Your 12 Most Embarrassing Yoga Questions Answered


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  91 comments   :  346,283 Views

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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    Taking a regular yoga class can be like taking a refreshing, short vacation! - 9/24/2012   9:57:22 PM
  • 40
    Actually, having done so, so does a panty girdle - by squooshing that area (not all of us are thong-wearing-possible) ... probably will limit the type of yoga you will take. But it need not be what the rest of your generation is doing anyhow.

    My intro to yoga had been yin yoga when I'd been 16.

    Active yoga styles are overrated for the young; and underrated for the aging. Old-school yoga is the only practice that retained and celebrated the full and real intention of yoga practice: "don't do what the teacher is doing--what the teacher is doing is meant to be a semi-general guideline".

    I personally bring the original intention back into every yoga class I'd venture to take--these days. - 9/23/2012   7:28:53 AM
    The secret to silent farts is thong underwear. I almost never wear them in every day life, but someone once told me that you are unable to produce sound with a thong because it interrupts the vibration. Thongs aren't for everyone, but they make your bum look nice and silent your farts. Try it. - 9/22/2012   10:25:40 AM
  • 38
    I'm the oddball in yoga class. I have flat feet, severe overpronation etc, etc. Any barefoot exercise, especially on one leg, is uncomfortable for me to the point of pain. So I figured yoga wasn't for me and explained the situation to the teacher.

    Now I wear my running shoes with my custom orthotics and I can participate just fine. I also have my own mat so I'm not standing on shared equipment and I keep to the back of the room. Perhaps this would upset the purists, but for me it was this solution or no yoga. - 9/22/2012   7:50:57 AM
  • 37
    I used to enjoy yoga until we got a new instructor who was a bit on the catty side for me. A lot of the class left when she arrived
    Also I have a fused wrist now and cannot do many of the poses, which is a shame. I might go back and try again though.
    In the past, I have dozed off in savasana but have never parped (thank The Lord). Maybe I wasn't trying hard enough :-) - 9/22/2012   7:07:15 AM
  • 36
    Nenelala --

    I can't answer your nose question, but I can answer your question about "namaste" (also called "namaskar", depending on regional dialect.) Namaste is a Hindi/Sanskrit greeting, similar to the Hawaiian word "aloha." It can be used as both hello and goodbye, but it has a much deeper meaning than that. When you say it to someone, you are telling them that you are honoring the spirit within them.

    Namaste! - 9/21/2012   5:18:18 PM
    loved this conversation...I had tvoed a class by a gentleman on Public box burned out and I lost it...Boo HOO! Haven't found a replacement for it yet! - 9/21/2012   3:43:40 PM
    Interesting and . . . helpful. - 9/21/2012   1:59:01 PM
  • 33
    I have reached a stage in my life where I fart or burp on a regular basis....on a good day it is one or the other, on a bad day it is BOTH.........and God help me I have done both at the same time........WTH?? I try to look at it this can excuse yourself but then again you don't go around apologizing for breathing in and out........a normal body function too!!!
    I remember years ago I was in a store and followed this tiny little older woman down the aisle....she was "putt-putting" with every step. I told my husband , "She's gonna BLOW"...........and now here I am!!! - 9/21/2012   6:48:10 AM
  • 32
    What does "namaste" mean? Also, what if you have trouble breathing through your nose? I am blessed with a cute little teeny, tiny nose. Aesthetically, I love it. But I just can't get a lot of air through it. I have a spinning instructor who tries to get me to breathe in through my nose all the time, but when the exercise gets really intense I literally start to panic sometimes because I feel like I'm suffocating, and I give up and breathe through my mouth. I thought I might be able to get better at breathing through my nose if I just kept trying, but the more I try, the more I think it's just something that I am physiologically not able to do. I don't think there's anything I can do to change it. And it's frustrating to be in a class and have the instructor make you feel like you're wrong. (OK, now I'm just starting to vent.)

    I feel like an idiot in this situation:
    Instructor directly to me: Breathe through your nose.
    Me: I can't.
    I mean, who can't breathe through their nose? How do you explain it? And I know we're never supposed to say the word "can't", but. . . "Become a lion." Um.. .I can't. I'm a human, and I'll always be a human. See? Sometimes it's appropriate. :-) - 9/20/2012   11:34:20 AM
    There is one yoga pose actually INTENDED to cause gas. It is the knees to chest, also known as "wind relieving pose" in the older yoga book I have. - 9/19/2012   7:34:06 PM
    Great questions that I see happening all the time! - 9/19/2012   4:18:12 PM
  • JCD1127
    Thank you for your insights and humor. I think I have experienced all of the above and still love to attend yoga class. I definitely don't feel judged there! - 9/19/2012   3:45:54 PM
    Nobody loves a stinky fart, but the butterfly farts (air in and out, in certain positions) are the ones that kill me. I know they don't stink, and I know that I live in a house full of teenaged boys, but it cracks me up every time they happen, to me or anyone else. I just keep thinking of my favorite teacher, who always has a smooth comment to wave away any distraction, and then in my head I hear my 16yo's commentary, and I giggle every time. I'm so immature.

    And clothes? I cover up fully, but in things that fit kind of tight--never loose. I hate it when the girls shift right on out of my top. - 9/19/2012   3:39:09 PM
  • 27
    I'm so glad someone had the guts to talk about this stuff! - 9/19/2012   12:41:44 PM
  • 26
    Thanks, VISION_QUEST2, that helps a lot.

    I was glad to notice that I'm down to just one class left on my card, which means I won't lose much $ by ditching this. I'm feeling like I could really get a better experience on my own if the social aspect is going to be insulting. Walking away does feel right, and replacing that time with other exercise that's on my own terms.

    I've never been laughed at in a gym, only in this yoga class. Hypocrisy irks me! - 9/19/2012   11:51:04 AM
  • 25
    Go to it, NURTUREK ... Some of these teachers teach out of ego.
    They have to learn. I emailed dozens of emails back in the day to a yoga studio, before I did the thing that would have made the most logical sense: leave them forever ... go to a welcoming place that will not have an attitude even if you are not young, bendy, perfect, able to afford all the workshops they hawk; or are wearing Lululemon ...

    And, in order to leave them, I'd had to have had a Waterloo of sorts ... a confrontation with the teacher DURING class ... - 9/19/2012   11:34:39 AM
  • 24
    I went to a yoga class yesterday with a teacher I didn't know very well (my regular teacher was out) and had an odd dilemma arise. It may be too late to get responses here, but I'll try anyway. I had a leg cramp and had to do floor stretching instead of more standing poses near the end of class. The instructor had checked on another student, but not on me. Then when it was time to get on the floor the instructor made a little comment about "ignore this if you're already on the floor," which got a laugh and embarrassed me. I know yoga teachers are only human, but it really irked me that she didn't know what I was dealing with and then commented on it in a way that made the class laugh. Should I email her to follow up and give her a chance to explain? My husband wants me to email the studio owners, but I'm not crazy about that idea. Any thoughts welcome! - 9/19/2012   11:25:08 AM
  • 23
    Love these stories! Maybe I'll try yoga again, didn't realize it was so humorous! - 9/19/2012   9:02:07 AM
    According to my internist, passing gas means you're eating healthy, such as fruit, vege and whole grains. If everybody were eating healthy, farting would be totally normal and nobody would think twice about doing it. Doctor's orders! - 9/19/2012   8:53:12 AM
  • 21
    If you feet do stink you can also carry spray hand sanitizer and use it on your feet it dries quickly and will kill the smell for short periods of time, say a couple hours. - 9/19/2012   7:53:49 AM
  • 20
    thanks for the tips! - 9/19/2012   7:46:58 AM
  • JMB369
    This is a great blog! I've been practicing yoga for over 15 years and have probably experienced most if not all of these moments -- either myself or with someone else in class. I guess my most embarrassing was having a coughing fit during savasana. I left the class and returned later. Lots of helpful advice here. - 9/19/2012   7:39:24 AM
    embarrasing questions? ok.....if that day you have an upset stomach and decided to go for a yoga class please avoid to be on the front and pass a smelly gas. - 9/19/2012   6:59:47 AM
  • 17
    What? You didn't address my most embarrassing yoga question!

    As a man, sometimes I have to adjust my (ahem)... in order to not be (gulp) squeezed down there in certain asanas. I always find it a little embarrassing and worry that someone will notice me making... (mmm) manual adjustments.

    I guess this isn't really a question, since a man's gotta do what he's gotta do in order not to suffer. I know it isn't anything wrong.

    Since this wonderful article is addressing all these embarrassing yoga class situations, it would be nice to have this particularly male one addressed too. - 9/19/2012   4:22:11 AM
  • 16
    There's something else that you didn't mention. There are some poses that I avoid like the plague because something HORRIFYING will happen. And I know it's not just me, it happens to my roommate too. If I ever turn upside down, air goes into my va-jay-jay and then when I return to earth it comes out again- this really rude noise like a fart! I just had to mention it because that is the only awkward thing I experience about yoga. I remember one day doing a class with a male instructor who was HOTT and I refused to do a head stand lol - 9/19/2012   12:43:09 AM
  • 15
    This made me chuckle! - 9/19/2012   12:02:40 AM
  • 14
    In Yoga it is called "Breaking wind". - 9/18/2012   11:14:26 PM
  • 13
    I have TOTALLY done that. Twice. (#1)

    No big deal. I haven't been laughed at or run out yet. - 9/18/2012   11:05:14 PM
    Thank you. Make me laugh because I know anything can happen. I don't do yoga because I can't. - 9/18/2012   7:54:00 PM
  • 11
    I have definitely been in more than one yoga class were people have farted.

    Thanks for the stinky feet advice. I always do worry about that one! - 9/18/2012   6:45:49 PM
  • 10
    Ha! How timely to read this article! For the first time last week, question #1 was me! Couldn't believe it! Totally unexpected and I started giggling. Thankfully the instructor was kind and gracious and said that she had just been talking about that with other instructors. Guess it happens to us all sometimes. Funny thing was I just didn't do it once during the class.....will be more careful on my food intake before yoga this week! LOL - 9/18/2012   6:42:00 PM
  • 9
    Butt crack is a just fact of life in yoga class as is the view up (or down) many women's shirts. Focus on yourself and wear black underpants in case your yoga pants slip - 9/18/2012   6:37:23 PM
  • 8
    The only yoga class I attended was more about stretching and body weight poses, so I didn't even know there was chanting involved with yoga.

    However, while not exactly a yoga thing, in a high school class I had a teacher who had us say "Ommm" (we were reading Siddhartha at the time). Her point to us was that it wasn't about a word with meaning - it was about the vibrations. So it made sense that the exact words of a chant may not be as important as the focus. - 9/18/2012   4:43:59 PM
  • 7
    Nice blog. Reading it makes me want to watch my yoga dvd and attempt those moves again. - 9/18/2012   3:03:08 PM
  • 6
    great blog, informative - 9/18/2012   3:00:45 PM
  • 5
    Great! This is so helpful - 9/18/2012   1:56:40 PM
  • 4
    No embarrassing stories, just a great blog!! thanks! - 9/18/2012   1:10:40 PM
  • 3
    Oh, well, I've been doing all my yoga at home for a year. Most of the time my own sequence, sometimes to a video or podcast.

    Commercialized live yoga has lost me.

    I do go to pilates classes. And I love them. I have also branched out into ecstatic dance, bellydance, and Bollywood dance. I do venture to workshop-style classes in ecstatic dance.

    Waiting for the backlash to come to fruition; when that storm passes, then commercialized yoga can be safe for certain types of students again.

    And, yes, I chant, love kirtans, love satsangs and am into the spirituality and the philosophy. Nobody can really know where yoga meets us and how ... - 9/18/2012   12:20:59 PM
  • KSWISS89
    I love this Q & A! My boyfriend and I took yoga together for a few months and it was so wonderful, brought us closer, etc. but there was one problem - he would frequently fall asleep in savasana to the point of snoring!! I was always totally embarrassed and worried that he was disturbing other people, but I doubt anyone else ever noticed, and if it was that loud, I'd just wake him up. Things happen! - 9/18/2012   11:33:11 AM
    I'll admit it. I've nearly fallen asleep a couple of times while in savasana.

    There was one incident I do remember. We had a new guy trying yoga for the first time. The problem wasn't so much his learning how to do the poses. the problem was the gym clothes he was wearing. He was wearing baggy shorts. Needless to say, he had a couple of embarrassing moments while in down facing dog.

    - 9/18/2012   10:31:31 AM

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