and my performance goals.

My hope with sharing my “yoga struggles,” I help inspire you guys to find a relaxation practice that works for you. I’ve learned over the years that healthy living doesn’t have to look like what your best friend, coworker, or the Internet tells you is right. Yoga has its place in my life, but it’s not a prominent one. And that’s ok! I get my “zen” other ways!

So, find your own mindfulness practice – whatever you enjoy and whatever is sustainable! Maybe you are a kickass yogi and meditation guru. Maybe your version of therapy is sweating it out during a tough workout or crashing in bed while Netflix plays in the background. Or maybe it’s some variation of all three! All of these are important aspects of healthy living. So do your own version of wellness, whatever that means to you!

Question of the Day

How do you find your “zen”? What is your version of wellness?

36 Comments

  1. I completely get where you’re coming from. I truly think exercise is a very personal experience. For years, I tried to make it a consistent habit…doing the things all my friends were doing and loving. I tried running…omg, hated every minute of it. Spinning…MISERABLE. Circuit training…yawn. P90x…shoot me. I just kept trying things knowing one day something would stick. For me that was Body Pump, Zumba and yoga flow with music. I don’t love hot yoga bc all I can concentrate on is how my face feels like it’s melting off. Body Pump is my favorite, but only with the right teacher (and loud music). And I love hiking and long walks in the park (um, that sounds like a dating profile). As long as I’m moving and enjoying myself, that’s a win for me. My motto when it comes to exercise is “anything I do is better than not doing anything”. And I have 3 year old twins that keep me pretty busy too…which is definitely my favorite exercise. :).

    Awesome post.

  2. I don’t think it’s boring. I just think it’s too low of a calorie burner compared to many other forms of exercises. Yes, I have done some intense yoga workouts. I’m not denying that it’s tough but you won’t burn the same amount of calories with yoga as running. It just depends on your goals.

  3. I totally get this! I love yoga, but give me the wrong teacher or the wrong setting (or even a bad day), or a time where my shitty joints are hurting more than usual (I have arthritis…yay for being in my early 40s and having an annoying family medical history…), or even a bad day in my main job, and I am SO CHECKED OUT. No way will even the best possible yoga class do it for me.

    I think actually that’s part of the whole ‘zen’ thing–and the non-physical part of a yoga practice–recognizing that in our everyday, extroverted, human lives in THIS world the distractions are everywhere but knowing that we can choose to ride the waves of the distractions or choose to be in the moment, even if the effort is the most deliberate, forced-seeming thing ever.

    I also don’t think yoga is for everyone. The stretching and the space that comes with stillness for the body to integrate all the benefits of other exercise and activity IS for everyone, but the ‘yoga practice’ isn’t. Sort of like the benefits of foam rolling are for everyone, but the discipline to do it regularly sort of isn’t for everyone.

    All of that aside, I have a resource that might help you. My friend Nikki, who I met when I lived in Savannah, started an app called “19 minute yoga.” It’s sort of perfect. EACH ROUTINE that’s available on the app–the ones that are free and the ones that you can pay to get a “class pass” to unlcock–last exactly 19 minutes. You literally unroll your yoga mat wherever you want to be, open a class, turn on the volume on your iPhone or iPad, and listen to her voice guide you through a sequence. And you can choose to focus on something more rigorous that suits the competitive/type-A/extroverted/go-go-go-go-GO mindset or a more gentle class.

    It’s a good app.

  4. Not to sound like an ad but there’s actually a program that you might like. Neghar Fonooni calls herself a “meathead yogi” and has a lot of yoga YouTube videos that are for lifters and Crossfitters.

  5. I can agree with this 100%! I have always struggled with yoga (I find it so boring too), but it usually helps me to take a class with a friend or do a power class. Great post!

  6. OMG, this speaks to me! I have so wanted to love yoga. I went on a kick where I did it at a studio for about a year. At this point, I felt I wasn’t getting any better at it and it was aggravating me. Then I said to myself, why am I doing this if it’s aggravating me? Isn’t that the opposite of what yoga is supposed to do? I tried again a couple years later. Another no go. Like you, I find my mind can wander to much and I think of the millions of other things I need to get done.
    I am jealous of yogis but its just not my bag!

  7. Have you tried a vinyasa style class? Those are usually a bit more fast paced. I’ve been regularly practicing yoga over the past 4 years, and originally was drawn to it when I was stuck deep in a bout of depression looking for a way to move my body and help ease my mind. It’s saved me in a lot of ways. This is just my opinion, but I think it’s a common misconception that yoga is supposed to feel relaxing. I find yoga to be challenging, and it’s hard work trying to quiet your mind, and struggle through holding challenging poses. I am a person who finds it extremely difficult to relax. Once I let go of the fact that I didn’t NEED to feel relaxed, I was able to be more present. But as my yoga teacher has said, the pose that you find the most challenging/boring, is the pose you need 🙂

  8. I agree with the boring part. I am embarrassingly a “snob” when it comes to yoga and have only liked one teacher in 20 years of doing yoga so I only go to him. I think if you find the right teacher and type of practice to fit your personality, it can be awesome. My favorite teacher is a bit sarcastic, has a dry sense of humor, and plays awesome music. The practice is challenging, sweat inducing (but not by heating the room), some days feels like you’ve done a 5 mile run, and a lot of athletes take the class – as it fits that type A personality that wants the yoga benefits without feeling bored.

    Good luck ❤️

  9. I totally relate! I can never slow my head down enough to relax and enjoy the class. Everyone tells me that it means I need the class even more but I just can’t get through it!

  10. I’ve definitely had this experience too! As a dancer I always thought yoga was boring and pointless, but as I began trying more classes, I started to feel myself surrender to the calm. I think there’s a reason they call it a “practice”…you really need to practice being “zen” in order to find it. That’s how it worked for me anyway 🙂

  11. You know, EVERYONES mind races during yoga. Just google “thoughts during yoga class”. You’re not alone!

    But that is the whole point, just like meditation. Its obviously not easy at first! You should stick to it though. The fact that you don’t like it because your mind is racing is the exact reason you should stick with it!! Thats like saying “ugh my first few runs sucked, my legs hurt and it was boring, I’m never going to run again”. But you know eventually you hit your stride and 1 hard mile becomes 5 miles of bliss! With yoga the mind and breath is part of the practice, which is that much better! 🙂

  12. I’m a yoga teacher and used to really really hate yoga. For me everything changed when I found the right class for me — more athletic based vinyasa classes that incorporate fun music. I would definitely keep checking out classes and find ones like that — I teach at CorePower and the Sculpt class is a high energy, sweat fest to fun music. In NYC we also have Y7 which is a hip-hop yoga studio.

    I’m SOOOO not a zen person, I’m a cliche Type-A, New Yorker, but yoga has helped me calm down SO much and get a grip on my anxiety. Also, by taking those more fun, fast-paced classes I can now take the slower, “boring” classes as well without having my brain freak out and immediately start thinking about what I’m going to make for dinner.

  13. Yoga can be a total killer for an overactive kind! I’ve combatted it by doing the quick flow versions but most of the time can’t make it past 30 minutes. High intensity things where I can’t think are way more my jam! Great post

  14. Have you tried hot power vinyasa, like a Baptiste style studio near you? It is a much more atheltic style of yoga and the heat helps with any stiffness/tightness you may be experiencing. I never thought I’d be a “yoga” person, but since stumbling upon a Baptiste studio while in college, 11 years later I am still hooked and now teach part time. Check it out: https://www.baptisteyoga.com/pages/community

  15. Makes total sense. My boyfriend is similar. We’re both overthinkers and have a million thoughts a minute, but I’m more prone to channeling my inner “woo-woo” and really digging a yoga class, but ONLY if I work up a sweat. Is that weird? Vinyasa flow + power yoga is my fav. I want to reap the benefits of intention-setting and a yoga practice but also feel like I worked up a good sweat too! – Kaitlyn | http://www.poweredbysass.com

  16. Tina I totally agree! i went for a while and it did help with some of my aches and pains and tightness but it was sooooooo boring! i was doing the same thing-man i need a pedicure, what do i need from the store, etc. During other forms of exercise i am usually working too hard to even think about anything other than ‘when is this over?!?’ lol. Nice to hear someone else feels the same. And don’t worry about what people say. I always feel like that when i tell people i don’t like oatmeal, like it is blasphemous.

  17. Amen! In my case, I’m not terribly flexible, so I always feel like I’m struggling with the poses too much to be able to breathe/center/etc. I use yoga as a way of getting myself to do some deep stretching, but I don’t like it most of the time!

    I do meditate when I’m going through periods of high stress, which I think serves a similar purpose without the physical struggle to go with it. I find running to be much better for finding my “zen” when it comes to exercise.

  18. I use to practice hot yoga (bikram? IDK!) and I loved it because I’d leave the studio nice and sweaty, just like I do after a good running workout. (for some reason sweat=really great workout for me, no matter the intensity) However, with two young kids my time can be limited so I have to pick and choose what I do with my time these days. My 5am Orange Theory workouts give me my zen. If I start my day with an hour sweat sesh it puts me in a great mood! Wellness for me is feeling good about myself, physically and mentally and OTF provides that for me.

  19. I feel the same way. I get so bored and my mind wanders off to other thoughts. I start to hunt for a clock and wonder what other people are thinking. I tried different studios and never liked any of them. I tried to find shorter classes but there aren’t any studios around me that offer classes less than 60 minutes. I have started doing you tube videos that last 15-20 minutes and find that I can make it through that without being totally miserable. I live near a whitewater center that does outdoor yoga several times a week in the woods under pergolas. The outdoor environment did help me enjoy it a little more. The most enjoyable class I took was with an instructor who went fast enough to keep me from getting bored, but not so fast that I couldn’t keep up. I’ve heard the key is finding an instructor you love…maybe there is something to that.

  20. Why not compromise with what I think of as Crossfit Yoga – https://romwod.com/ – They are usually 20 min and the stretches are targeted for crossfitters who are doing these types of workouts. I feel like I’m at least getting the stretching I need and the benefit of “yoga” and it’s manageable time wise.

  21. I LOVE your honesty in this post!! Thank YOU for being YOU. . .Seriously. I am a yoga teacher and teach rigorous vinyasa style classes because the more gentle or Yin classes are WAY too slow for me. I find myself getting frustrated and annoyed through the whole class. When I first started teaching yoga I said to a friend of mine who had been a yoga teacher for years: “I don’t even know what to teach, what do I do? What style of yoga do I teach?” And she gave me the BEST advice, she said: “Teach what you LOVE otherwise it won’t be authentic.” Well I am a flow girl through and through. I Like to move and sweat and get my heart rate up. . .That movement helps me to shift my energy so that when I lie on the mat in savasana I feel like I’ve really let go. SO. . .I say to you. ..Do what you LOVE and do what brings you SO much JOY and LIGHT!! And the fact that it’s not yoga is just fine. 🙂

  22. Same girl, same. I do love pilates, though, so I’ve thought maybe I could get into Piyo?? I don’t know…RomWod is really about all I can handle without getting antsy. 🙂

  23. YES! I feel like I’m supposed to love and do yoga, but honestly I get bored, frustrated, and annoyed. Opposite of the whole goal of it, right? Glad I’m not alone. 🙂

  24. I’m with you! I don’t love yoga and always feel bad saying it. I find it a bit boring as well. I’m a dancer so that is where I find my zen and I’m okay with that!
    I also had shoulder surgery (labrum repair) about 5 years ago to tighten all of my torn ligaments after a few really bad dislocations. Yoga doesn’t feel great on my shoulder and honestly feels like it’s stretching things a bit too much so I just stay away and focus on strengthening exercises instead. I agree it’s important to find what works for you!

  25. Interesting timing on this point…as I was just listening to an episode of a podcast, where Dan Harris from 10% Happier was being interviewed on his book, views on meditation, “finding Zen”, etc. He was discussing how a lot of people who try meditation think they are doing it wrong and give up thinking that they aren’t meant for it when they can’t silence their mind and actually almost find themselves constantly finding random thoughts entering their brain. When in reality, that is actually showing it is working. The whole process is supposed to make you AWARE of how often your mind keeps getting interrupted by random thoughts and it is that awareness that helps you become better at seeing your random thoughts for what they are (just entering your head, creating an emotional reaction, etc.), so you can become better at learning to react. Obviously he was saying this in relation to meditation, but he was saying it can apply to anytime you are trying to find inner calm–whether running, yoga, etc. His advice was to keep at it–the more thoughts that keep entering your conscious allows you better become aware of how crazy your brain is, so you can acknowledge it, be aware of it and move on… I thought I’d share this since this was a huge “Aha!” moment for me.

  26. I was totally of the same mindset! I taught spinning and trx at a studio that also had yoga so I was able to go for free. I ALWAYS left in a terrible mood b/c I have no flexibility (so it was frustrating) and I didn’t understand not sweating. I’m a huge runner and love crossfit so I love the adrenaline of exercise. A month ago I started HOT yoga with my husband b/c we both have mobility issues we need to work on and the 99 degrees room made ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD!! I actually really look forward to yoga now. I sweat more in there than I do in any other work out and I’m able to move a little more freely due to the heat. Adding these two factors helps me focus more on the “zen” side of yoga since I’m actually enjoying the experience. Hot yoga sculpt is pretty fun too! Definitely give it a try!

  27. Hey lady! I am a LONG time reader but I don’t ever comment…but I had to say, I loved everything about this post. Thank you for the margarita mix recommendation – I’ve been looking for a “healthy-ish” (i.e. not loaded down with sugar but still tasty) summer cocktail and I love this idea of using the mix and lime seltzer water. I’ve also recently been experimenting with cutting way down on my dairy intake which I think has helped with some stomach issues and helped clear my skin up a lot – I’m looking forward to reading the article! I also listened to the Joe Rogan podcast with Michael Pollan and found it fascinating and informative – he has a podcast with Tim Ferris as well (I think he did it before the Rogan one) and I found it a little more in-depth if any readers are interested in digging a little deeper 🙂
    And yoga…sigh + eye roll. I hear ya girl. I go through phases where I love yoga (especially if I find the right type of teacher) and then I go through phases where I won’t touch a mat for months and months. As someone who has a bit of a “zen/hippie” personality (family and friends words, not mine haha), sometimes I feel like I should be so much more of a yogi than I am – but then I have to gently remind myself that one of the biggest parts of self-care and self-love is listening to your own body and mind and trusting your intuition…and if my intuition tells me that I need 6 months of running and lifting hard kick without any yoga, then I’m learning to listen and to not force yoga on myself if it’s not a good fit right then. Keep doing you girl and thanks for sharing!
    I love reading your blog and appreciate your honesty and your humor through life 🙂 Maybe I’ll comment more than once every 6 years from now on 😉
    Happy SUMMER!

  28. Love your post and your honesty!! I am right there with you on trying to love it but it’s just not happening… you do what YOU need to do to get your zen on 🙂 there is no one size fits all when it comes to zen. Just keep practicing all that good self love and care and hey that’s big win Happy Friday , thank you for being the enjoyable part of my day !

  29. yes yes yes; me me me! this post is exactly my life ha! honestly though, to each his own and i’m almost jealous in a sense of people that can do yoga and enjoy it. I’ve tried so many times but just can’t quite get there. and the sort-of pressure i put on myself to think i should do it and like it bc of all its benefits makes me avoid it…oops. great post, Tina 🙂

  30. I think this is the majority of people in this day and age. Life is busy and go go go! Who really is able to quiet their mind for even a minute without thinking of the bills, the dinner, your demanding boss, the kids’ school lunches, dance recitals and soccer practice on the same day.
    The good news is that with practice, you CAN quiet your mind. It’s like with anything, you have to be consistent to make it happen and use strategic ways to make it happen. Like focusing on the “third eye.” (A common Kundalini method.)
    But if Yoga and meditation just ain’t your Kool aid, you cam mediate in many other ways. A warm bath with a glass of wine, prayer, mantras, sitting in a garden or somewhere in nature. These are all forms of meditation.

  31. I never comment because I always feel like I am the polar opposite of bloggers … for example I am completely okay with buying all of my groceries at walmart (because can you say CHEAP) or only buying workout clothes at Old Navy (once again CHEAP and CUTE). For once I feel like I am on the SAME page with a blogger. I HATE yoga. I cannot calm my brain. I do not enjoy laying on my back for 5 minutes just breathing. I mean if you want me to do that I better be in my bed getting ready to take a nap. I don’t have a ton of extra time in my day so when it comes to exercise I want to be getting my HR up and challenging my body and working off the stress.

    Do you think that a lot of the blog world does yoga because it is considered the “right thing” most of the time?

  32. I’m with you – I definitely do not find my “zen” in yoga. I find pain, discomfort, and lots of giggles. I view yoga classes as mobility sessions, so..yeah. Needless to say, I don’t waste time in yoga classes; I just do mobility on my own. I do find zen from lifting weights, spinning, and CrossFit 🙂

  33. I’m a yoga teacher and have been practicing for almost 5 years.

    The zen doesn’t occur for me during practice. and that is the practice..

    As another reader suggested, you may need to find the right class/style. I teach and am a student of Baptiste Power Yoga. It is an athletic practice. Some days the thoughts fly around, others my mind is quieter. I use my breath to keep me in the moment. It is hard work!

    No judgement though! I tried crossfit several times and it wasn’t my thing. You do you!

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