For some it's an ancient path to health and enlightenment. For others it's utterly infuriating. And I should know - I'm an instructor.
There's no getting around it. Everyone's always telling you how great yoga is, and that's true, but then you go and maybe the studio smells like onions steamed in cat urine, and it might have been helpful to know about that beforehand.
You need to know exactly what will disturb you before you get there, so you can prepare; and you should also know that, even though everyone around you will seem perfectly unperturbed, someone feels your pain.
Oh, and by the way, I want to underscore that what follows below is what bugs me about yoga; everything else is a glittering gift from Lord Shiva. Namaste!
1. People who just saw each other yesterday will hug like one of them was just rescued from a burning plane.
I've always thought of a hug as a slightly protracted, lightly physical way of saying hello to people I know fairly well.
But regular practitioners of yoga see hugs as a great way to spend an afternoon. You will want to stare at them and wonder, ''Are they really pressing their whole bodies together?'' (yes); ''are their eyes closed?'' (they are); ''do they really have dreamy looks on their faces?'' (yes, yes, yes).
But remember, while you're staring you're wasting valuable time in which you could be cultivating your ''I am not the sort of person who likes to be hugged for long periods of time'' vibe.
This is easier said than done because you will sometimes see people at yoga - people you actually know - with whom you may wish to make brief, friendly physical contact.
Engage in such exchanges as you wish, but realise that you are setting yourself up as a person who willingly receives hugs, and these people will not take the extra mental step to say, ''Oh, but above-the-waist hugs'', or ''Hugs that only last a second''.
Make no mistake: these people are looking to soul-blend. To avoid, arrive early. Lie down with closed eyes. Bring flip-flops - essential for a hasty exit.
2. During hard poses, women and gay men will remain silent and straight men will laugh self-deprecatingly.
Imagine being at a gym. Men are lifting heavy weights. They strain, grit their teeth, sweat. But they don't laugh. So why, here, as they sink into their thighs in Warrior Two or lift their chest skyward during Upward Facing Bow, do they feel the need to let out a little chuckle?
You are witnessing an unconscious assertion of masculinity. That little laugh is their way of letting you know that hey, they're not really embarrassed about being so bad at this, because they're not even supposed to be here, they're good at other things, like, for example, sitting in an airport bar working their way through a double scotch, a bowl of nuts and a Two and A Half Men re-run on the corner TV.
Of course, there is also the other type of straight guy in yoga, the guy who can wrap his arms around his ankles and turn himself into a perfect circle.
Why, you ask, does this man wear his hair in a bun, on top of his head? There are some secrets that no amount of enlightenment will reveal.
3. There will be yoga overachievers.
You will be doing cat-cow pose at a normal pace, and they will be bucking and heaving like mechanical bulls.
You will be expending an amount of effort somewhere between ''challenging yourself'' and ''able to retain sufficient muscle strength to remove shampoo bottle from shower caddy''.
They will be straining, grunting, grimacing. Then, when class is over, and everyone does that weird little bow, the yoga overachiever will bow down for, roughly, an hour. Seriously.
You will have put on your flip-flops (good job!), hightailed it away from the would-be hugger/soul-blenders, made and consumed a meal and be just about to crawl into bed, and they remain on the floor in the yoga studio, thanking God for making them, well, them.
4. There are teachers and students who think flexibility is some kind of indication of how good a person you are.
While we certainly hold tension, trauma and rigidity in our limbs and joints and muscles, there is no reason to imagine there's some absolutely direct correlation between how well we can move and how functional or healthy our mind is.
My point is, some physical limitations can be aided through the practice of yoga and while some can't, no one needs the increased pressure of someone telling them every time they strain to get their heels on the floor in Downward Facing Dog that it's because their mind is all screwed up.
So if your teacher tells you that we hold a lot of stuff in our hips and hamstrings and as we begin to let this stuff go and become our authentic selves we will be able to wrap our arms around ourselves eight times, look around the room.
You will probably see a guy who can do that, while smiling, and I'll bet that you will eventually hear from someone in the class about the time he flew into a rage and broke a car window. Teachers talk like Yoda's mum.
If you were to ask your yoga teacher, ''Can my newly authentic hamstrings help the angry guy?'' she might say something like, ''That depends on whether they were coming from a space of pure intention.''
The word ''honour'' is used a lot, as in ''honouring yourself'' or ''honouring your practice''.
Other popular words include ''joy'', ''integrity'', ''space'' (not as in outer space, as in ''Go into a space of ...'') and ''place'' (not as in ''that place next to Shoe Pavilion'', as in ''Let yourself come into a place of ...'').
When class is over, the teacher will say something like, ''Bow to your inner wisdom'', or ''Take a moment to thank yourself for committing to your practice'', which always makes me intone the prayer: ''Please, God, make me less fat than I was an hour and a half ago.''
The worst part about the yoga world vocabulary, of course, is how quickly you find yourself learning and using it.
The hope is that because yoga has made you, I mean, allowed you to open up a space to become - so much more self-aware and less narcissistic, you will only talk this way in front of other people who talk like that too. And now that you are friends with so many of them, because you have, after so thoroughly mocking this world basically joined it, that means practically everyone you speak to.
5. ''How are you?'' is not a simple question at yoga.
No one at yoga is ever just fine. They're ''working through a lot of heavy stuff'', or ''dealing with a lot of craziness''.
That said, when people ask you how you are, don't say anything bad. If you are broke, the universe is just trying to teach you a lesson about how much you already have. If someone dumped you, the universe removed that person from your life for a reason.
The universe is very busy in the yoga world. So yes, in the beginning it's all about slipping the car keys inside the flip-flops so that all the tools of your escape are in a neat little package.
But just keep showing up. In no time you will become sufficiently like all these people that they won't bother you at all.
Is the circle of eternity beautiful or what?
Guardian News and Media