1) You’re a celebrity. Ok, but even if you’re not Jennifer Aniston, Madonna, Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, Novak Djokovic or Barbie, more “regular” people do private yoga than you might think. Maybe it’s the golfer down the street who doesn’t want his buddies to know the real reason behind his improved game or the Mom who can’t leave the kids alone, but doesn’t want to put them in the nursery at the gym to do group exercise yoga.
2) Your same ol’ strength training routine at the gym is feeling stale and tedious; besides, it isn’t really helping your yoga. People don’t think twice about paying a sometimes minimally qualified personal trainer $1+/minute to follow them around w/ a clipboard doing basic exercises and keeping them company on the treadmill. But, just think about it: yoga is a lot more complex and comprehensive than conventional fitness when you consider the intricacies of breathing and meditating on top of the physical postures. Yoga offers all the benefits of personal training and then some. Instead of over developing large muscle groups, you have more balanced development across more muscles, not to mention more balancing, more attention to posture and all the cognitive and immune system benefits of meditation. Your “yoga body” will require less upkeep and maintenance when you go on holiday or hiatus, and you can practice anywhere with just a towel, no need for a gym. Try upping your yoga and hit the treadmill, walk or run, as classical yoga wasn’t really meant to be a cardio workout in the modern sense.
3) You want to get more out of your group classes. Private yoga need not be a substitute for the group experience–community is key to health and wellness. Some things can’t always be covered in-depth a group setting like philosophy and more advanced versions of the poses. Maybe you just want to learn how to better adapt the poses so you’re more at ease. It’s OK to want to improve and move up the curve a little more quickly. Private yoga does just that but I like to give a price break on the group classes so you’ll keep coming!
4) You can’t quite trust yourself to keep that yoga appointment for your group class. Nothing like someone showing up on your doorstep who’s not afraid to look in the windows and even head around to the back if you don’t answer. I know you’re in there; I know you don’t always feel like doing yoga, but I’m going to find you!
5) Yoga your way. Want to do yoga with your dog–doga–why not? Want to involve your kids, spouse, BFF or maybe just not have to get in the car AGAIN? Want to tailor yoga to your mood and energy level on a particular day? Want to explore a therapeutic practice for a certain physical or psychological condition? All great reasons for private yoga!
6) You have a health condition that can’t be accommodated in a group setting. My students know I’m hands-on and offer a lot of assistance; that said, you can’t be too needy to the detriment of the group, leaving them feeling like bystanders to your yoga. Maybe you have low energy, pain, or balance issues due to Lyme’s, cancer, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, MS, Parkinson’s, etc. If you’re taking it “one day at a time” you need the flexibility to have totally restorative practice one day and something more energetic as your health permits. You also need someone who can take the time to understand your situation and meet you where you are.
How does it work? Is it expensive?
Private yoga is like anything else–you can expect to pay about a buck a minute. If you live close and are willing to do an off-peak time, I can work with you on price. You need to commit a month at a time. We look down the calendar together over the next 4 weeks, set a schedule and take care of payments. As with all service providers–tennis pros, personal trainers, massage therapists–time is money. I can’t accommodate last-minute cancellations when it’s time I’ve already set aside. That said, I have more leeway to offer re-dos than most personal trainers in gyms or studios should an emergency arise.
Who is successful?
As with group classes, the students who treat their yoga like a doctor’s appointment are the ones who thrive. Having a partner, spouse or friend in a “duet” situation is good for commitment and a great way to spend time with loved ones. It also helps keep the cost down; and, if you know you’ll have scheduling challenges and that other person is OK going solo, it’s better for all of us! Continuing the group class is also key. A twice-per-week commitment is solid and can be life-changing.
After so many years in this business, I can tell when it’s starting to “come off the rails” for people. I start to get emails about how busy they are, the requests to reschedule or postpone come more frequently offering more dramatic details about why they can’t keep their appointment with themselves or with me. I file this all under “aversion behavior” and frankly, it’s nothing that I tolerate for too long. I’ve been known to gracefully bow out of an aversion spiral beyond my control. There are only so many time slots available and I want to teach people who understand the importance of self-care and make it a priority. Is that you?
When I first practiced yoga in Singapore, some of the westerners in the class were unnerved by leaving their shoes outside the studio which, like everything in Singapore, was located in a busy shopping mall. My beloved teacher’s response, “Leave your troubles in your shoes, and if you’re lucky, someone will steal them.” To this day, when I take off my shoes before yoga, I imagine them filled up with the infinite sandy grains of life’s problems.
While many people stumble into yoga looking for a workout, I am convinced those who stay do so for the “work-in.” The richest parts of the practice aren’t really mastering those difficult-to-dos like crow or headstand, but rather, the transformation of the mind that seems to happen in lockstep with the body.
After reading the NY Times article, “Prozac Nation is Now The United States of Xanax” today, I thought it a worthy undertaking to try and explain to people who’ve never experienced it, how meditative yoga alleviates anxiety. I say “meditative” to differentiate a more classical yoga from the trending fitness style where music, mirrors and large class sizes are the norms. While you may find the music relaxing, its emotion and memory generating power make it a hindrance to meditation. Don’t get me started on looking in the mirror–if you’ve been a teenager, you know that’s anything but meditation.
So how does yoga work its magic on the Anxious 21st Century Mind? First, a couple of disclaimers:
1) It’s best to start the practice when life is easier, not when you’re in the throws of a traumatic event. Consider yoga a Wellness IRA: the sooner you start making investments, the better off you’ll be when you need the gains.
2) The effects of yoga may linger and weave their way into your day, or the spell may be shattered when you’re cut off in traffic trying to leave the studio. That said, during periods of high anxiety, 90 waking minutes not thinking about your problems is real relief, boosting your immune system and giving you time to mentally regroup.
So here’s how classical yoga works:
Better Use of Bandwidth: Your brain only has so much and most of us are on overload. You already know it’s difficult to learn and remember something new when you’re sick or not feeling well. That’s because thinking and feeling have to share the same bandwidth in the brain. One way to prove this to yourself: eat a brownie. For a few seconds, don’t your cares dissolve right along with the chocolate, tasty goodness? This is why “stress eating” is a thing. A moderate, meditative yoga practice can have the same effect while actually burning calories–moderate because a too rigorous practice will only create more stress. Moreover, yoga develops the mind-body connection so you won’t feel so compelled to eat unless you’re really hungry.
Gets You Out of “Crash Position”: Modern life is conspiring to keep us trapped in our heads, subject to a siege of inputs from multiple devices to which we must respond in real time. We hunch over for hours peering into screens, and some of us add to the problem by driving cars that, put our bums into buckets and partially into the crash position.
The brain and spine are interconnected, so how can we have a healthy brain atop an ill-functioning spine, fetaling forward, bracing for a crash/trying to anticipate the next tweet in a Twitter war? In fact, this kind of posture communicates “fight or flight” to the brain, made worse by the fact you can’t breathe properly with your chest concave. A shallow breath makes you tenser and more prone to fetaling forward leaving you in a downward spiral of muscle tension and poor breathing–anxiety’s BFFs! Maybe you’re in it now? Stretch your arms up over your head, take a big breath and arch your upper back over the top of the chair. Feel better already? Yoga is like 90 minutes of that!
Decreases the Resting Tension of the Body: After teaching yoga for 15 years, it’s getting to the point where I can look at a person–their posture, how they move, and make a pretty good estimate as to how stressed out there are. We wear our stress in tight shoulders, flat necks, locked jaws, and in a myriad of other visible ways.
Some of you might not even be aware of how achy you are until your first few classes when you finally rid yourself of some unnecessary tension. It’s one of the great rewards of teaching: seeing a wave of calm sweep over a person after loosening up a tight area for maybe the first time in years. Know this: all those tense areas are sending SOS messages via the nervous system to your brain and adding to your anxiety. Are you even bothering to read them anymore? Think of them like bills: just because you don’t open them, doesn’t mean they go away!
I hope your frontal lobe will be convinced to allow you to get off the grid and onto the mat so you can experience yoga for yourself. Realize that Frontal Lobe will come up with all sorts of seemingly urgent excuses not to, for it’s fearful of giving up its power and allowing you to frolic in body for a while. I suppose we can forgive its hubris, leftover from the caveman days when it was in its glory, helping us dominate all those other species. 21st Century Stress is more incipient and chronic, but at least as dangerous as a charging wooly mammoth. That stupid notification from some app you could care less about can wait while you put down your mental load and learn to let go for dear life!
Roving Yoga Guru, Work/Life Balance Expert, and Founder of Yoga HotDish, Shaila is a caring and compassionate Yoga Instructor who enjoys working with real people using the transformative power of yoga. Read More.