Things your yoga teacher wants you to know
Ever wonder what your yoga teacher is thinking while looking out over a sea of spandex? Most of us are pretty open and chatty, but there are a few things I wish my students knew before coming to my classes. Whether you’re just getting comfortable with basic hatha or can pull off a lotus headstand without breaking a sweat, here is a little enlightenment for all practitioners, straight from the yogini’s mouth.
1. You belong!
Yogis come in all shapes, sizes, and colors from different economic backgrounds. With that, know that no one is watching you as much as you think they are. This is true in all areas of life. If possible, go to a class that does not have wall-to-wall mirrors. Focus on how you feel, not on how you look, because in some postures you will look ridiculous. Remember that being ridiculous makes us laugh, and laughing keeps us young!
2. We care about you!
Talk to us or email us questions—we’re here to help. We want to know what’s going on in your life and hear your feedback so that we can better serve you. On the flip side, be respectful of our time. This profession doesn’t make us rich, and many teachers have to scramble around to teach multiple classes a day.
3. We know when you’re in the wrong class
Everyone can do yoga, but there are certain classes geared for practitioners with a certain level of experience, so we can tell when you didn’t read the class description. I know, I know, it was the only time slot that fit your schedule! I feel your pain, but you’re going to be in real pain if you try to do a class that’s too hard for you. It’s also really stressful for the teacher, who will worry about you the entire time (see #2). If you’re new to yoga, try something like the beginner series offered at Refresh Yoga Center, which allows you to work with the same teacher once a week, make friends, and learn the foundational poses. This will give you confidence to walk into most “all-level” classes. Not sure where to begin? Here’s how to find the right yoga style for you.
4. We want you to be comfortable
To be clear, you don’t need to shell out $90 for brand-name stretch pants, but considering your butt will probably be in the air at some point, make sure you’re appropriately covered. If you’re taking a hot yoga class (see #3), you probably don’t want to wear as much. Second, your mat is important! This is especially true for beginners. Test it out in the store to make sure it’s sticky, absorbent, has enough padding, and is long enough for your height. Still not sure which brand to buy? Most studios will rent you a mat for classes, so you can try out a few different kinds before purchasing your own.
5. Savor the savasana
At the end of class, we are going to lie down on our backs in silence for at least five minutes in a pose called savasana. This is not the cue for you to leave–class isn’t over! For you hyperactive types, this will feel weird, and you will probably hate it. Please just close your eyes and relax (it looks creepy when I see you staring at the ceiling). After a productive practice, this really is one of the best parts. How beneficial is it to just do nothing with your eyes closed for a few minutes? It’s revitalizing! In fact, I want you to know I’m sorry I can’t give you 15 minutes or more of this.
6. We like you to be on time
Life happens, and we get that, but for your benefit and others’, it’s great if you can arrive a few minutes early to chat with the teacher, find your special spot on the floor, and start focusing on the class ahead. Then you can be the one to give the dirty look to the late comer! (Just kidding, don’t do that. Suzanne had a flat tire, so cut her some slack!)
Likewise, if you have to leave early, just tell me before class and position yourself near the door. No big deal (unless you are doing it to skip savasana, then you’re not off the hook). For both instances, don’t make it a habit.
7. Communicate your boundaries
Some places do what’s called “hands-on adjustments.” For the most part, the teacher should be helping in the interest of safety and form, but other times they are trying to deepen a stretch or help you relax. It can feel incredible, but they should ask your permission in some way, either before class or before the actual adjustment. If you don’t like being touched or have an injury, say so! Telling this to the instructor privately before class is the best thing to do.
Example a: Early on in my yoga practice, I went to a class where the instructor had us give adjustments to each other. This was not OK with me. The result of my not speaking up was a strange, sweaty man sitting on my back while I was in child’s pose. I never went back to that teacher again. The class description did NOT say “partner yoga”—I’m very certain about that (see point 3).
Example b: There is one particular style of yoga that will go unnamed, but it is famous for its strong adjustments. One time, the teacher was trying to push me into a position that my body doesn’t like. I simply said, “Nope, I’ll stay this way today” and she moved on. She is a professional; she was not embarrassed and her feelings weren’t hurt. More importantly? I didn’t get injured. In fact, being the one to speak up empowers other students to do the same.
8. Just because I offer a more “advanced” variation of a posture doesn’t mean you have to try it.
You KNOW you can’t do that bind, so why do you insist on pulling your arm out of its socket to attempt it? You don’t have to impress me, and no one is watching you (see # 1), so the only explanation is your ego. Let it go. Seriously, stop holding your arm that way.
9. Props are your friends. I use them too!
Props are things like blocks, bolsters (cushions), straps and blankets. The studio provides them, so take advantage. Using props is not a sign of weakness—in fact, it’s the opposite. When I see students using props, it tells me they are in tune with their bodies. I tweaked my hamstring water skiing (totally worth it), and without blocks I couldn’t do my yoga practice. Few activities allow you to modify the movements in such a way as to allow even injured people to participate. With yoga, the possibilities are endless.
10. Instructors aren’t perfect
As a yoga student, I’ve been late to class, watched the clock in savasana, and did a backbend I shouldn’t have done because I wanted to show off. As a teacher, I’ve dropped someone in headstand (she’s fine), lost track of time, and forgotten what I was going to say. I can’t do the splits, I drink red wine, and I hated “Eat, Pray, Love.” I don’t judge you, so don’t judge me! ☺
Feeling inspired? Keep the good vibes flowing and visit ZOZI’s Relaxation Station for activities, stories, playlists and photos to help channel your zen: