28. How Not to Teach Yoga

I love yoga. It is my favorite form of exercise. You don’t get too sweaty (unless it is Bikram yoga which is great but that is another post). You get relaxed, not exhausted and you don’t have to wear shoes. I am from South Florida so in growing up barefoot I have developed a disdain for shoes and forgo them whenever possible. A few years ago I regularly attended a yoga class at our fitness club and the instructor was driving me crazy. I am usually not the type to complain but I felt that some of the things the instructor was doing in class were potentially unsafe for yoga beginners (it was a “beginners” class) so I wrote an anonymous email (I made up a fake gmail account to send it hahaha) to the head of the yoga department at the club. I happened to come across the email today. By “happened to come across” I mean, “I was searching for 300-1000 words I’d already written to make today’s posting go faster” haha. Here is the email (names withheld to protect the not-so-innocent):

Dear L:

I wanted to send my thoughts on yoga at the club anonymously…

I hate to complain but just feel the need to bring the following to your attention (about K):

1. I do not want to hear about her menopause symptoms during class.

2. “Swastika” pose? Are you serious? There are a million euphemisms to choose from: “pin wheel”, “crooked cross”, “auspicious pose”. Saying the word “swastika” five times just rubs me the wrong way (and I am not even Jewish). It is just a loaded word that certainly does not promote a relaxing vibe.

3. I do not want to hear about her grandchildren, her house guests, her vacations, her cat–VERY annoying. I just want to do yoga. It detracts from “staying in the moment” which is the whole point of yoga. If she wants to chat with people in the class she should do it with the microphone OFF and before or after class NOT during.

4. She spends a good deal of class time demonstrating the latest difficult pose she is working on (i.e. crow with both legs perched on one elbow), then says “you’re not a lesser person if you can’t do it” and “it’s not on my bucket list to do difficult poses”. WHY IS SHE TALKING ABOUT BUCKET LISTS in class? This is not allowing people to stay in the moment. Plus usually there are about five or so people in a class of 30 who are actually really “good” at yoga. Spending so much time on difficult poses must be highly annoying for all the middle-aged un-flexible people and I feel bad for them. It is annoying for me and I am quite flexible. It is basically “Time for K to show off what she’s learned” not geared toward the students AT ALL. Usually while she is showing off her latest pose the entire class is just sitting there watching. What a waste of time!

Here's another class I don't care to attend (source)

Here’s another class I don’t care to attend (source)

5. UN-funny jokes. Humor is NOT necessary in yoga. I just want to focus on breathing and doing the poses and she constantly breaks up the flow with un-funny “jokes.”

6. Her lengthy readings at the end of class. Just say Namaste and be done with it. If I want to read something I will go to the library. Leave the books and stupid free verse poems at home. Or for the love of yoga, at least keep it to a short paragraph: Please!

Ok so this rant is very un-yogic but I can’t help it! I feel like every after-working-hours-class she is always teaching and it is awful!

Thanks for listening,

A yoga-loving club member

So she responded basically saying she’d already discussed many of the issues with that instructor and she appreciated my comments. I replied back:

Thanks! I am not really that much of jerk, I swear! It is just really frustrating.

In last week’s class K complained that she had a migraine (she brought up her migraine no less than fifteen times throughout the class). INAPPROPRIATE! Tell your friends about your migraine–not paying students in your class who are trying to relax! Jeez!

Despite the “horrendous migraine” K still managed to find time to do a very advanced “show off” move–lifting yourself up on your hands while in lotus pose–then swinging yourself through to down dog. This is NOT a move that belongs in Hatha Yoga I. There were three people in the class that it was their first yoga class! She singled one of them out when they seemed frustrated trying to do the difficult pose and told the student (in front of the whole class), “Your abs just aren’t strong enough!” Insulting a person who has never done yoga before in front of 30 strangers: how appropriate!

Would you please tell her that advanced poses should not be allowed in a beginner class and to keep it friendly for beginners/keep it at LEVEL 1? I hate to see people turned off by yoga by being insulted in the middle of class because they can’t do an extremely advanced pose! Easy, basic poses are still beneficial, even for the more advanced folks.

Again, thanks for listening=)

I recently attended one of K’s classes and nothing has changed. But, in better yoga form than I showed at the time I wrote those complaints, I was able to stay and the moment and ignore the “transgressions”. During the times I felt myself getting annoyed I just did my own thing. Sun salutations, downward dog, whatever I felt like.

Me doing "whatever I felt like" in the garden 2012 (I don't know if a handstand is an "official" pose

Me doing “whatever I felt like” in the garden last summer (I don’t know if a handstand is an “official” pose)

So the moral of the story is that if you find yourself in a situation with a wildly inappropriate yoga teacher just do what you feel like. Please don’t dislike yoga, just seek out a different style of teaching! It is perfectly ok to be doing an entirely different sequence than the rest of the class. Because obviously complaining about an instructor will get you nowhere hHAhaha. I’ve also learned to appreciate this yoga instructor for her greatest strength: she is a great yoga student. I am not a yoga instructor, but do feel quite comfortable in leading a sequence of poses in a safe manner.

Me doing an imperfect "Dancer" pose without pulling any muscles!

Me doing an imperfect “Dancer” pose without pulling any muscles!

Probably because I am good friends with an actual instructor: Carrie Lang.

Carrie Lang doing yoga in Spy Garden:

DSC_3352 (500x383)

Carrie has always stressed the importance of being safe, listening to your body and taking it nice and easy. It is crucial to work up slowly to the more difficult poses, and she emphasizes that being “successful” in yoga does not necessarily mean you can even do any “advanced” poses. If you are a yoga instructor reading this I would be interested to hear what you think of my criticisms.

Namaste! (me doing yoga in the garden last summer)

Namaste! (me doing yoga in the garden last summer)

Here is a semi-unrelated HILARIOUS article my sister sent me today about Whole Foods with a funny take on “Namaste!”

3 thoughts on “28. How Not to Teach Yoga

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