26 Oct Is there any place for criticism in class?
Ever been to a yoga class and felt like you don’t belong? Don’t fit in? You’re just not good enough?? Not flexible enough?
Please don’t let this experience put you off.
I was chatting with a lovely couple recently and when I mentioned that I’m a yoga teacher they opened up to me about their experience in class. They decided to give yoga a go, since they’d heard all about the great benefits, but to my dismay, they did not have a pleasant experience. And this is not an isolated story.
Imagine being criticised because you can’t touch your toes, or because your flexibility is poor. There’s NO place in a yoga class for this kind of behaviour from the teacher, or the students.
In sanskrit Yoga means Union, and it’s about connecting your body and your mind. It’s about self-care, peace, and progression. It’s about breathing with intent.
Some people are born to be gymnasts, and can easily ‘get’ their bodies into tricky, advanced poses. Good for them, but that on it’s own is not yoga! Some people naturally have great upper body strength, and love practicing handstands and arm balancing poses. Good for them, but that’s not necessarily yoga either.
Nor is yoga a competition, a synchronised team sport, or a one-size-fits-all situation.
So what IS it all about? Quite simply, it’s about taking some time for you, switching off from the stresses and strains of life on this planet, tuning into your body and giving it some much-needed love. Everyone’s body is different and your aim should be to feel better after class, not to twist your body into a particular position. If you carry a lot of tension in your shoulders, then aim to feel less tense in your shoulders after class. You certainly shouldn’t be practicing handstands, as you leave yourself wide open to injuries. If your calves are seriously tight, aim to give them a stretch so you feel better after class. Perhaps squats and balancing poses that increase tone in the calves are not ideal for you at the moment. If your mind is far too busy, aim to get a bit of a break from that for just one hour per week if that’s all you can manage at the start.
You have to start where you are at and progress from there. And do it at your own pace.
I see my role as an instructor to lead the class and suggest various poses, and adjustments to poses, so that each yogi in my class can choose what feels right for them. I don’t want my yogis to achieve a particular pose, I want them to achieve a better relationship with their bodies. If someone finds it challenging I’ll suggest an adjustment to help them, not criticise them for doing it wrong. If someone finds it too easy, I’ll suggest an adjustment to help them progress. If someone is tired, I’ll encourage them to try a few repetitions and then rest, or maybe take a rest in between each repetition. Ultimately, I can’t feel what it’s like to be in someone else’s body, so I can’t dictate, I can only use my experience and knowledge to guide and support. And I have to be willing and able to hold that space for each person, depending on how they feel on any given day.
I’m often asked what style of yoga I teach, and my response is often ‘Aideen yoga’… Every teacher has their own style, and of course there are different styles of yoga out there. With more and more people gaining qualifications in yoga teaching, competition is fierce, and clever marketing has become necessary in order to stand out from the crowd. So of course we now see many new styles of classes being advertised. Many of these classes combine other sports/disciplines with yoga and I think we are slowly losing the true meaning of yoga. I hope I’m wrong though.
To find the right yoga class for you I recommend asking to try before you buy. Go to one class and see if it’s for you. Do you feel comfortable there? Can you be yourself? Does the style of teaching work for you? Do you feel safe, do you feel confident that you are not going to cause yourself an injury? If you are very stressed, maybe give it a few classes before you decide, as it can be very challenging to let go, to slow down, to really connect the first time you try it.
You know your body best, and like the rest of us you probably ask of lot from it each day. Allow yourself and your body to take a bit of time out, to be gentle, to accept fully where you are at at this present moment, and to be ok with that. Work with your body and not against it, and I guarantee you will see results more quickly, you will feel better physically, emotionally and mentally.