Your 12 Most Embarrassing Yoga Questions Answered

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
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It happened one night during a quiet class, the thing I feared most in the practice. I twisted myself into Marichyasana D on the right side, and… tweet. I passed gas, and it was audible (but not smelly, thank goodness!). I was embarrassed but thankfully my teacher was on the other side of the room (not adjusting me!) and no one else seemed to notice. I kept breathing, held the pose, and quickly my embarrassment passed. We're all human, after all, and the physical body does not always cooperate when you're trying to exercise or practice yoga. Only once in almost six years of practice has that happened, and it wasn't nearly as catastrophic as I had imagined.

That moment reminded me that no one comes to yoga class to judge me, that we're all human, and that the ego is what creates embarrassment. If you do anything long enough, you're likely to uncover the unsavory elements of it. (Just ask any runner--surely they have a bathroom emergency tale to tell. My boyfriend is a cyclist, and they have so many gross and embarrassing tales to share.) Today I'm going to answer 12 of your most "embarrassing" yoga questions, and I hope I can assuage any anxiety you have so you can feel more comfortable in a yoga class.  (Remember, there's no need to be embarrassed!)

1. What if I have to pass gas?

Farts happen. And if you're bending, twisting, or stretching, it can be that much harder to hold them in.

If you pass gas in class, don't make a big deal about it. If the class is lively or if people notice, laugh about it. Otherwise, I-G-N-O-R-E! Just don't force them out, and consider skipping any foods that you know give you gas on days you have yoga! If you need to relieve gas before class, try this pose. (This is a good reminder to avoid large meals a few hours before a yoga practice.)
 
I once taught a class where a guy kept farting all the way through class. He was new to the practice and was not the least bit embarrassed about it. They smelled. It was a full room. While we shouldn't be embarrassed about bodily functions (burps happen, too!), don't flaunt them!

2. Am I supposed to fall asleep in savasana (corpse pose, the final relaxation)?

Savasana is not naptime, though it can feel that way. It is a time to allow the energy to return to the body, a chance to rejuvenate yourself after a yoga practice. You hover between waking and sleeping, in a state of relaxation. For new practitioners, or on days when you're super tired, you might fall asleep. I certainly have.

Don't worry. It's rare that anyone will notice and even rarer that you'll sleep so soundly that you won't hear the teacher rouse the class. Drooling and snoring sometimes happen in savasana. No big deal! As you progress in your practice, you'll notice the difference between napping and relaxation, and you'll be able to hold yourself in savasana without nodding off!


3. What do I do if I fall over?
Just the other day, I fell out of the final stage of a four-part pose where you reach for the big toe with your fingers, take it out to the side, bring it back center to fold to the leg, and hold the leg out in front of you. My teacher called out an adjustment, and my leg just fell. I laughed. She laughed. I moved on.

If you fall in a pose and you're not injured, just keep going. In a crowded class, you likely aren't the first or the last. Focus your gaze and return to the pose. Keep working on the pose and consider taking a step back--not taking a bind or not going fully into the pose--until you've mastered control of the beginning steps. If you're falling out of more advanced poses, modify them or use a wall for support. Don't let falling shake your confidence. Commit to breathing and set your gaze, and you'll feel stronger in the pose.

4. What if I have to go to the bathroom?

While teachers discourage students from leaving class unnecessarily, when nature calls, answer it. If you can "hold it" comfortably until the end of class, please try to do so; if it's uncomfortable or an emergency, just leave the class. No need to tell the teacher or apologize. Everyone has those kind of moments.

When I did teacher training, we joked that once we reached a series of twists, everyone left our self-paced practices one by one. (Those twists stimulated the digestive system, and it was early in the morning!) We came and went silently, not making a big deal.

The same goes for coughing fits, allergy attacks or anything else that should prompt the need for you to leave class. Head out quickly and quietly, and return the same way. Don't worry about other people noticing!

5. I'm so sweaty! Is that normal?

Sweat is normal, and it's not gross! Don't be embarrassed if you sweat. It actually makes some poses easier, especially if you're trying to twist. If you're slipping around on your mat, place a beach towel or microfiber yoga towel on top. (I love the ones from Manduka!) The microfiber towels are great because the more you sweat, the stickier they are. You can also keep a hand towel close by to wipe your face and arms and legs.

Though it seems counterintuitive, if you sweat a lot, wear more clothes. Ever try to do crow pose in shorts when your legs are sweaty? You slide right off! Pants will absorb more sweat than shorts, and especially in warm or hot classes, you'll appreciate that the extra fabric is preventing you from slipping.

And how on earth can you focus your drishti (gaze) if you have sweat running down your third eye? I always wear a headband, and I recommend them for men and women alike. I like the Bondi Bands, and I also stock up on fun printed ones when Lucy and Prana have sales.

6. What if the teacher wants me to chant? I don’t know the words!

Never feel obligated to chant in a class. You can always listen, but I recommend giving it a try. If you're embarrassed of being heard saying the wrong words, you can mouth them or say them quietly. Teachers, myself included, will often do the chants as "call and response" so you'll listen to a line and then repeat it. Even if chanting is not your thing, join in for the "Oms"--they are really powerful and the sound of an entire group chanting Om together is inspiring!

7. What if I'm not flexible? What if I can't touch my toes? Will people laugh at me?

This is the most common misconception about yoga. People avoid the practice because they're embarrassed about not being flexible.  You do not have to be naturally flexible to practice yoga, nor do you need to be able to touch your toes. I know plenty of yogis who've been practicing for years who still have to bend their knees to touch their toes. Bring yourself to the practice, and the practice will come to you. That is, just show up. Everything else can be modified. And how will you ever touch your toes if you don't try?

8. I have stinky feet. Can I leave my socks on during yoga?

You always want to practice yoga barefoot so you can fully connect your feet to the mat and the earth, ensuring better balance and strength. Socks interfere with your connection, and they can make it harder to balance. Neither you nor your teacher can see if your feet are properly aligned if they are hidden under socks, and you run the risk of injury from slipping if you wear them.

Give your feet a quick wash before class if you're worried about the smell. I stash a packet of lavender baby wipes in my mat bag and give them a wipe before class if I'm taking an evening class. (I shower before morning practices.) In winter, when my feet tend to smell funky after being trapped in boots, I sometimes wash my feet before class.

9. Speaking of stinky feet, what about stinky armpits? Should I try to cover up my B.O.?

Whether your class is heated or not, you're going to sweat in yoga. Rather than mask your natural odor, embrace it. We're all going to smell a little bit after class, but it's no big deal. We're humans, we sweat, and we stink sometimes.

That said, come to class as clean as possible. Shower beforehand if you can. Not only will this ensure you're less stinky on the mat, but you can remove any lotions or oils that might cause you to slip. Do not apply perfumes or anything else with a strong scent before coming to class. Your body heat will intensify the scent, which can be irritating to the lungs.

10. Can people see my underwear/bra/butt crack? How do I avoid the dreaded sweaty crotch look? And how can I keep from flashing the class during down dog?

Wardrobe malfunctions happen. Just ask Janet Jackson. Avoid most of them by dressing properly for yoga. You don't need to have a fancy matching outfit, but you should choose clothes that allow movement. I prefer capri pants and a tank top--the excess fabric of flared yoga pants gets in my way--but you can wear pants or tighter-fitting shorts, too. If you prefer to cover your shoulders, choose longer T-shirts that will stay tucked.

No flashing: To keep your shirt from falling down (up?) during down dog or inversions, tuck it in, or choose a snug-fitting shirt that hits your hip. Do a test: Can you lift your arms without exposing your bellybutton? If you do choose tanktops, lean over and make sure your chest doesn't fall out. Take a couple of twists for safe measure to see if anything budges. If you don't like snug-fitting tanks, choose one that has adjustable cords around the bottom or is baggy around the middle but tight at the bottom. (If you have a slip, don't make a big deal. Chances are no one is in a position to see. Adjust and move on. It happens to the best of us!)

Men and women should avoid loose running or basketball shorts, unless you wear tighter shorts underneath. The nylon isn't meant to stretch, and I've seen people split their running shorts in class. That’s embarrassing!  Bike shorts are a great choice for men, but you might feel more comfortable with looser shorts on top. I taught a yoga class to cyclists, and a guy wore his bib shorts. They were tight-fitting with a padded bottom. He said he felt really comfortable in his unconventional getup.

Go with black: Light colored yoga pants are super cute, but I will only wear black to avoid showing sweat in places no one wants to see. (When they get sweaty, a lot of light colored pants are see-through, too.)

Don't go low: Low-rise pants are not a good fit for yoga. With all the twisting and flowing, you might end up exposing your crack. Test your pants before you buy them. Bend over and touch your toes (or not!); sit down and twist to one side; squat down--did you feel a breeze back there? If so, choose a pair that comes up higher.
If you're not looking to spend a lot of money, the C9 by Champion line at Target and the Danskin line at Walmart are great. If you want to spend a little more on workout clothes, check out Moving Comfort (love their leggings), Prana (best yoga tops ever!), and Lululemon (really high-quality and long-lasting).

11. What am I supposed to do when a teacher adjusts me?

Teachers offer adjustments not only as a way to correct students' form to prevent injury but also to take them deeper into a pose, to places they wouldn't normally go on their own. When a teacher adjusts you, keep breathing, continue to focus your gaze, and stay strong. It's dangerous for the teacher and the student if the student suddenly goes limp or leans all their weight on a teacher. Enjoy the gift of human touch, commit this "place" to memory, and maybe you'll have learned a new approach to a pose.

12. The dude next to me is breathing so loudly! Do I have to breathe like that?

You have to do one thing and one thing only when you enter a yoga class: Breathe. Preferably slowly, deeply, and evenly, through your nose. We use ujjayi breathing in yoga, but everyone breathes differently. Some are loud, some are quieter. Don't focus on volume. Focus on breathing in and out, through the nose. The rest will come with time.
 
Spill: Do you have an embarrassing yoga story? Do you have any other questions about yoga, embarrassing or not?


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Comments

  • 91
    Thanks - 10/17/2017   3:09:24 PM
  • 90
    Thank you - 7/12/2017   11:11:19 AM
  • 89
    Great information! :-):-) - 7/12/2017   10:57:41 AM
  • PLCHAPPELL
    88
    Some good Q and A info
    - 7/12/2017   5:10:27 AM
  • 87
    Stinky feet. That was my embarrassing moment in Yoga class once and the teacher decided to help with some of my poses that evening. - 7/11/2017   8:25:56 PM
  • 86
    interesting - 7/11/2017   2:11:43 PM
  • 85
    In most yoga positions there will be gas. Also when I do abs exercises there is also gas....ha! - 7/11/2017   1:40:58 PM
  • 84
    I was considering trying a yoga class. After reading this I won't! I didn't realize there were so many things to be embarrassed about! - 7/11/2017   12:26:06 PM
  • 83
    I was considering trying a yoga class. After reading this I won't! I didn't realize there were so many things to be embarrassed about! - 7/11/2017   12:26:06 PM
  • 82
    Thankfully, I never go to public yoga classes - 7/11/2017   10:01:25 AM
  • 81
    Apparently I am an embarrassing yoga story! I still enjoy my yoga. - 7/11/2017   8:38:51 AM
  • 80
    My solution for sweaty thighs that rub together so it looks as if I've peed my pants is that I use an antiperspirant on my inner thighs. It works! My thighs have always rubbed together even at my skinniest (103 lbs) because I'm a true pear shape. - 7/11/2017   7:01:45 AM
  • NEPTUNE1939
    79
    great - 7/11/2017   6:49:56 AM
  • 78
    Ahhhhh yeah !! I use youtube because I do not want to be in a class with young stick people who's biggest concern is "I am going to be 22 !! AND I AM SO FAT !" weighin in at 95. - 7/11/2017   12:48:12 AM
  • ROBBIEY
    77
    I always feel self conscious when I go to exercise classes and the gym. I guess I am afraid of being judged. - 6/16/2017   8:50:49 PM
  • 76
    Wow--some pretty straight forward questions answered! - 6/9/2017   7:41:37 AM
  • 75
    The one at the Buddhist retreat had me laughing out loud with tears rolling down my face!! I can so much appreciate the embarrassment! I to have had excessive gas moments!!! She made my day!! - 6/2/2017   1:53:33 PM
  • 1SUNBUMM11
    74
    Great article. It really did cover the things people normally don't talk about. - 5/14/2017   12:00:20 PM
  • 73
    Good article. - 5/9/2017   8:02:46 AM
  • WINIFRE
    72
    Samantha Olson. Women Have A Lot To Wonder About Their Bodies. There are a lot of questions to answer when it comes to women's health - 12/18/2016   3:31:28 AM
  • 71
    A fun and informative article! - 10/25/2016   8:48:36 AM
  • 70
    Iíve recently borrowed a mat from my friend. It looks new and clean, she only used it for a few weeks, but it still smells like her feet. The mat is very quality, comfortable, sticky and beautiful, I really like it. I understand it has already absorbed some of her sweat. When itís dry, thereís nothing wrong with it, but after each session my own feet and my hands smell like my friendsí feet. I donít want to disappoint her by returning it, or taking another mat, since we always go together. But this smell is pretty noticeable, I get the feeling that people around feel it too, and they think that it's coming from my own feet. Just wanna get rid of it quickly... - 7/14/2016   10:24:14 PM
  • 69
    I used to queef in ballet class. Now, THAT is embarrassing. I was 25 and it would always happen during a particular Pilates exercise. I found that inserting a tampon before class solved the problem. In Mrs. Reilly's Adult Beginner class, not doing the exercise was not an option. - 6/29/2016   12:25:19 PM
  • 68
    But that teacher, and that studio, spoiled me for "gym yoga," that bastardized consumerist version of yoga that is outwards directed, and taught by smug, bendy youngsters who have the words, but not yet the music. Trouble is that where I live now, studios are few, and gym yoga is all I can afford. But I do have to say that YouTube's Yoga by Adrienne is pretty good, at least as good as a class can be where the teacher can't see you. Adrienne is young, but she has the wonderful, accepting, still manner that made my first teacher so compelling. - 6/29/2016   12:09:22 PM
  • 67
    We were taught it was okay to make a little noise in the back of our throats in ujjayi breathing, almost like the sound you hear when you put a seashell to your ear. Not loud, but there.
    I always fell asleep during savasana at my old studio. We had an extended savasana with guided meditation, and my teacher was awesome. None of my fellow students wanted to wake me up, and they were much too kind to tell me if I snored. I never felt embarrassed. It was like a bonus! But I had an old-school teacher who was mellow with whatever happened. - 6/29/2016   11:21:15 AM
  • 66
    I've found having a sense of humor during yoga helps. I learned to laugh at myself when I couldn't get into poses or fell over. I just kind of giggle. I always modify when I can't do the entire pose. I have super tight hips and hamstrings so I always have to modify. My teachers encourage not comparing ourselves to others and just doing what we can do. But to always respect your body. They usually ask if anyone has any injuries or anything they should be aware of before class so they can help with modifications. I'm sorry that some have had teachers that are non accomodating. I used to hate yoga but enjoy it now. The 3 teachers at my gym are pretty good. - 6/23/2016   10:48:42 AM
  • WALTERRH
    65
    I've had spinal surgery that has left me with nerve damage to my legs and thus poor balance. Would yoga improve my balance? I'm sure there are some moves that may not be possible for me. - 1/16/2016   11:08:45 AM
  • 64
    What a great article. One of the comments with a link had me in hysterics. I laughed so hard I cried. ROFL - 1/16/2016   12:07:38 AM
  • 63
    I wish you could have been my instructor. I will not do yoga in classes because of issues with instructors. The chanting one really brought it to mind, as I had an instructor become very angry at me when I stated my mind doesn't clear, I have never had a quiet mind (as I have ADHD) and was wondering what I could do for visualization when others are directed to have a calm mind. She was incorporating yoga with meditation. She didn't appreciate my brain and I didn't appreciate her words. She also brought in lilacs which is a huge allergy trigger. I left for medication, returned and after class, she berated me for walking out. I asked her to not bring in lilacs and her response was "I can do what I want." Another instructor allowed me to modify poses as I have pelvic, hip and back injuries, however, as the class advanced (and I didn't), she became short with me and insisted "if you try, you can do it." In regards to passing gas, great tips and just a tip - for some of us, we can do all we can to avoid this, we'll still pass gas. It's life when you live with Irritable Bowel Disease. I personally will do anything to avoid it as my gut can really smell - even I want to run away from me - and it's good to know there are some instructors out there who totally understand. Great article. - 1/15/2016   6:09:04 PM
  • 62
    Great article . . . a must read for anyone and everyone who does yoga! Yep! IT happens. :) - 1/15/2016   1:29:17 PM
  • 61
    Nenelala: even though your outer nose is cute and perfect, you could have a deviated septum inside. Have you ever consulted an ENT md?

    I can't for the life of me sit from a squat without rolling over backwards like one of those old punch 'em inflated toys. - 1/15/2016   1:00:35 PM
  • HILLSLUG98239
    60
    I'm in the small "I hate yoga" minority. I took a yoga class in college. I loved the instructor, but yoga aggravated every old injury I had. (I was in my mid-30's.) A bunion that hadn't bothered me in half a dozen years started hurting again; 14 years later, it still hurts.

    About a year ago, I figured I'd try again. I did a better job a adjusting poses to my limits. Within a few months, things would hurt so bad I couldn't finish the class. So, I decided to "listen to my body" and "honor what it wants" and I quit. :)

    I was happy to finally hear I'm not the only one who was hurt by yoga. Yoga is NOT for everybody, and I'm always puzzled by people who ignore my telling them it hurt me and I should try whatever type of yoga they're into. Nope - not doing it. - 1/15/2016   12:40:24 PM
  • RBRUBACKER1
    59
    I was at an ashtanga class with my sister, and there was an instruction to place our hands beneath our feet during forward bend. I hadn't done that variation before, and didn't realize what would happen if my weight shifted forward. Sure enough, I swayed a little and almost fell over because I couldn't get my hand out! Finally I twisted a little and managed to catch myself, but not without the teacher noticing. - 10/30/2015   11:08:58 AM
  • 58
    Love yoga, it was my re-introduction to exercise...with my new knees. I have taken classes in multiple cities. As the article clearly states, each practice will vary with the instructor. People who attend yoga are fairly chill (at least in class), so I never worried and experienced all that was mentioned. Sweat, wherever it appears, is the reward for literally working your hiney off! Namaste... - 10/30/2015   7:29:45 AM
  • 57
    I have had the see through gross sweaty back/crack thing, so embarrasing. I am glad only my husband saw it, but still... - 10/29/2015   10:12:25 PM
  • 56
    I have positional vertigo so fell over often in Yoga class - until the teacher suggested taking a corner space so I could use 2 walls to steady me and now I am able to do most positions comfortably. This same teacher had us do the "wind-relieving" pose at the start of the class which really helped with the later inadvertent farts! - 10/29/2015   12:13:33 PM
  • 55
    I found the problem was so much farts as queefs, especially after doing an inverted pose like a shoulder stand. No smell as such, but totally unrestrainable, and loud! - 7/5/2015   10:56:44 AM
  • 54
    I wonder WHY I get nauseous every time I do yoga?? It's mostly when doing Sun Salutations or Vinyasa. It's like I'm getting motion sickness from changing the plane of my body with moving between upward dog and downward dog, etc. Many times I have to stop. Is there anything I can do to prevent this? Is it my breathing? I'm about to give up. - 6/4/2015   2:56:08 PM
  • ELLE_USERNAME
    53
    After 1 hour and a half of yoga class we sid the final relaxation pose and suddenly i was like dreaming or something and when the teacher started speaking i woke up but i dont think i litterarily slept. I cant even remember what i dreamt or thought about. I wanna know if this is normal please. Thank you! ( that was my 3rd yoga class ever) - 1/9/2015   3:11:40 PM
  • 52
    wow with all the smells coming from armpits, feet and the no escape showing booty crack and the likes I am glad I practice at home. ROFL is someone farts I know I would laugh...... - 9/10/2014   5:39:08 PM
  • AERO_NERDETTE
    51
    Everyone does yoga differently. My mom is an instructor, along with a few others of her friends. Some of them do more meditative yoga, and some, like my mom, flow more quickly through the positions after the first run through of sun salutations. I used to teach a water aerobics class for senior citizens at the YMCA where my mom teaches yoga, and I ended up incorporating some standing asanas during the cooldown so they could practice balancing and body awareness without having to support their whole bodyweight since some of them had joint issues. I had them doing Warrior I/II/Reverse and Tree pose (holding onto the side for balance). It was a great way for them to stretch after doing a pretty vigorous cardio workout, and afterward I would lead a guided meditation while they floated in pseudo-corpse pose. - 9/10/2014   9:51:20 AM
  • 50
    I fell asleep in about 30 sec during corpse pose and started to snore lightly (I was told). They just left me there until class ended and I woke to an empty room and the teacher (a friend on mine) was putting away props. I have always been able to fall asleep quickly! :-) - 11/7/2013   11:05:11 PM
  • DUNEBUGGY8
    49
    Good article! Thanks! - 11/7/2013   10:12:21 PM
  • SAMTHEDOGLY
    48
    ive been doing yoga a very short time i.e. a month and have developed a strange cough. Someone told me this is yoga getting rid of stuff from my body and it will pass. Is this likely to be true? Does anyone know - 10/18/2013   7:48:14 AM
  • NINARALFINI
    47
    I really smiled when I read about the farting incident. I experienced something FAR worse at a Buddhist retreat. It was one of the most embarrassing memories of my life. If you'd like to read it, here is the link: www.jaylengrace.com/the-embarrassme
    nt-of-wanton-farts
    /


    - 9/16/2013   1:25:07 AM
  • MAGOLA_ROXURSOX
    46
    Let me add too, that socks are totally acceptable in yoga. Basic white athletic or ToeSox (yoga sock brand) can make a huge difference in your practice if you are uncomfortable about your feet.
    Falling asleep during savasana or even yoga nidra is fairly normal/common place. It just means you are probably over-tired and in need of relaxation.
    It is highly recommended to not eat or drink at least 1-2 hours before yoga to prevent bathroom needs and uncomfortable full stomachs.
    If you don't want adjustments or feel uncomfortable, quietly whisper your wish to be passed over. The teacher will understand. In fact, teachers will not offer adjustments until you've gone to their class after a few weeks or months! So don't worry. Yoga is about finding the inner you and connecting with yourself. Be as comfy as you want! (I'm a certified svaroopa yoga instructor and soon to be RYT200) - 9/12/2013   10:31:58 AM
  • 45
    I took a yoga class in college. There were many times where gas was passed. No big deal; we were all adults and too busy focusing on our poses.
    I certainly fell over regularly. Pick myself back up, dust myself off, and get back to my poses. I've always been plagued by poor balance, which is why I wanted to take a yoga class in the first place.
    People would regularly fall asleep during the last pose. Since it was in a studio on campus that was only used for a few dance classes and yoga, no one cared if you actually stayed there for a while. It was pretty cool.

    Love this article, and thank you for having an entire article on ONE page! - 9/12/2013   10:24:03 AM
  • 44
    Nice blog. I've never taken a class, I do all my yoga at home with dvd's. I think I may try to find a class near me. - 2/1/2013   2:11:14 AM
  • MUFFINTOPBEGONE
    43
    Great article. Thank you. - 10/15/2012   4:53:30 PM
  • HAPPIMOMMIE
    42
    I love doing yoga at home. I am planning on joining a class when my balance gets better. I am afraid of falling! lol Thanks for answering these questions, it helped a lot. - 9/27/2012   12:32:32 AM

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