Oh Behave: Instructor’s Top-10 Yoga Etiquette Tips

 

OH BEHAVE!

OH BEHAVE!

So you’re into yoga…Groovy Baby!  Whether you’re a seasoned regular or a nervous newbie, you contribute to the collective energy and affect others’ experiences when you attend class.  Here are a few tips for minding your manners in the om zone:

1) Test drive new outfits.  Before you pull the trigger on that cute top at Lululemon or think you can just get by with your retro tennis shorts, try a few poses in front of a mirror.  Things that seem secure and  respectable right-side-up may not be gravity proof.  Trust us, no matter how good looking you think you are,  we don’t want to see your bits and bobs.  The phrase “let it all hang out” is figurative people!

2) Enter the room with decorum. Whether you arrive early, just-in-time or better late-than-never, roll in like the fog, “on little cat feet.”  Remove your shoes, coats, etc in the foyer.  Avoid the “mat snap” and try to set up with an economy of motion.  If you’re late, you may have to wing it with props and instructions.  The instructor may not be able to give you  assistance in setting up without compromising the flow of the class. It’s fine to be late, as long as you’re  not obtrusive.  Similarly, it’s fine to be early, but please don’t expect instructor attention until a few minutes before class. Many instructors have room set-up and/or like to “center” with their own yoga and meditation before teaching.   Cell phones off and put away.  Special lenience for “first responders”  and caregivers of all stripes who may need to leave cells on “vibrate” nearby.

3) Leave chatting to the foyer, or for after class.  Chatting with your neighbor, even in hushed tones, and even if your neighbor is receptive during the opening minutes of class can affect the instructor’s ability to demonstrate opening poses, end the class on time, and stay focused herself.  It also affects the students who arrive early in order to get their own extra “centering” time in before class.  The day is full of numerous opportunities for noise, conversation and chaos.  Try to think of the studio as a haven and realize that many are there seeking solitude on some level.  Socializing after class however, can be rich and rewarding.

4) Don’t be a queen bee.  Yoga is about acceptance of everyone in the space, cultivating awareness and going beyond your comfort zone.  Try to be mindful and open when socializing with other members of the class, not just in your speech but in your body language.  Is your body language closing off the people you may not know/like and favoring others?  Don’t be condescending to beginners; mind you, they may be accomplished yogis from another style or  have some daunting challenge you can’t fathom.   Try to treat everyone equally, and, if you get together with a few of your classmates outside of yoga, try not to discuss it in front of  everyone else. No one comes to yoga to feel left out!

5) If you are disturbed during yoga nidra/final relaxation, just leave the room.  Whether  you’re having a prolonged  muscle spasm, multiple hindrance attack, coughing or sneezing spell, it’s best to step out.  In higher states like yoga nidra, our awareness is such that  we can literally feel others’ squirming and discomfort. Think of the air more like water:  your movements create ripples that move throughout the room.  If you can’t  settle yourself /solve your problem in the first few minutes, then it’s best to leave and not affect the experience for everyone else, especially for the beginners whom are struggling already with yoga nidra and savasana,  “the most difficult pose.”  Once you leave, best to stay out — can you find somewhere else to do seated meditation until class is over?   If you anticipate you may need to leave early, pack up as much of your gear as you can outside of the yoga space, and don’t worry, we’ve all been there!

6) Breaking wind:  it’s OK.  Say “excuse me” or ignore it, whatever works.  We’ll all just move on.  Holding it in isn’t very healthy or “yogic.” That said, if you know you’re having issues, it doesn’t hurt to self-quarantine on the community’s edge.  Everyone will have a turn at dealing with something, so you will probably receive more empathy than judgement.

7) If the personal habits of others in practice bother you, observe your own habits first, especially if you plan on complaining.  Yoga is a challenging practice and can be awkward, especially for adults.  Think the person next to you is breathing too loud? Maybe you’re not breathing loud enough.  Sure, the allergy sufferer always seems to be blowing his nose, but maybe you have B.O.  If it really gets to you, it’s most likely your mind looking for a distraction.  Perhaps you can practice Buddhist “metta” meditation of sending such a person loving kindness and compassion for their issue. That said, it’s not wrong to want to avoid setting up your mat next to certain people but, if in the event it’s unavoidable, recognize it as part of the practice.

8) Try not to monopolize the instructor’s time and attention.   Personalized service is one thing, but after several weeks or months in a group class, a certain amount of self-sufficiency will be expected.  If you are constantly having issues, you may be a candidate for private yoga.  If you can’t seem to “get up the curve,” remember modifications, overcome limitations, you may have to realize that a group setting just isn’t right for you or fair to everyone else.  Instructors expect to give new students extra attention, but not to the extent it affects the collective experience time and time again. The ability to move from seated to standing positions without assistance is key; if your’e not able, you probably need yoga! That said, you should start with private classes until you get your bearings.

9) Try not to attend an established class sporadically. This is the corollary to no. 8.  If you’re new to yoga, a bit out of shape, started yoga later in life, etc., you may not have the muscle memory or  the mental memory to attend yoga  once-in-a-while.  The worst case scenario is you take a few classes, get down the basics and then go on hiatus, only to return and flash everyone else back to your personal square one. Once a week is a minimal commitment in yoga; if you can’t do that, then consider something else. You’ll only put yourself at greater risk of injury and your class at greater risk of aggravation!  For those who travel or it’s just a scheduling impossibility,  you can probably  make a go of it by doing a minimal home practice (10-15 mins)  a few times a week. You can also find classes where you’re traveling–your instructor may even be able to recommend.

10) Go with the flow. baby!  If yoga has one life lesson to teach us, it’s that pretty much everything is beyond our control; or, as one of my favorite teachers says, “let go for dear life.”  If the temperature of the room, the person breathing next to you, a class cancellation, the tag on your shirt are driving you nuts,  then know this : you really need yoga!  Maybe your practice should be more focused on “riding the wave” of meditation (breathe-relax-feel-watch-allow) and less so on performing the perfect pose.

Follow these and you too can be Yogadelic!

Spring Sports Tune-up? Yoga for golf, tennis, baseball and more!

Golf, tennis and baseball all rely on the spine. You can rely on yoga to keep your spine fine for years to come!

Golf, tennis and baseball all rely on the spine. You can rely on yoga to keep your spine fine for years to come!

  What do Kevin Love, Trevor May, LeBraun James, Novak Djokovic
Shaquille O’Neal and Tiger Woods have in common? They all turn to yoga to improve their games–physically and mentally.
  Katherine Roberts, Author of Yoga for Golf and fitness expert for The Golf Channel explains why yoga is so effective for golf: ” Swing power is generated from the lower body to the hips, the trunk, the shoulders, the arms, and out to the club–a lot of yoga postures are good at getting deep into the connective tissue and musculature of the hips. The hips initiate the downswing, so having mobility in the hips and strong glutes is critical for generating power.”
   “All the curls in the world” won’t help you hit farther or more accurately  says Roberts who recommends yoga in lieu of conventional strength training to her clients. Strengh is only one variable in the equation. You also have to figure flexibility, balance, breath and focus.  Yoga covers all of those, including the strength part–every try holding plank for a few dozen breaths?
  Many of the same principles above apply to tennis.  Tennis players have notoriously tight hips which often refer up through the psoas  muscle manifesting as lower back pain. Asymmetrical in nature, tennis, golf and baseball all wreck havoc with the spine as one side of the body over-develops.
  Some studies say over 50% of golfers have lower back pain which can impede performance and mental focus.  Consider these words of wisdom from LeBraun: “Yoga isn’t just about the body, it’s also about the mind, and it’s a technique that has really helped me.  I had some lower-back problems a few years ago and once I started to do the yoga, it has helped them go away for now.”
  For many spring and summer sports, including golf, tennis and baseball, the coiling/uncoiling motions of the spine hold the key to success. Why not try a practice devoted to spinal health and longevity while ensuring overall health and mobility in the future? Yoga is the ultimate in prevention, and you don’t have to be naturally flexible to do it–in fact, if you’re not, you need it all the more!
  “The Shaq,” once admitted  he was the “worst yoga student in the history of yoga” but went on to explain how he turned to yoga later in his career to “preserve his body.”  What are you doing to preserve yours?

 

 

Dr Terrell: “Women 40+ Need Yoga!”

This post is brought to you by  our own Yoga HotDisher, Top Doc,  and now,  Minnesota Monthly CoverGirl,  Dr. Carrie Ann  Terrell, MD, University of Minnesota (UMN). Thanks Carrie for contributing to our blog!

DrT

The evidence for yoga improving various health problems is deep and varied.  I recommend the website nccam.nih.gov for an overview of the benefits of yoga as presented by the National Institutes of Health.  The evidence is solid as is my experience.

My most common patient scenario presents with a litany of concerns that reads something like this:

  • Fatigue, low energy, difficulty completing the umpteen tasks before her
  • Low libido
  • Inability to focus, memory loss, distractedness
  • Mood swings, irritability
  • Weight gain, digestive problems
  • Dissatisfaction with life

These women are 40-60 years old, often partnered with a significant other of varying participation in the relationship/housework/child rearing/care taking/cooking/shopping, have busy/successful/demanding careers, are the primary caretaker of the house/parent(s)/children/pets, and have unwieldy expectations for what they “should” be doing to take care of themselves.

These patients are essentially working every hour of their lives.  If and when they sleep it is erratic and interrupted and they wake without having rested. Or they “rest” while watching TV, iPading, gaming, texting, Facebooking. These activities are not restful, rejuvenating, nor replenishing. As if this isn’t enough they are also constantly talking to/bombarding themselves with negative or expectant commentary that translates as “not enough or not good enough.” In fact, the incessant loop of streaming thought these women live with is exhausting.

These women often come in seeking a magical hormonal cure.  They read that estrogen or bioidentical hormones or compounded hormones will resolve all of their issues; that their issues must be related to menopause or perimenopause. Now, I’m not underestimating menopause. Estrogen deficiency causes hot flashes.  Hot flashes can disrupt thought, the work day, the physical body. When hot flashes occur at night, sleeplessness results and irritability, mood swings, memory problems can follow suit. However, in many many cases, estrogen deficiency is not the problem. These women need a break, a time out, a mini-retreat, a respite.

Many women have found their solution. Some have found it in running, others in meditating. However, for many the potential solutions are untenable, unreachable, or add to the never-ending list of shoulds. Or, the options are so overwhelming women cannot begin to decide what to do or how to perform self care.

For me, this is where yoga comes in. When taught well, with attention to the philosophy and teachings, Yoga provides peace, quiet and a chance to observe ourselves.  Some know yoga to be an exercise; a physical activity leading to fitness, improved health, increased heart rate, etc etc. The secret is that asana practice (the poses are called asana) is solely meant to allow us to sit comfortably enough,quietly enough to see and feel clearly. Undoubtedly, the physical practice feels good. “Doing” yoga feels good, but, what feels even better is being able to look at my thoughts and see, ‘huh, those are my thoughts. I am not my thoughts.” Or, “look, this awful thing happened to me or someone said this awful thing to me and gee, I don’t have to be affected by that. I can still be me.” Or, “This pose sucks. I hate this pose. My muscles are shaking. This is dumb. I’m way too important for this pose. Why did I come? I have better things to do.” Which over time can become, “This pose sucks. I hate this pose. I’ve gotten through this pose before. I am stronger. My resilience is better.”

After 14 years of practicing yoga I can honestly say it makes me a better person. I build better relationships. I think more clearly. I know my limitations and know what I need to care for my self. I can separate myself from my wrongdoings, my suffering, my awards, my rewards, my family and my thoughts. With this ability I am able to set my work and personal goals in alignment with my deepest beliefs. I am able to achieve lifelong goals and hold positions of leadership with a sense of love and responsibility. I get to choose how I will react to incoming stimuli (if at all) and I can readily access a place of peace and serenity within myself.

Beginner Yoga: 5 Things New Students Should Know

Hands on assists are key for beginners

Hands on assists are key for beginners

1) The wellness and health benefits of yoga (physical, mental and more) will probably trump anything else you’ve ever done.  Beginners can not only expect to be stronger and more  flexible, but sleep better, stress less and fight bad bugs better with yoga-strong immunity.

2) Your success in performing the physical postures/exercises is determined more by your unique body and bone shapes, and ranges of motion facilitated by those shapes.  For instance, if you have a narrow pelvis, aspiring to do the splits is a bad idea!   45 degrees of extension in your spine on a good day?  Then Wheel Pose may not be for you.  It’s not a big deal–there are tons of poses that WILL suit you.

3) All yoga instructors are not created equally, nor are they interchangeable,  as some mass marketeers of yoga would like you to think.  Would you pick a hair stylist based on who’s closest? OK, for some of you, yes, — but, hair grows back!  Hurt your rotator cuff and the recovery time will be longer than getting over a bad hair day. Read teacher bios carefully and look for instructors w/ at least 5 years teaching experience, though 10 preferred.  Also, figure out how long they did yoga before they decided to teach it.  Did they think because they were a naturally flexible dancer or gymnast that they were magically endowed to teach a deeply inwardly-focused, mental practice?  Watch out — they might not understand how less fit bodies work, nor have command of anything beyond the physical postures flashing you back to phys ed!   Ideally, find a teacher who trained in an immersion program (lived yoga 24-7).  The Yoga Alliance certification used to carry weight, but one could argue it is less meaningful nowadays.

4) Treat your yoga like a doctor’s appointment and try not to miss class early on.   The practice of yoga can be overwhelming at first with lots of moving parts — how to perform the postures, breathing exercises, meditation techniques.  The biggest hurdle I find when beginning adults miss a class is more memory-related than anything else.  They forget all the coaching I gave them one-on-one, how I came over and guided them into poses in those first classes.  Then, they miss a week and “poof!” — I have to go back and re-teach it all. This can get a little tedious for the other students.  So, don’t be self-conscious about showing up and not knowing anything, but don’t let down the rest of the class by not taking your commitment seriously. Most of you wouldn’t cancel a doctor appointment due to less-than-perfect weather or a social engagement, then why cancel your Wellness Appointment?  Plan on disappointing people in the short-run with your new-found commitment to yoga–better than disappointing yourself in the long-run.  Look in the mirror and pretend telling someone demanding your time, “I’m sorry, I have an appointment.”  Deliver this line a in hushed tone with a serious face and I promise, they won’t ask!

5) Give it 3 months before you evaluate and avoid The Classic Beginner Mistake.   Authentic yoga practiced as “relaxed exertion” is the epitome of the Japanese concept of “kaizen,” or barely noticeable, continuous  improvement over time.  Subtle, sure, but it’s a big part of how Japan industrialized itself into a superpower.  Once you start coming to yoga 1-3 times per week, your body, mind, mood, outlook –everything launches on a slow trajectory of change.  While some people notice early on, for most, it sneaks up on them–maybe one day lifting a bag of groceries with   new-found upper body strength.  Then, at a party, you’re the only adult limber enough to sit on the floor!  So what’s The Classic Beginner Mistake? Thinking that you’re not really getting that much out of yoga and dropping it for a couple of weeks.  Before you know it, you’re the one who needs to sit in the chair and you realize how much you’ve lost!  Excuses in hand, you come groveling in to class (see number 4).  Yes, of course, we’ll take you back…and try not to judge.

 

 

DO Hold Your Breath!

 

If you come to class you know what Pranayama are: breathing techniques and exercises. In Sanskrit ,Prana means the body’s vital or psychic energy and yama means mastery.  My first teacher, trained in the Sivananda tradition, placed much emphasis on Pranayama; I couldn’t imagine yoga without it. Yet, somewhere, en route to America, much of it was “lost in translation.”When new students with yoga experience appear in class, I am always curious to know if they have had any Pranayama training. Surprisingly, most have not.  I always try to make it non-threatening for first timers, as it looks pretty weird and can be intimidating.  That said, I am excited at the prospect of helping the uninitiated take their practice “to the next level.”  That said, there is some mind/body awareness required and a level of subtlety and patience required; it’s easy to understand why fitness/group exercise yoga often gives it a miss.  However,  in the yoga hierarchy, Pranayama is above all asana (postures), so even the most difficult poses are subjugated to it.

My first teacher referred us to research by a German Doctor in the 1980’s in which a group of yoga teachers did Ujjayi Pranayama (Don’t know what that is? Come to class!) while a control group did not. Both groups had  their brainwaves recorded.  One teacher in the experiment recalled, “I sat in the lotus pose and did Ujjayi, when, without warning, one of the researchers struck the metal table hard. It made a loud crash. But it didn’t affect me.”

The researchers were expecting all the subjects to react and come out of their relaxed state, but the yoga teachers’ EEGs did not change or show disruption, while the others did. Somehow,  the “alpha activity” in the teachers’ brains was stable. Don’t know what alpha waves are?  Come to class!

fishholdingbreath

“When the breath is irregular, the mind is unsteady, but when the breath is still, so is the mind still and the Yogin obtains the power of stillness.  Therefore, the breath should be restrained.” ~Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Yoga Teacher Training: Buyer Beware!

About once a week, I get an inquiry from someone looking for a yoga teacher training program or, a recently “graduate” looking for a job or “mentoring opportunities.” It’s easy to see why people want to teach yoga and do what they love.  However, from where I stand, there seems to be some troubling  (maybe slightly sinister)  market forces at work out there concocting a glut of young, under-prepared, overly in-debt teachers.

For the record:  I don’t have a downward facing dog in this fight.  I don’ t do teacher trainings and don’t aspire to in the near future.  I have been teaching yoga for just 13 years–not long enough.    The people I trained with had decades (not combined, but individually) of intensive teaching experience, often in residential institutions.    To be clear, the notion that you can somehow teach an all encompassing practice like yoga shy of middle age is a Western one.

So why the boom in Teacher Training programs? I see three main market forces at work:

1) They’re lucrative and provide the lion’s share of revenue for bricks and mortar yoga studios to pay the rent.  Starting at $2000-2500 for a 200 hour basic program, you multiply that by 15-20 students participating and you can make a good chunk of change.  Moreover, you can wedge in the teacher trainings at off-hours on weekends when the studio isn’t being optimized, say on Saturday evenings or Sunday afternoons.  Better yet, offer an on-line component so you don’t even need to provide space.  Really? On-line teacher training?  Would you like a  massage therapist or a doctor trained on-line?   But, all the schools are doing it!    Why?  (see number 3).

2) They create a perpetual pool of low-cost  employees for the studio. Each session graduates newly-minted teachers eager to work for peanuts to gain experience.  Of course, the studio can’t possibly hire all  of their graduates now, can they?   Those who don’t get jobs will have to hit the pavement and look for jobs at other studios, but of course, those other studios have their own graduates to hire. Smaller  indie studios with a discriminating clientele want teachers with loads of experience who’ve mentored under big names.  Then the options narrow to places like LifeTime, Snap Fitness and the like, who are always hiring, due to a huge turnover rate.  Why the turnover? Because teaching yoga for $25 / hour is only gratifying for so long, especially when you’re trying to recoup your $2000+ investment.  Think about it, at that rate, you have to teach 80- 100 classes just to break even on your investment!!!  If they hire you for 2 classes a week, that’s almost a year of your life teaching for FREE! Besides, you have student loans to pay….which leads to my Grand Finale Point:

3) Student Loans, including PELL Grants can be used for Yoga Teacher Training.  Ah haaa!  Now we see the real reason for the boom in yoga teacher training programs, and the accompanying, college-esque  tuition inflation.    It used to be you could go live in residence at an ashram or a yoga center with a full campus , room and board included for what these strip mall studios are charging for their teacher trainings. Moreover, the demand is such that they can pluck their “lead trainers” from their own in-house schools after they’ve only been teaching themselves for a few years and no one questions it. So, instead of “going to the mountain,” and training in an immersion environment with a cast of experienced teachers from a reputable school of lineage (back to India) as well as teaching assistants, chefs, anatomy professors, etc., you go down the street and train w/ people w/ names like “Nina B.” or ‘Tommy Y.”  who themselves have only taught yoga for maybe 5 years.  Oh, and you don’t actually immerse yourself and  live like a yogi  because you can’t really afford to quit your day job given the exhorbanent cost of the program!  Kids ~ this is NOT a good deal!

So what is a sincere, aspiring  yoga teacher to do?  Stop. Breathe. Discern.  I don’t want to say that you must put your life on-hold and take an immersion program, but it is the gold standard.  That said, what I do feel strongly about is this: don’t pay Ivy League Prices for a Community College program because you couldn’t spot the difference!  If you have to study piecemeal or even online , then just don’t pay what you’d pay to go live somewhere; and, keep your expectations in line.  If you need to teach yoga to pay your bills, then choose carefully and consider programs where you have not one,  but several teachers with decades of experience at your disposal.  Frankly, I can’t imagine the egotistical leap necessary for a sole individual of a tender age to claim to be able to teach you everything you need to know about being a teacher.

I’ve included some links to some reputable programs which have withstood the test of time; they also have a lineage to somewhere other than the mall or Los Angeles!  Some of them even offer SCHOLARSHIPS (i.e. Kripalu).  In the meantime, keep up your own practice, study w/ as many teachers of as many styles as you can to narrow it down, save your money and please, don’t go into debt and end up paying even more (with interest) for a sub-standard “canned” program. They will only turn you into a cue-reciting parrot, not a yoga teacher! 

 

Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health — Scholarships available!

Integral Yoga San Francisco 

Minneapolis Yoga Workshop

 

parrot yoga

New to Yoga? Top 5 Things Beginners Should Know

Hands on assists are key for beginners

Hands on assists are key for beginners

1) The wellness and health benefits of yoga (physical, mental and more) will probably trump anything else you’ve ever done.  Beginners can not only expect to be stronger and more  flexible, but sleep better, stress less and fight bad bugs better with yoga-strong immunity.

2) Your success in performing the physical postures/exercises is determined more by your unique body and bone shapes, and ranges of motion facilitated by those shapes.  For instance, if you have a narrow pelvis, aspiring to do the splits is a bad idea!   45 degrees of extension in your spine on a good day?  Then Wheel Pose may not be for you.  It’s not a big deal–there are tons of poses that WILL suit you.

3) All yoga instructors are not created equally, nor are they interchangeable,  as some mass marketeers of yoga would like you to think.  Would you pick a hair stylist based on who’s closest? OK, for some of you, yes, — but, hair grows back!  Hurt your rotator cuff and the recovery time will be longer than getting over a bad hair day. Read teacher bios carefully and look for instructors w/ at least 5 years teaching experience, though 10 preferred.  Also, figure out how long they did yoga before they decided to teach it.  Did they think because they were a naturally flexible dancer or gymnast that they were magically endowed to teach a deeply inwardly-focused, mental practice?  Watch out — they might not understand how less fit bodies work, nor have command of anything beyond the physical postures flashing you back to phys ed!   Ideally, find a teacher who trained in an immersion program (lived yoga 24-7).  The Yoga Alliance certification used to carry weight, but one could argue it is less meaningful nowadays.

4) Treat your yoga like a doctor’s appointment and try not to miss class early on.   The practice of yoga can be overwhelming at first with lots of moving parts — how to perform the postures, breathing exercises, meditation techniques.  The biggest hurdle I find when beginning adults miss a class is more memory-related than anything else.  They forget all the coaching I gave them one-on-one, how I came over and guided them into poses in those first classes.  Then, they miss a week and “poof!” — I have to go back and re-teach it all. This can get a little tedious for the other students.  So, don’t be self-conscious about showing up and not knowing anything, but don’t let down the rest of the class by not taking your commitment seriously. Most of you wouldn’t cancel a doctor appointment due to less-than-perfect weather or a social engagement, then why cancel your Wellness Appointment?  Plan on disappointing people in the short-run with your new-found commitment to yoga–better than disappointing yourself in the long-run.  Look in the mirror and pretend telling someone demanding your time, “I’m sorry, I have an appointment.”  Deliver this line a in hushed tone with a serious face and I promise, they won’t ask!

5) Give it 3 months before you evaluate and avoid The Classic Beginner Mistake.   Authentic yoga practiced as “relaxed exertion” is the epitome of the Japanese concept of “kaizen,” or barely noticeable, continuous  improvement over time.  Subtle, sure, but it’s a big part of how Japan industrialized itself into a superpower.  Once you start coming to yoga 1-3 times per week, your body, mind, mood, outlook –everything launches on a slow trajectory of change.  While some people notice early on, for most, it sneaks up on them–maybe one day lifting a bag of groceries with   new-found upper body strength.  Then, at a party, you’re the only adult limber enough to sit on the floor!  So what’s The Classic Beginner Mistake? Thinking that you’re not really getting that much out of yoga and dropping it for a couple of weeks.  Before you know it, you’re the one who needs to sit in the chair and you realize how much you’ve lost!  Excuses in hand, you come groveling in to class (see number 4).  Yes, of course, we’ll take you back…and try not to judge.

 

 

5 Reasons to Consider Private Yoga ~ It’s Not Just for Jennifer Aniston!

You don’t have to be a movie star, professional athlete, or a “famous for no reason” reality TV star to enjoy the benefits of private yoga!  From school teachers to at-home Moms, to corporate executives –there are more people from more walks of life doing private yoga than you might think!

After teaching yoga for 12 years in two different markets, Cape Cod and a St. Paul Suburb, I’ve taught a lot of yogis in the comfort of their own homes, for a variety of reason and motivations.  Here are a few reasons why people do private yoga:

1) Ensures Commitment:  I know where you live!  I am convinced that some people need to 1) pre-pay and 2) have me on their doorstep to make sure they don’t bail out on what is, at the end of the day, a commitment to The Self.  These people have a way of getting dragged into other peoples’ urgency (O.P.U.) at the last minute.  Their conscientious employees, parents, caregivers, business owners, etc. who will pick up a ringing phone as they’re  heading out the door to yoga (something I never do!).  The world is a better place for them, but they tend to cut corners on self care.  By having me show up, the yoga class becomes the urgency at hand, live and in person!  I think they figure: better to spend a little more on private yoga than to keep signing up for group classes and not attend.

2) Relationship Enhancing:  Some of my longest term private students do yoga with a partner, spouse, BFF, or small group of friends. They look at their private yoga as a way to spend quality time w/ loved ones.  One of my earlier successes was a book club where members decided they needed to do something less sedentary together.  Doing yoga as a “duet” class or small group keeps you accountable to more people = more commitment.

3) Health Limitations:   While I pride myself as an instructor who can use props and modifications to make yoga accessible to nearly everyone, there are some conditions for which a group setting isn’t appropriate.  It simply isn’t fair to monopolize the teacher’s time; and, you will likely  start to feel self-conscious.  It’s one thing to need extra help your first few classes –everyone has been there and your mat mates will be understanding.  That said, it’s not an infinite well of patience.  If you constantly need help getting in and out of poses, you’d better consider private yoga–in the long run it’s safer for you.  If your issues require supervision, I can tell you that the teacher cannot be watching and ensuring the safety of your every move, all the time–even in a small class.  The good news:  after a critical mass of private yoga, you might be ready to “graduate” to a group setting if that’s your goal– and,  you’ll have a lot more fun and confidence in doing so.

4) Faster improvement: For those wanting to “jump in with both feet,”  a winning strategy is to combine a  weekly group class with  private instruction.  In the tennis and golf world, this is the norm.  Sure, you play a round or a match and might receive limited feedback from a pro, but to really fine tune, you need that private lesson.  No different for yoga.  We delve into subtleties and  make adjustments, just like you would in any sport.  We also have more time to explore the mental aspects or “deeper practices” which are extensive in yoga.  When private students then turn up for group classes, I notice  they’re more at ease as they’ve already been working with the material.

If you think private yoga might be for you, fill out a “contact” form and get in touch.  While many personal trainers out there purport to offer private yoga, check credentials.  Yoga credentials are different from fitness credentials and you could be overpaying by twice.  At YogaHotDish, pricing is a function of time and distance.  Times available starting at @$70 for up to 4 people.

Private Yoga in your home isn't just for movie stars!

Private Yoga in your home isn’t just for movie stars!

New to Yoga? Top 5 Things Beginners Should Know

Hands on assists are key for beginners

Hands on assists are key for beginners

1) The wellness and health benefits of yoga (physical, mental and more) will probably trump anything else you’ve ever done.  Beginners can not only expect to be stronger and more  flexible, but sleep better, stress less and fight bad bugs better with yoga-strong immunity.

2) Your success in performing the physical postures/exercises is determined more by your unique body and bone shapes, and ranges of motion facilitated by those shapes.  For instance, if you have a narrow pelvis, aspiring to do the splits is a bad idea!   45 degrees of extension in your spine on a good day?  Then Wheel Pose may not be for you.  It’s not a big deal–there are tons of poses that WILL suit you.

3) All yoga instructors are not created equally, nor are they interchangeable,  as some mass marketeers of yoga would like you to think.  Would you pick a hair stylist based on who’s closest? OK, for some of you, yes, — but, hair grows back!  Hurt your rotator cuff and the recovery time will be longer than getting over a bad hair day. Read teacher bios carefully and look for instructors w/ at least 5 years teaching experience, though 10 preferred.  Also, figure out how long they did yoga before they decided to teach it.  Did they think because they were a naturally flexible dancer or gymnast that they were magically endowed to teach a deeply inwardly-focused, mental practice?  Watch out — they might not understand how less fit bodies work, nor have command of anything beyond the physical postures flashing you back to phys ed!   Ideally, find a teacher who trained in an immersion program (lived yoga 24-7).  The Yoga Alliance certification used to carry weight, but one could argue it is less meaningful nowadays.

4) Treat your yoga like a doctor’s appointment and try not to miss class early on.   The practice of yoga can be overwhelming at first with lots of moving parts — how to perform the postures, breathing exercises, meditation techniques.  The biggest hurdle I find when beginning adults miss a class is more memory-related than anything else.  They forget all the coaching I gave them one-on-one, how I came over and guided them into poses in those first classes.  Then, they miss a week and “poof!” — I have to go back and re-teach it all. This can get a little tedious for the other students.  So, don’t be self-conscious about showing up and not knowing anything, but don’t let down the rest of the class by not taking your commitment seriously. Most of you wouldn’t cancel a doctor appointment due to less-than-perfect weather or a social engagement, then why cancel your Wellness Appointment?  Plan on disappointing people in the short-run with your new-found commitment to yoga–better than disappointing yourself in the long-run.  Look in the mirror and pretend telling someone demanding your time, “I’m sorry, I have an appointment.”  Deliver this line a in hushed tone with a serious face and I promise, they won’t ask!

5) Give it 3 months before you evaluate and avoid The Classic Beginner Mistake.   Authentic yoga practiced as “relaxed exertion” is the epitome of the Japanese concept of “kaizen,” or barely noticeable, continuous  improvement over time.  Subtle, sure, but it’s a big part of how Japan industrialized itself into a superpower.  Once you start coming to yoga 1-3 times per week, your body, mind, mood, outlook –everything launches on a slow trajectory of change.  While some people notice early on, for most, it sneaks up on them–maybe one day lifting a bag of groceries with   new-found upper body strength.  Then, at a party, you’re the only adult limber enough to sit on the floor!  So what’s The Classic Beginner Mistake? Thinking that you’re not really getting that much out of yoga and dropping it for a couple of weeks.  Before you know it, you’re the one who needs to sit in the chair and you realize how much you’ve lost!  Excuses in hand, you come groveling in to class (see number 4).  Yes, of course, we’ll take you back…and try not to judge.

 

 

Hot Yoga : Hot or Not?

Hot Yoga

Hot Yoga : Hot or Not?

Hot yoga is a major trend  in which participants practice in a hot room, often 90-100+ degrees.  Mass marketers of yoga love the “passive heating” approach of hot yoga, as  it gives the perception of flexibility and a deeper workout in a shorter period of time.  More classes per day = more revenue.

Great for your muscles, but what about your joints? Extreme heat, while making muscles temporarily more flexible, makes the tensile strength of connective tissue and  joints weaker.  Injuries arise because your “heat goggles” make you feel so bendy, that your judgement  may be off.  So, just like yo-yo dieting isn’t the answer,  YHD says “no” to yo-yo climating–don’t we already get enough of that here in Minnesota?

Yoga HotDish classes will warm your body and make you flexible, but keeping with yoga philosophy the heat comes from within, building slowly through pranayama breathing techniques and a slow crescendo of ever-intensifying asana/poses. Yoga takes time, and you can’t just crank the furnace to force to body into submission.   Finally, hot yoga  is contra-indicated for numerous conditions, from heart and respiratory issues to being over weight or sleep deprived.  Yoga is a lifelong practice when done in moderation.  Making it faster, hotter and watered down is the American Way, no doubt, but do be careful!

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