Yoga — Why So Serious?

Brian Penny by Brian Penny | April 5th, 2013 | 6 Comments
topic: Fitness, Yoga

serious yoga

I don’t mean to Bikram-bash, but my first yoga studio experience happened to be in a Bikram studio, and it wasn’t great. What turned me off the most about the experience was the energy in the room. Nobody was smiling. I can’t stand being places where no one’s smiling — my defense mechanisms kick in, among them a very snarky sense of humor. I found myself trying to fight laughter from the jokes I was telling myself internally to qualm the awkwardness, while staying as silent externally as everyone else. It’s difficult to ground yourself and balance on one foot when you’re shaking at your core from fighting hysterical laughter!

This isn’t the way a yoga class should be. Yoga is fun. I enjoy the practice. So why do most yogis seem so serious all the time?

It took a few months before I tried another yoga studio. This time I came prepared. I researched the methods, teachers, styles and more. I chose to dedicate my time to practicing the Ashtanga style through the traditional Mysore method with Ally Ford. She gets it.

No matter how bad of a mood I’m in when I arrive at the studio, I always leave with a smile on my face. I joke around with the teachers all the time. It lightens the mood and makes me less anxious about making a mistake or keeping up. It helps me relax and ground myself.

My yoga mat isn’t a solemn place. It’s a place I ground myself to celebrate life and existence. If you want to laugh, cry or express whatever you’re feeling in the present moment while practicing yoga, don’t worry about disrupting the room. Holding yourself back will manifest itself in your practice and add limitations to your life. Experience and express yourself!

And if you’re one of those people who can’t concentrate when you feel someone is disrupting the class, try and learn to relax. Yoga isn’t just about discipline and fitness. It’s about having fun and enjoying life. Be compassionate of everyone around you, and you’ll grow by leaps and bounds.


  1. It sounds like maybe you could use a bit of “compassion” for the Bikram folks.

    And I don’t even like Bikram.

    evie | April 5th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  2. Brian, what a lovely attitude you have toward yoga. I enjoyed this article since I feel the same way about it. I teach yoga and try to make the atmosphere very light, and yes, dare I say fun.

    Thank you for this.

    Karen P. | April 6th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  3. Just this morning there was a new young man in the Iyengar class I take on Mondays. He was working soooooo hard, even doing poses between poses. At one point, as the instructor was gently realigning him, I heard him say “I’m taking this seriously.” And, funny, my first thought (doing its best “Joker” impression) was “Why soooooo SEEERIOUSSSS??”

    He was still bouncing around in poses while we were enjoying savasana … and I was smiling.

    ka | April 8th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  4. Wow. I guess you probably did not see the incongruity of your opening and closing remarks. That is “I don’t mean to Bikram – bash, but…” (and then you go on to Bikram bash); ending with the admonition to “be compassionate of everyone…”. I’m happy you are happy but because individuals at Bikram may not show what you consider to be the correct form (i.e., a smile), it does not mean they were manifesting less happiness than you.

    Perhaps, instead of devaluing another person’s way of practicing yoga, we can all learn to celebrate the diversity of life and existence a bit more.


    Jerry | April 8th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  5. I think there’s a fine line between those who are, like you said, so darn serious you don’t feel like you can make a sound, and those who are talking throughout class.

    I would disagree with “don’t be afraid of disrupting the room” – that is saying that no one else’s yoga experience during that time is as important as yours and that you have the right to potentially annoy others when they’ve come to be in a quiet environment.

    Yoga is meditative by nature, and the students who are constantly talking are being inconsiderate. Many of us come to escape from the noise of our daily lives and to find some calm and peace while doing the practice. It is really hard to find that calm when the person next to you is talking frequently. If you need to ask questions, do so in a quiet voice, but don’t tell people that they shouldn’t feel bad about “disrupting” a class.

    Everyone should find a class that fits their style – whether it be hot, hatha, partner, flow, whatever – and the same goes for the group environment and style of teacher. And there is always solo practice at home.

    Aimee | April 18th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  6. My first in studio experience was also Bikram, but I walked away with a much different experience. I loved the intensity of it and after attending more and more classes found the experience has a lot to do with who your instructor is and not so much the type of yoga. Some instructors ran it more like a bootcamp fitness class, which I didn’t prefer but still enjoyed; while others made it a much more spiritual meditative experience, which I loved.

    Its all in the eye of the beholder, and I agree with comments above. Just because you perceived a single studio one way does not mean it applies to the rest of the studios, or applies at all. Be open, do your thing, why does it matter to you if someone takes it serious or not? Its an internal practice, a personal thing. If you enjoy the friendship and the joking around, that’s fine. At least realize though, that during the actual session itself you can’t/shouldn’t be disrupting others flows.

    There is a greater flow of positive energy, concentration, and union occuring.. and from my experience it doesn’t center around laughter/joking.

    Smiling is always a plus though :) so smile for days and don’t be so concerned with what your neighbors doing.


    Brian | April 29th, 2013 | Comment Permalink

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