09/05/2014 09:32 BST | Updated 08/07/2014 06:59 BST

Yoga - The 10 Most Embarrassing Moments

Everyone should be very Zen, not giving a damn what anyone else does. But the reality... The reality is that yoga classes have their own unique intimacy, which somehow conspires to make your embarrassment even more excruciating...

This morning, midway through my yoga class, I started to feel a little queasy. Five minutes later, face clammy with sweat, I came within an ace of throwing up.

Which, seeing as there were about 20 women in the class and only two men, would all have been highly embarrassing.

I had a lie-down. The vomit was averted.

But it made me realise that yoga classes have huge potential for embarrassment. What with the mirrors and the lycra - not to mention the rather intimate positions - there are any number of events which can have you blushing to the roots of your hair.

Of course it goes without saying that in a yoga class, everyone should be very Zen, not giving a damn what anyone else does. But the reality...

The reality is that yoga classes have their own unique intimacy, which somehow conspires to make your embarrassment even more excruciating...

So here are my top ten yoga embarrassments. Some of these have happened to me; some I have merely witnessed.


Picture the scene. It is morning time, and the yoga room is packed with over 40 yoga buffs, and though it is all pretty hugger-mugger, the air is tranquil and calm. Cross-legged we sit and we meditate - though, as there always are, some scamps are for ever looking around. But the room is quite silent and the air is heavy with the soft scent of perfume and anti-perspirant.

And then suddenly... a small ripe parp. Though invariably - because you happen to be in very close quarters with 40 yoga jocks - it's not a small ripe parp, it's something much more loud and juicy, like a gun-shot, the sort of thing which would absolutely delight a small eight-year-old boy... and yet in a cramped yoga class can be just the teeniest, tiniest bit embarrassing.

In a short but thorough survey of teachers and class-mates at the Virgin Active in Edinburgh's Omni Centre, farting was the A-Number-One, top-of-the-list embarrassment in a yoga class.


Yoga is not just brilliant for keeping us mindful, but it also keeps at bay many of the indignities of old-age. It keeps us spry. While some 50-year-olds creak when they walk the streets, yoga-buffs can skip like lambs when they're well into their eighties.

They also tend to have very good balance.

That'd probably be because there are a lot of balancing exercises in yoga.

There are a number of good ones, such as The Tree, where you're standing on one foot, hands outstretched above your head. Very tricky to do if you've got your eyes closed.

Every so often with these balancing exercises, you're going to totter over. There's no shame in that. Happens to the best of us.

The worst that can happen is you might stumble onto your neighbour's mat, in which case, they will hopefully smile their encouragement.

No - that's not embarrassing. We don't mind that at all.

What IS embarrassing is falling over when you're trying to do a head-stand.

After several months of practice, you feel that you're finally ready to give it a shot. Invariably, you'll be right in the middle of the room.

You get down on all fours, rest your forearms on the floor, nestle your head down, and then, very slowly, and in a movement that is so totally under control, you lift your feet off the ground. For a while you're sort of balancing your knees on your arms, and then you decide to go for it - you're going for the full head-stand.

Your feet go up higher and higher, until they're directly above your head - and congratulations, my friend! You're doing your first real head-stand! (Watch out for that neck!)

It's all going fine, but what can happen next is that your mind starts to wander. Don't your class-mates look weird when you're upside down? You stop concentrating. And then before you know it, you're tippy-tilting over backwards, and you've spread your entire length across the floor - Ba-Ba-Boom! It's quite a noise, a full-on body-slam.

Now if you're lucky you won't have hit anyone, but if you have, and if you've hurt them, then I can tell you it's re-e-e-eal bad.


Yoga has a number of positions which are just fantastic at helping you to get that trim, supple body that you've always yearned for and yet... how can we say this without causing offence?... there do seem to be a fair few exercises which, frankly, you'd rather be doing in the privacy of your own home.

The Cat, for instance. You're down on all fours, arching your back up and down, bum straining against your trousers, and though it's a quite nice, soft exercise, you are aware that... you've probably looked better. It's the sort of position where, particularly if you're at the front of the class, you're ever so slightly wondering... "Does my arse look big in this?"

But for my money, the number one embarrassing pose in yoga is "The Happy Baby", which, though it's supposed to be the pose of a happy gurgling baby, in fact makes you look like you're about to give BIRTH to a baby.

Basically, you're balanced on your bum with your legs high in the air and splayed as wide as you can get 'em. Hold onto your big toes and smile! In the vast mirrors, it looks like 40 women (and two men) are in the most advanced stages of labour...

Not, of course, that we are even remotely concerned about looking cool or stylish when we're in a yoga class. No - as far as we are concerned, when we enter a yoga room, then we leave that vanity on the door-step.

But still! The Happy Baby is enough to make your eyes water!


Now it's not that you haven't meant to get your verrucas sorted. It's just that... well you haven't got them sorted.

Maybe if you just leave them long enough, they'll get fed up and go away. Can't they go and bother somebody else?

Anyway - the result of all these well-meaning intentions is that you haven't treated your verrucas and within a few months they've started to breed.

Still - not to worry. They're not painful and it's not as if anyone is ever going to see them. Like: when on earth is anyone ever going to be in close proximity to the bare soles of your feet?

Well... apart from a new lover.

And maybe, just perhaps... in a yoga class.

It can often be quite cosy in a yoga class - not much room between you and your yoga buddies. And, generally, it's done in bare feet.

And there is one pose in particular where your feet can be coming into pretty close contact with somebody else's head. I'm talking about the Upward Bow.

You're lying on your back, legs and feet stretched in front of you, hands under your bum. Then you sort of prop yourself up on your elbows, and tip your head back so that you're looking to the rear of the room.

But you're not looking at the rear of the room.

You're looking at the feet of the yoga buff directly behind you. In fact you're having a real good look - because those feet are about 12 inches away from your eye-balls.

You can see every line, every callous, and every single verruca. In some detail.

What sort of inconsiderate bastard doesn't bother to have their verrucas treated - and then goes wandering barefoot around the yoga class just so they can infect everyone else?


In the professional wrestling ring, there will come that moment when your opponent has got you tied up like a pretzel. You'll have one leg bent over the other, about to be snapped, and although you'd like to hang on in there, you eventually realise you it's time to give up.

At which stage you hammer the floor with the palm of your hand and yell "Uncle!"

That, I guess, is pretty much what happens in the yoga-class when you get cramp: you're whimpering away and hitting the floor with the flat of your hand.

Except the pain doesn't go away. There's no quick release like there is in the soft, nurturing environs of the wrestling ring, and instead you're left rolling around on your ground, feeling like you've been shot in the calf with a dum-dum bullet.

Cramp kicks in because it's cold and because you're not properly warmed up, and although it's all perfectly understandable, all that whimpering can be a tad embarrassing.

Can be a little distracting for the other yoga groupies. You can be as Zen as you want, but it's tough trying to stay in the moment when the guy in front of you is flailing around on the ground and squealing like a stuck pig.


At a yoga class, you will know precisely how much of your skin you want to have on display. If you've got a toned midriff, then you might have one of those clingy tops which shows off your belly ring.

Nice legs? Well you might want to put on some shorts.

Most of the yoga grunts will, of course, be wearing loose full-length trousers and baggy shirts, and the only piece of skin that will be on display will be their neck.

So: at the start of the class, we will all be exposing the exact amount of flesh that we are happy to expose.

And this would be all fine and dandy if you were spending the next hour meditating. But you're not. You're squirming around on the floor, bending and squeezing, bending and squeezing, and after about ten Sun Salutations in a row, you start to get this uneasy feeling that your trousers are heading south... and maybe your pants are heading the same way... and the only question now is whether you break off to haul up your trousers, or whether you carry on regardless, brickies bum 'n' all... hey, there are some people out there, you know, who contend that brickies bum is actually quite a sexy look...


This is one of the few embarrassments where you may need to leave the class to make some running repairs.

Most of the really big stretches in yoga tend to be with your legs. Legs wide apart as you do some semblance of the splits in one of the Warrior poses. That'd be right up there.

And if you just happen to be wearing non-stretchy trousers, and if they just happen to be a little bit old and fraying at the edges, then if they're going to split at all, then they're probably going to split midway through your yoga class.

Know where they're going to split?

Right up your backside, a good 12 inches from crotch to belt.

A more interesting variation on this theme is the ripped boxers. This is more of a guy problem. Usually happens when they're wearing baggy trousers and too tight cotton boxers.

When the boxers rip, it sounds very dramatic - RRRRIPPPPP! - but to all outward appearances, you can't tell what's happened. That's because his trousers are still in tact.

But you know who it is. There are only two guys in the room - and one of them is going as a red as a plum tomato.


It's not that you were out on the lash last night. Well maybe you did have a beer and a glass of wine - but it's never harmed you before.

Because, really, being sick in a yoga class has nothing whatsoever to do with how much you drank last night.

Blame it on the yoga. All that twisting and bending really shakes your guts up.

I'll tell you how it starts.

There you are, mildly minding your own business at the back of the class, and though the session isn't going great, you're just about hanging on in there.

And then, legs wide apart, you start doing some forward bends. "I'm feeling kinda queasy," you think to yourself in a rather detached Zen kind of way.

And then you notice the sweat beads sprouting all over your face. Your skin is a bit cold and clammy, and at this stage you're just thanking your lucky stars that you're not close up to the mirrors so that you don't have to look at yourself.

And then you think to yourself, "Cooo... wouldn't it be embarrassing if I was sick?"

Next thing, it suddenly dawns on you, "I AM going to be sick."

Time to lie down quick, close your eyes, and breathe in deep and slow.

Sometimes you manage to catch the sick in your mouth, although all too often there's a tell-tale piece of vomit that slicks down your chin...


Some yoga junkies can't be doing with the ten minute wind-down at the end. They just want to stretch and stretch some more, and then scurry off to continue their busy-bee days.

Well it's a view.


They're missing the best bit!

For more than an hour, you've been twisted and burned and your poor little muscles have taken a complete hammering - and after something like that, I do think you're allowed to have a ten-minute relax.

The best ones turn the lights off and give you blankets. Light up a scented candle. Put on Ommm-like whale music.

Boy have you earned it.

So you're lying there in the Corpse pose - flat on your back, arms to the side - and though your eyes may be closed, you are of course quietly meditating. Full focussed on your breathing. All that good stuff.

And then, after about five minutes, this pneumatic drill starts off. Somebody is digging up the road! Right in the corner of room furthest away from the mirrors!

Some bastard has got all cosy and they've just fallen asleep! What sort of joker does that? It's supposed to be a time for relaxation and meditation - it's not time for a bloody ten-minute nap!

The snoring gets louder, more throaty, and even though ten minutes ago you were Zenned out to the max, now you could happily get up and go over and throttle that mutton-headed oaf...

A neighbour gives you a sharp kick in the leg and you suddenly realise that it's you - you! - who's been honking away in the corner, and the only fortunate thing that your yoga-buddies are a lot more forgiving than you are, because otherwise...


One of the things I love about yoga is that, for one golden hour, you are off limits. Nobody pestering you. No urgent orders from the boss. No emails. No damnable phone calls, none of which are ever, ever of even the slightest importance in the first place...

In a yoga class, it takes about 30 minutes to get into the zone - that intangible moment where you stop fretting about whatever happens to be your fret-of-the-day. When you've stopped day-dreaming and when your knees and muscles have finally stopped clicking and rasping.

Without really knowing how, it's all come together. You're in some mild contortion, but rather than feeling painful, it's feeling like a good, deep stretch, and you're not even thinking about the stretch so much as your breathing. You're actually thinking about your breathing! You are there - at one. In the moment.

And then somebody's wretched mobile phone goes off, drrringgg-drrringgg-drrringgg! - and it is so totally wrecking this one brief hour in the day that you have stolen away for yourself.

And - obviously - the phone continues to ring.

Who is the bastard who owns this phone? When are they going to shut the thing off? Where are you, where are you, you thoughtless, brutish, insensitive lout?!

If they don't do something about it, and quick, you would happily get up and hurl that phone against the wall...

And then, now that you've come to analyse the ring-tone a little more closely, you realise that it is a slightly unusual tone.

A, ahhhh, slightly familiar ring-tone.

In fact, it sounds a little like the alarm bell on your mobile's clock...

It couldn't be!

But it is... and you must get up and do the walk of the shame, knowing that at that moment, absolutely every single person in the room HATES you.